Developer Tragnarion describes Scourge: Outbreak as a “heavily upgraded and improved version” of its 2010 PC cover shooter The Scourge Project and if this is the bigger, better iteration then PSN and XBLA players will no doubt be wondering just how shoddy it was before.
First, momentary impressions are positive, however, with the game’s Unreal Engine-powered visuals delivering all the mod-cons of god rays, particle effects and some lightly destructible scenery as you roadie run through detailed environments that begin in the bright, breezy open-air of Nogari Island before heading indoors to some alien infected and infested labs.
Unreal can’t mask what lies beneath for long: a derivative shooter that rides the coat-tails of games like Gears Of War (with a near-exact lift of its control scheme), Mass Effect (for its weapon design and XP ranking system) and Crysis (main characters possess power-suits complete with ribbed, metallic textures that require charging for special abilities) without delivering the quality, charisma or finesse of any of those genre titans.
The campaign is playable in co-op or with three AI comrades but neither experience amounts to more than a linear shooting gallery as you pick off the brainless AI and collect floating weapons (one of many noticeable recurring bugs), hacking the occasional terminal and defending waypoints. Enemy AI may be lacking, but squad members at least know when to heal you and obey your simple movement and attack orders on command. Movement is sluggish and unresponsive, however, and the weapons – each seemingly a variation on the same generic laser rifle – sound flat and lack a sense of weight or power. Tragnarion wisely keeps plot restricted to in-game dialogue, but it can’t excuse the fact that it’s a poorly told parable on corporate conspiracy, offering little motivation to persevere through a turgid campaign.
Multiplayer is similarly soulless, providing a chance to rank up your profile through deathmatch, team deathmatch or capture the flag for up to eight players, but with the mechanical basics of the game so dissatisfying it’s a labour to duke it out across the handful of cramped maps.
Scourge: Outbreak may seek to mimic the thrills and achievements of its blockbuster inspiration, but it serves merely to underline their superiority. Tragnarion has clearly put effort into polishing the game, but it’s fatally neglected to work on the underlying basics that were crooked three years ago.