Scourge: Outbreak

After a few hours it’s hard not to feel like Scourge: Outbreak actively hates you. The game seems to delight in wasting your time.

Scourge: Outbreak

Publisher: UFO Interactive
Rated: Mature
Players: 1-4
Price: $10.00
Platforms: XBLA
Developer: Tragnarion Studios
Release Date: 2013-07-03

Scourge: Outbreak is not a good game. The only nice thing that I can say about it is that it has some slightly interesting ideas at its core, but it fumbles in execution so badly, so often that “interesting” is not worth the pain of playing.

The story revolves around a group of mercenaries hired by anonymous donors to sneak into the test facilities of a futuristic mega-corporation. You’re looking for evidence of corporate wrong doing, something so bad it can destroy the entire company. This “99% vs. the 1% by means of corporate espionage” is an interesting setup, but that setup quickly devolves into something much more generic. Each of your four playable squad members has their own back story, but they all become irrelevant once you start playing. As soon as the first bullet is shot, the story ceases to matter.

Each character has the ability to create a shockwave and a shield. This is the gameplay gimmick meant to set Scourge: Outbreak apart from its peers, but the powers are too ineffectual to be meaningful. You can recharge these abilities at special barrels, but the barrels are so far apart, you’ll only be able to use the powers once per battle. That would be alright if these powers were actually powerful, but they’re not. Enemies can just run past your shield, and the shockwave is only useful against the weakest of enemies. After an hour or so, they become pointless abilities.

Combat in general is either dull or frustrating. Everything in Scourge: Outbreak lacks a punch. Your melee attack looks like a tap, the din of gunshots and explosions sound softened and distant, your shockwave ability looks, sounds, and is utterly ineffective, and the enemy AI is so dumb they will literally run into your bullets. All of this firmly establishes Scourge: Outbreak as a sub par shooter, but at least when it’s boring, it’s also easy. When the game does decide it wants to challenge you, it does so in the laziest way possible, emphasizing quantity over quality. The game sends wave after wave of dumb enemies at you, and all of them seem to have an endless supply of grenades.

At these moments, the game is genuinely hard, but it doesn’t earn this difficulty. Even if you try to play tactically, setting up your squad behind cover and turrets, they’ll inevitably be overwhelmed when 20 shotgunning grenadiers come running up all at once from all sides. The game loves to spawn enemies behind you, and after a few hours, it’s hard not to feel like Scourge: Outbreak actively hates you.

The onscreen reticule, the thing that’s supposed to represent where you’re aiming, feels inaccurate. Sometimes my reticule will be hovering over an enemy’s head but my actual shot will bounce off a crate at his chest level. Other times I’ll be aiming just to the side or the bad guy will dodge roll out of my line of fire, yet my shot will still connect and kill him. This leads to some bizarre dissociative moments where it feels like you and your character are playing two different games.

And just in case you’re still having too much fun, the checkpoints are awful, forcing you to replay large sections of the game every time you do die. Once, after booting it up and pressing “Resume Game,” it loaded me into a previous checkpoint at the beginning of a boss fight I had already beaten.

Beyond the combat, the game seems to delight in wasting your time with poor objective markers and confusing level design. At some points, it feels as if the game is purposefully hiding the path forward. In one room, the marker sat on the other side of a locked door with no indication of how I was supposed to get through. Ten minutes later, after wandering into (literally) every corner, I found a path into the room from above. If this was meant to be a puzzle, then the game mistook aimless wandering for puzzle solving.

The objective markers are annoying even when working correctly since the game often makes you run back and forth across a room. Run to Door A. It’s locked. Run to Console A. You need a key. Run to Key A. Now go back to Console A. Now go back to Door A. Now you can enter the next room and do it all again.

Or you can just stop playing.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.