Let’s get the obvious out of the way: a Capcom-developed third-person action game set in a universe of almost endless dinosaurs has indeed released. Is it Dino Crisis? Much to my despair, unfortunately no. Having said that, after spending roughly 20 hours with the game in the past few days, I can confidently state there’s room for both in our beautiful gaming world. Exoprimal is fun, very fun.
Following on from our impressions of the game’s beta, we’ve had the chance to dive into the full release and answer the age old question of just how many dinosaurs can you squeeze onto a typical city motorway? The answer my dear reader, is a hell of a lot.
A third-person shooter based around a singular PvP/PvE mode and its central mechanic of… killing a lot of motherf***ing dinosaurs, it lives up to its promise. You’ll shoot, laser, bash, airstrike, stab, slice and beat the ever loving prehistoric crap out of these beasts and then wonder where the last four hours went. Is it perfect? Probably not, owing to an underwhelming story and lack of variety in content.
However, Exoprimal is a simple beast. Much like a T-Rex, it’s all about the spectacle, the visual and audio experience. It’s here for a good time, maybe not so much a long one (though that remains to be seen). Alas, enough with the introductions, let’s jump right in and ride the back of this glorious, flawed and epic dinosaur slaying extravaganza.
A Doomed Yet Meteoric Effort
While I doubt there’s many people going into Exoprimal expecting much in terms of a thrilling story, the game does actually have a semi-constructed narrative. For better, and for worse. Despite being a co-op and multiplayer-only experience, Capcom have devised a rather ingenius way of merging story delivery with the chaotic rush of online play.
As you play matches as silent protagonist Ace, you’ll unlock exposition files in the shape of audio logs, image files, dialogue and the occasional cutscene. Your progress is simply tied to how many matches you play and not on your performance, which is a relief as it means you’re always moving the plot forward even if your Exofighter is getting minced into dinosaur stew.
Files are progressively unlocked on the Analysis Map, providing insight into the outbreak itself, the crew of jarheads aptly named “The Hammerheads” and the history behind the Bikitoa island – the scene of this prehistoric lizard amusement park gone very, very wrong. The dialogue and story itself are laughably bad, notably thanks to the cringe-inducing awkwardness of Ace “interacting” with the crew without saying anything.
Some files also descend into utter nonsense, such as four files being dedicated to a “perfect screwdriver”. Overall though, there’s an interesting concept in here in how to still provide some interesting lore and background narrative motivation even if your game is about shooting hundreds of mouthy creatures. It doesn’t always mesh perfectly, owing to making your mates sit around for minutes at a time as you get unsuspectingly dumped into a cutscene, but the intent is there even if the execution isn’t quite.
Exobots Roll Out
The real meat on these now not-so-extinct bones comes in the shape of Exoprimal’s single mode and 10 classes. Separated into damage dealers, tanks and buffing support classes, they’re probably the highlight of an otherwise lean package. Having played with fellow FG buddies in duo, trio and even a fabled quintuple, we all had great fun trying out the various Exosuit abilities.
Squad composition is the essential ingredient to success or failure in the objective orientated tasks you’ll face. Too many tanks and you’ll absorb plenty of bites, but you won’t have the firepower to be quick enough to compete. A squad of DPS acolytes will be torn asunder against a team of organised, strategic minds. It’s where much of Exoprimal’s depth lies, and where your enjoyment of the game will ultimtately be decided.
You can swap out your class at any time during a match, allowing you to chop-and-change to fill a void in your team’s setup, or adjust to a shifting battlefield. It’s good fun if you choose to get wrapped up in the meta of it all, while still being very accessible for people who just want the “big samurai sword dude” and the like.
Every class has a clear role and they’re easy to pick up and play, but making best use of them provides the necessary skill-ceiling. Additionally, it’s nice to find a PvE orientated game that rewards supporting roles as much as Exoprimal does. More often than not it’s healers and tanks coming top of the leaderboards, which rewards all styles of play and was a nice change of pace.
Having said all that, it’s incredibly demoralising to be on a team that’s lop-sided while your opponent is blitzing the objectives. In PvP, it can be horrendous as you get curb-stomped. Plus, there’s a lot of experimentation needed to find your best classes and optimal builds, which takes longer than it probably should do and will turn some people off. Especially if your name is Toby.
One Dino Wonder
Now, we get to the problem at the heart of Exoprimal: its content offering. Or rather, its significant lack of. As you progress your percentage on the analysis map, you do eventually get the opportunity to fight new dinosaur types, encounter new scenarios and play on new maps. There’s even a boss or two. You might be querying what the problem is then?
