Capcom has been searching for a successful online shooter of its own for quite some time, and its catalogue is littered with misfires like Umbrella Corps and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City as a result. Exoprimal is the closest it’s come yet, delivering a breathless blend of hero shooter and horde mode that’s underlined by the Japanese publisher’s unrivalled penchant for tight, responsive gameplay. While it does take a little time to fully reveal its appeal, and is ultimately a little lightweight overall, there’s the foundation of a future smash hit here.
Surprisingly for a co-op focused multiplayer game, there’s also a story. It’s a little unwieldy, but it’s delivered in a tongue in cheek manner throughout, and depicts a near-future scenario where genetically modified dinosaurs are falling from vortexes in the sky and casually causing chaos. In response, a suspicious organisation named the Aibius Corporation has developed super soldier-style Exosuits and an artificial intelligence named Leviathan to help push back against the prehistoric threat, with the latter eventually going rogue.
The unhinged AI ultimately ends up creating a time loop, forcing humans to participate in Hunger Games-style Wargames in order to extract their combat data. Of course, all of this serves as narrative justification for the dino dispatching skirmishes you’ll be engaging in, although the cutscenes you unlock along the way are amusing and much better written than they have any right to be. As you complete matches you’ll unlock data points which you can then analyse in the main menu, slowly unravelling the plot and its various mysteries.
While the story is unexpectedly engaging, it’s the five-on-five battles that are by far the star of the show here. At its core, this is a waves-based shooter, with the twist being that you’ll be racing to complete your objectives against another team. Each match concludes with a final task, with both PvP and PvE options available. In the former skirmishes, you’ll eventually come into direct contact with your opponents, like when you need to transport a data payload from one side of the map to the middle, which naturally becomes the epicentre of an intense battle.
Combat plays out from a third-person perspective, and it’s snappy at 60 frames-per-second, with the Exosuits specifically feeling powerful but never weighty or overbearing. There are multiple characters across three main classes: Assault, Tank, and Support. This is where Capcom’s design chops really come into their own, because each option feels distinctive, unique, and, most importantly, fun. Even more impressively, the synergies between the different Exosuits add a layer of tactical depth that gives everyone on the team an important role.
For example, Krieger is able to summon a bubble-like shield on-demand, which can protect his squad from smaller, cannon-fodder dinos like raptors. Once inside that shield, the Witchdoctor can then drop a healing ring, allowing all teammates to safely replenish their health. As prehistoric pests gather and formulate on the outside of the shield, Skywave can launch a gravitational orb in their direction, bringing them all closer together, and providing the perfect opportunity for Deadeye to blow them skyhigh with a well-placed grenade.
Strategies like this unfold emergently, during gameplay, and as everyone begins to acclimatise to their role, you can really begin to steamroll. It’s here that the game throws unique challenges at you, like the larger dinosaurs, which break up your flow and force you to think on your feet if you want to survive. And this is without even mentioning the latter stage assaults, where opponent teams can commandeer dinosaurs in a last ditch attempt to push for victory. At its most chaotic, this is among the best co-op action we’ve experienced for quite some time.
The downside, then, is that it takes a long time for Exoprimal to really reveal the scale of its content – there are a lot of dinosaur types and even multiple maps, but you’ll need to push through around 15 to 20 matches (or approximately ten or so hours) before you really get to experience them. A handful of set-piece story missions are also introduced sporadically, but again take several hours to properly surface. If you have a low attention span, then you may be forgiven for thinking this is a one-trick Podokesaurus, but it’s not.
That said, the game is still a little on the lightweight side, and once you’ve tried all of the characters, your interest may start to wane. This is where the game’s post-release support is going to be key: it has the foundation for something that could catch on here, but it’s going to need to be nimble if it intends to retain interest. Crossplay – and, if we’re honest, a Game Pass launch – has meant matchmaking has been rapid for us since day one, but we could see the playerbase start to dwindle if the publisher doesn’t keep things fresh. Street Fighter 6 and Monster Hunter collaborations are coming, and ever-changing Savage Gauntlet missions aim to keep the gameplay fresh week-on-week, with new challenges and missions.
Potential long-term issues aside, though, this is another win for a publisher who can seemingly do no wrong: the action is fast and frenetic, the characters are all unique and interesting in their own way, and the presentation is clean and easy to read. By combining the best of hero shooters and horde mode, and then tossing hundreds of blood-hungry dinosaurs into the mix, Capcom has struck gameplay gold here.
A white-knuckle fusion of Overwatch 2 and Gears of War, the excellent Exoprimal is one of the best co-op shooters in quite some time. With a varied, entertaining roster of characters, all with unique playstyles and synergies, there’s tactical depth to this third-person shooter which only serves to make its pulsating prehistoric battles all the more rewarding. While it is a little lightweight at launch, and there will be questions over whether it’ll receive the post-release support required to ensure its longevity, there’s the foundation for something truly special here.