Developed and published by LucasArts in 1997, Outlaws is a first-person shoot ’em up set in the Wild West. The graphics are cartoony and the music is very much inspired by Ennio Morricone‘s classic The Good the Bad and the Ugly soundtrack, which gives it a distinct atmosphere that made it stand out against many of its peers of the time.
When Outlaws was first released the first-person shooter market was already becoming saturated – Quake II, Blood, Shadow Warrior and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II all came out that same year – and LucasArts at least tried to do something different with the genre. The unfortunate thing, though, was that the engine used in Outlaws (the “Jedi Engine“) was already looking outdated upon release, and playing it now you’d be forgiven for dismissing it without a second glance, but that would be doing a disservice to the game.
Outlaws is a straightforward cowboy revenge drama. You play as retired U.S. Marshal James Anderson who seeks to bring a gang of criminals to justice for killing his wife and kidnapping his daughter. The story is told via a series of hand-animated cut scenes, with Anderson shooting his way through various locations in-between. There’s usually one specific opponent who you have to find (and shoot) to trigger the next cut scene and to continue the story. Sometimes this key opponent will only show if you’ve triggered an event (either collected something specific or opened a certain door with a certain key), so the game is slightly more than just a blast-fest. Slightly more – but not much more. The game can be played at three difficulty levels: good, bad, and ugly (being: easy, medium, and hard).
Your character can find and use a variety of different weapons throughout the game and re-loading them is a mostly manual task that must be done constantly in order to remain prepared. Some unique tools must also be collected and used to make it past certain places. In the train level, for example, you need a crowbar to open a jammed door near the engine to progress.
Shooting innocent people must be avoided, although it doesn’t appear that (in most levels) you face any kind of penalty if you accidentally blow someone away that you shouldn’t have done.
Although it looks bad, Outlaws is still a fun game to play now. It’s arguably a little too simple for its own good – in terms of objectives and level designs – but the kernel of the game is reasonably good; the controls are responsive, and the game moves at a brisk pace. Outlaws also has a multiplayer component, but I don’t know what it’s like these days (probably dead).
At the time of writing, Outlaws – and its associated mission pack – is still available to buy on Steam and GOG.com for a fistful of dollars.