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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Hello Retro-Enthusiasts! Welcome to another exciting edition of "LucasArts Retro". Today we'll be talking about Outlaws, an old-west game developed by LucasArts back in 1997. Truly, it's a marvel to see how far we've come since those dark days for the FPS - so let's first talk about the storyline.
The real reason Outlaws stands out amongst its contemporaries is the story that LucasArts eventually decided to create. You are Marshall James Anderson (the bandits will refer to you as "Marshall" throughout the whole game). Once upon a time, Anderson was the Marshall for the town he lived in - eventually, getting bored with the life of being a crime-fighter, he decides to put away the guns and settle down with his wife and daughter Anna. This is where our story begins, a few years after Anderson has retired. A group of corrupt railroad men are trying to buy Anderson's farm in order to complete their railroad and to establish cities along its track. However, once they realize that Anderson will not sell the farm, the railroad men resort to hiring a group of outlaws (hence the title) to ransack the farm.
The bandits come and kill Anderson's wife, take his daughter hostage, and also burn down his home. At this point, Anderson buries his wife who he finds outside the flaming house, clinging onto life. He decides that enough is enough, going into his storage shed, he picks back up all his old equipment and starts to chase down the outlaws in a grand scheme of revenge, taking him all the way to the leader of the railroad gang.
The game itself has a few defining characteristics - the music, the cutscenes and the environments. The music is particularly remarkable - with the composer outdoing himself in the old-western tunes department. You'll find yourself humming along to the music - it is quite catchy. The cutscenes were revolutionary for their time - featuring a cartoon-type look to them, there is full voice acting and the aesthetics look good even on a modern LCD panel.
The most remarkable thing about this game, considering that it came out 11 years ago, is the fact that the environments are so expansive and well-detailed for their time. As a matter of fact, in the second level, which is an old-west town that the bandits have taken over, you can actually shoot out the window of a building and go inside through the hole you created - this in and of itself was quite the improvement over shooters like Doom where even jumping was something to marvel at.
By now, thanks to all my praise for the game, you must be itching to try it out - let me warn you of a few things before you go pick this one up (and since this game is much more recent, it too isn't available as Abandonware). First of all, if you have a high-end PC, you might want to pass this one by. I was running Outlaws on my Quad-Core and the game was running at 60+ fps - something that was not in the original design, which meant that when I clicked the "sprint" button, my character was running as fast as a horse rather than at the "sprint" speed we're accustomed to from Crysis or other modern shooters.
Another point to note on the higher-end computers is that running this game without adjusting the mouse settings will undoubtedly give headaches to those who are a bit more motion-sensitive. At times, I had to actually stop the game and go do something else because the speed with which the Marshall was turning was far too fast.
And of course, let's not forget the fact that being 11 years old doesn't do much for the graphical "wow" factor. The game looks like something you'd play on your gameboy almost 8 years ago. But again, you're not going retro for the graphics, you're going retro for the story and the depth of character.
With a compelling story and some great tunes - I highly recommend you pick up this retro-innovator if you're in the market for older FPS games. Come back next time when we'll talk about Grim Fandango - which may just have the greatest story of all the old LucasArts games.
This series explores some of greatest games to come out of LucasArts. Enjoy!