Capcom’s marketing approach to Exoprimal, its latest multiplayer dinosaur action game, has been quite messy. The trailers, while flashy and full of style, didn’t convey exactly what players would be getting into. We got some hands-on time with the game thanks to the recent open beta and we can unfortunately see why it’s a mess. Make no mistake, it’s extremely fun in the moment-to-moment gameplay but all of its impressive cogs aren’t clicking together coherently yet.
Unlike my initial experience staring at a queueing screen with Diablo IV, Exoprimal‘s beta was fairly easy to jump into. After a few minutes, I was grouped with other players and thrown head-first into a match. How matches actually unfold is where Exoprimal caught me by surprise. You’re pitted against another team who exist in another parallel dimension on the same map, tasked with completing five objectives as quickly as possible before the other team.
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As you can imagine, these objectives usually result in powering through massive hordes of charging dinosaurs to beat the final big dino at the end of each level. You have a variety of mech suits at your disposal which obviously draws some comparisons to Anthem, for better or worse. In the beta, players could choose between ten mech suits each sorted into assault, tank and support classes, though the full game promises to have more.
Each mech suit has a striking design and almost ‘anime’ aesthetic but still familiar enough if you’ve played Anthem. Where it deviates from Anthem is in the core gameplay – the big draw of the game: slaying dinosaurs. Most charging hordes consist of raptors but you occasionally battle other dinos including a T-Rex. The dinosaur designs feel a bit uninspired, looking like they were ripped out of a pre-school book. I wish Capcom went for more extravagant designs with Exoprimal‘s beasts since they just look very “standard” right now.
The gameplay itself is rock-solid. Exoprimal shines when it just lets players go all-out on waves of dinosaurs with an impressive arsenal of melee and ranged weapons. Despite each match essentially being a race against time to out-slay the other team, I thoroughly enjoyed just massacring enemies with an oversized katana and shooting up dinos like you’re trying to cause a second extinction.
Exoprimal also demonstrated some of the most unexpected technical achievements I’ve seen in recent memory. There are hundreds of dinosaurs on-screen at once but I didn’t notice a single framerate dip. Despite one instance of thousands of raptors literally falling from a building, the gameplay’s framerate remained buttery smooth. I have no idea what technical wizardry is being accomplished at Capcom but that deserves some high praise.
After a few hours, I realised that Exoprimal had more in common with Left 4 Dead than Anthem. Five objectives in each map, clearing zones, defending points and slaying waves all felt so similar to Left 4 Dead‘s core mission-based loop just with zombies replaced by dinosaurs (and some fancy mech suits, of course).
As exhilarating as the gameplay and forward momentum of Exoprimal is, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a chaotic mix of ideas thrown together. The PvP against an enemy team just feels unnecessary since you hardly get to appreciate the finer details of the game as you race from one objective to the next. This also makes other classes besides assault redundant since your goal is to deal enough DPS as quickly as possible. Why use a tank or support? It’s a bit unbalanced in that regard.
The gameplay also has this neat arcade quality to it but it’s not something I can say warrants a premium price tag. The story explores some interesting uncharted territory about dinosaurs breaking through dimensions in the distant future, though I forgot about that very quickly. Without the gameplay driving you from one objective to the next, Exoprimal‘s loose structure feels like it’s still stuck in the prototyping phases. This is a beta so I suspect Capcom could make improvements over time.
Exoprimal has a lot happening all at once so it’s not surprising that some of those ideas don’t always stick the landing. I did end up enjoying my short time with the beta but it left me with a few more concerns than I originally had when I first saw the trailers. Hopefully that can all be fixed once the full game launches, though if you’ve got a few hours to spare, it’s not all that bad. We’ll just have to see how the final product stacks up.
Exoprimal launches on 13 July 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.