The Outfit Review - 

The Outfit is a game that strives to be different. The makeup of the game is such that it feels like a top down strategy game, yet you can pull out a rifle and deftly snipe the opposition in the head. Many games try innovation, and admittedly the majority fail. But not The Outfit.

The premise of The Outfit is a third person action/strategy game, set in World War II. You directly control one of three characters, and can have a veritable army of soldiers, vehicles and items in support. Throughout the game you are asked to destroy, capture or defend a number of areas, all modelled and displayed in next generation graphics.

The characters you can choose are Deuce Williams, the leader, who carries a rocket launcher and a pistol, with a great 'purchasing' (we'll come to this later) ability, and all round decent stats; Thomas MacIntyre, who has increased health and armour due to his size, but lower speed, and carries a SMG and a Flamethrower; and J. D. Tyler, with great speed and stamina, but weak health and armour – he carries a long range rifle and a shotgun.

These characters will have to be utilised throughout the game, and while you only ever control one, with the others sitting out the mission, you can bring them into the fray if you die, and take control of another at that point.

Set in the third person viewpoint, with the camera following the character in control, it is imperative to remember that The Outfit is a strategy game. If you go into it trying to shoot everyone and not using the innovative tools that developer Relic have given, then you won't get very far at all. The feature with The Outfit is the 'Destruction on Demand' innovation, allowing you to select a field unit from the menu, and deploy it on the battlefield. A press of the Y button brings up the menu, and if you are say, pinned down by ten Nazis, you can select a mounted gun turret to be dropped in. You choose the location, while still in the close third person view, and it must be within a certain range of your character. It then gets airdropped in by parachute to the location, complete with a gunner (who is dropped separately) to man it.

The story involves the three American characters basically seeking to stop a Nazi General named Hans von Beck as he incites terror throughout France. There are cutscenes before every mission, with pretty strong, although stereotypical, voice acting for each of the game's main characters. The particular American that you choose for each mission will greatly effect how the game plays. While many will go for Deuce, with his rocket launcher, he's not always the best option, as it is incredibly weak against enemy soldiers, and only comes into it's own when fighting tanks or fixed emplacements. I prefer to play as J.D. simply because you see many more soldiers than you do vehicles, and it is a hugely satisfying experience to get a headshot with his rifle.

One of the more common mission objectives is to capture a strategic point. The in depth tutorial at the start of the game is great for teaching you all about this, but you'll still be discovering new tactics and gameplay additions long into the campaign. There are a number of strategic objectives on each map, which, when captured, allow you to call in different units from the Destruction on Demand menu. For example, capture the Motor Pool to get access to tanks, take control of the radio tower, and have air strikes at your disposal. These also come into play in the multiplayer, but that's another matter.

When you capture an enemy point, there are usually Nazi flags hanging all around it. When you get close, the flags gradually fold down, and the American flag is pulled up in their place. You obviously have to eliminate all of the enemy in the area before this is possible however.

The implementation of additional units and vehicles to the gameplay is superb. You have a certain number of points in the top right hand corner of the screen, which increase when you kill an opposition soldier, or more so when an objective is completed. These points are then used to purchase from the Destruction on Demand menu. You will always need a team of men with you, and from the menu, you can purchase a new escort of soldiers relatively cheaply. There is a limit of about five soldiers that can follow you around, but you will meet up with others along the way, and this does not include those manning emplacements or otherwise engaged in combat.

By far the most fun aspect of The Outfit is the vehicles. You can drop them in within seconds, and man and utilise them to your heart's content. They range from 4x4 jeeps, to Halftrack troop carriers, to flamethrower tanks, and all have specific advantages and disadvantages. All will fit an entire team of soldiers on, and all are incredibly fun to drive. The 4x4 is the most difficult, as it is such a fast vehicle, and it's handling is sensitive, but the tank on the other hand requires you to slow down every time you fire, or else your missile will fly off course, as is realistic.

While you can choose where you sit on these vehicles, you can sit in the passenger seat or in the hold of a tank for example, you will always be driving and controlling the gun, and it is very rarely that you every meet an allied vehicle, although it does happen, and we'd like to have been able to be a real passenger on board. Also, it is a shame that you can't bring a tank onto the field, and order your men to man it, and attack an objective, but that is a very complicated aspect of gameplay to include.