Well, all of this only happens in one mode: the 5 vs 5 Dino Survival. The rogue AI Leviathan pits you and four others as a squad against hordes of dinosaurs and the other competing team (which can be people or bots). Again, and again, and again. Sometimes, you’ll hit a ‘story mission’, which you can end up repeating 4, 10, 20 times depending on who’s in your team and where your own progress is.
The mode itself is good fun – a mix of PvE for a handful of objectives as you race to kill off waves of dinosaurs faster than the other team, before you engage in the madness of PvP while holding off the gnarling jaws of a Carnotaurus. Look, firing a grenade launcher into a crowd of hundreds of raptors or sending in a singularity well which warps every lizard in sight into a metaphorical dinosaur in a barrel is wonderful. But, there’s only so many times you can do this in sequence before it becomes stale.
What baffled me slightly is that Exoprimal already has other modes available within the Dino Survival mode – they’re just saved for one-off objectives at the end, in PvP. The data carrying mission or domination-esque sequences could have easily been converted into their own unique modes but instead they feel a bit tacked on, which is a shame.
Having played almost 20 hours of Dino Survival, I can safely say it’s fantastic fun. Usually, it’s at its best when it plays to its strength and you have a thousand raptors stampeding towards you. You and your squad lay down your defences and go to town on the hungry beasts, sending hundreds back to extinction where they belong. Those moments are just too few-and-far between and take over 5 hours to even unlock within the game’s story.
While the gameplay and story of Exoprimal come with caveats, the same sentiment absolutely does not apply to its frankly wondrous performance. In any given mission, the game will be tracking both teams in real-time, while you could be firing off dozens of abilities in unison into a crowd of literal hundreds of raptors, a wild Triceratops and the flying ones everyone hates.
It runs like butter. Not even just a hot knife through butter smooth, but melted down and drizzled all over that hunk of T-Rex meat. The framerate dropped not a jot in my entire playtime, I suffered no crashes and the RE engine manages to bring this sci-fi fantasy trip to life superbly. It’s like someone got seriously high, thought “raptors… and wormholes” and the magical people at Capcom just went “yeah” and made it happen.
As you level up both your overall profile and each individual Exosuit, you can unlock a range of cosmetics and ability-improving modules to add to your rigs. Some of the cosmetics are superb and make for a nice incentive to keep playing, while modules can be upgraded to enhance the effectiveness of your loadout. It’s nothing earth-shattering, like say, a dinosaur extinction event, but it adds a nice wrinkle that’ll hopefully keep Exoprimal going until the content offering catches up.
It’s worth mentioning that the game also has a free and premium battlepass system which, well doesn’t feel great given the price of the title and its limited content. Given this was available at launch, I do wonder if it would have better served the community to have this available to everyone to unlock through the in-game currency BikCoin (yes, seriously).
Crisis? I Dino What Crisis You Talking About?
There are other smaller things I want to mention, both positive and negative. Squadding up with buddies is fairly seamless and Exoprimal will adapt the mission depending on everyone’s progress. Having to listen to Leviathan repeat the same nonsense to mask the loading screen before matches is inane. Syncing up with your squad and decimating hordes of fossilised beasties brought to life only to be sent back to their meteoric fate feels awesome.
Exoprimal is such a Marmite experience in so many ways. Toby described it as “so much fun” with the kind of sarcastic vitriol words just wouldn’t do it justice. Rossko fell in love once he discovered Nimbus after finding the previous match “a dumpster fire”. Greg spent most of his time laughing as his avatar before he could get into his Exosuit. While Miles and Josh revelled in trying to coordinate the squad and living their best healer class lives.
Quite simply, some people are going to hate Exoprimal, especially those who hate online-focused titles, as this is all the game offers. For others, this is going to be a glorious, mindlessly dumb but hilariously entertaining epic of massive orbital explosions taking out thousands of teeth, claws, wings and tails. Despite hating the fact Exoprimal wasn’t Dino Crisis when it was announced, I’ve been relatively converted.
This is the quintessential Michael Bay video game. There are big, ridiculously overpowered suits of armour. A crazy threat of dinosaurs that matches the population of England (as well as the manners). A massive spectacle of bullets, lasers, explosions, shields, spectacular fails and ecstasy-inducing moments of “did I just do that?!” before you bask in your place as MVP on the post-match leaderboard. Exoprimal, is weird, wonderful and it’s dinosaurs coming out of wormholes. What a ride 2023 has been so far.
Held up by its superb class system and the intrinsic elation that comes with melting prehistoric lizards with a railgun, Exoprimal is unfortunately let down by a lacklustre story offering, anemic number of modes and a question over its longevity. While those drawbacks will put some people off, those fond of firing a grenade right up a Stegosaurus’ hide will be laughing long into their dozens of hours of playtime.
Exoprimal is available now on PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series S|X (and Game Pass), and PC
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with several promotional codes from the publisher.