With all the high explosives at your disposal, you will undoubtedly destroy some of the scenery, and a lot of it is destructible. You can plough over machine gun emplacements, blow down walls with a rocket launcher, topple trees to the ground with a grenade, and generally, flatten the battlefield around you. It's not completely destructible, but it is good that the majority of items around are available for demolition.

There are twelve levels overall in the single player, and many memorable moments within them. The good thing is, despite a repetition of locations and levels often looking very similar to previous ones, you get varied units and tasks. Around level five you use anti-aircraft guns for the first time since the training level and at level three you can drive a train, after this point, the landscape changes and the variety begins more strongly. The sky may be at sunset, the grass brown as opposed to green, and the overall layout of the maps very different to one another, but the villages of France all look alike, and you may well find yourself preferring the outside sections, purely for the variety in play.

Each level is remarkably long, with around half an hour needed to complete a mission with little strategy. The real fun comes when you plan your movements however, and amongst our favourite sections are the defence objectives. Setting up machine guns around a village, moving tanks into the roadway to block the opposition off, and bringing in anti tank guns to protect the enclave from troop carriers, while bearing in mind that the number of vehicles on the map at any one time is strictly limited, makes for some intense strategic gameplay. In a way, the limit on the amount of vehicle in play by you is an annoyance, as you may have anti tank guns or turrets miles back in the level, but the game is promoting you to blow up your own emplacements before moving on, which isn't very realistic and detracts from the gameplay. Still, you will often go over already covered ground, so the best tactic is to leave your emplacements alone, just in case a surprise attack is mounted or you go back through already explored areas.

It is worth bearing in mind that The Outfit is a lighthearted game. Everything from the characters to the death animations are pretty tongue-in-cheek, and while it is funny for the mostpart, some people may not appreciate it on the whole.

The multiplayer is a rich and deep experience. You can engage in co-op with a friend for the entirety of the main game's twelve missions, compete in a mode to see who can destroy the most scenery on a given map, or simply participate in the deathmatch mode.

In the deathmatch and destruction modes, there are a further 12 maps. Deathmatch sees one player with their team of men at one base, attacking, and the other at another base across the map, defending. You can take control of strategic objectives around the level, then being able to use air strikes, better mounted guns, tanks and so on. In a great move from Relic, you can select an insignia kit for your team before each game. These are a selection of paint jobs and colour scheme sets that dramatically change the appearance of your vehicles, and give some good diversity in the multiplayer. There are 13 of these incidentally, with a few different designs in each.

When in the multiplayer, one person plays as the axis, and the other as the Allies meaning Hans von Beck, General Viktor Morder of the SS and Nina Diederich, a Nazi assassin all become open for play, although their stats are pretty much identical to each respective Allied character.

The multiplayer is a good laugh, and there will be plenty of tactical planning going on in order to defend your base.

Graphically, the Outfit looks neat and tidy, if not a little too clean. There are certain aspects that are great, with all the vehicles and buildings looking sharp, and explosions being visually exceptional. Death and rag doll animations are repeated a bit too often, and if you throw a grenade into a bunch of soldiers, they'll all fly off in the same way.

The variety of weapons is pleasing, with Molotov Coktails, sticky grenades and frag grenades amongst certain characters' inventories. Also is the special attack that they can do, including an assault and melee command, tear gas strike, and a disable vehicle move. These accompany the suppress and assault orders that you can use with the D-Pad in gameplay. It's a good feature, but is underused when placed next to the other gameplay features.

In audio terms, The Outfit is strong, humourous and realistic, and the soldiers' comments and screams are really great. The voice acting is spot on, and the music in the menus and loading screens is fantastic. Not much to complain about in this sense.

The drawbacks of The Outfit are the repetition, although if you enjoy the core gameplay then you won't mind or even notice this; the poorly designed objects on the scenery i.e. when there is a wooden 'X' to stop tanks, you try and fire through the gap in it and it gets blocked by an invisible wall; and finally, the type of game that this is, may not appeal to everyone.

The Outfit is the first game to give something new in terms of innovation to the Xbox 360, and Relic have pulled it off with aplomb. The large single player, extensive multiplayer, and well designed core gameplay make this an unusual favourite of ours.

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