Exoprimal feels like it’s from another era. It harkens back to a time when Capcom was slightly more experimental in its approach to making games. A time when they weren’t relying on remakes of tried-and-true classics but instead were creating new and engaging IPs. It’s a gamble, then, that Capcom would create a new IP and a new multiplayer IP in Exoprimal after their numerous successes with their flagship franchises. But Exoprimal is much better than I expected and does more for the hero shooter genre than I ever thought possible. The gamble paid off.
And there is a story to it all too. It’s 2043, three years since dinosaurs were unleashed worldwide from portals and tears in space and time. You play as a pilot who has crashed and landed on Bikitoa Island following the opening of another portal during a routine flight. Here, on the island, you’re greeted by an AI named Leviathan, who forces you and others into simulations of wargames while wearing powered exosuits against hordes of dinosaurs. It’s ridiculous, but it’s the right kind of ridiculous that lends itself well to the concept.
The fact that there’s even a story to follow in Exoprimal is also a bit of a miracle. Story progression is tied to how many battles you complete – you don’t even have to win – and they’re mapped out in a separate menu to look at in your own time. Some cutscenes are played after specific matches, further detailing the goings-on of your squad, but for the most part, you can engage with Exoprimal’s surprisingly robust story as you see fit. It’s certainly a nice inclusion and hopefully, the beginning of yet another universe for Capcom to pull from.
But it’s easily how Exoprimal carries itself in battle that makes it stand out. There’s technically only one mode called Dino Survival, but within that mode, a lot is going on. More than the game itself tells you. Each match pits two teams of five against each other in two phases. The first phase has the teams fighting to complete objectives faster than the other team in PvE situations. The second phase then moves both teams onto the same map into a PvPvE situation in a battle for the win.
For example, the first phase might have your team fighting waves of dinosaurs, defending a point on the map and then escorting to a certain point. The second phase might have your team protecting a payload (think Overwatch) while dinosaurs and other enemy players attack it. The assortment of objectives and activities you’re given is random, to a point, but there’s a lot here to keep the whole experience both engaging and enjoyable.
Exosuits are essentially heroes as they appear in other shooters of this ilk. There are ten suits to choose from in three categories – Assault (DPS), Tank and Support. Each suit has its own abilities and can be outfitted with unique modules to improve their performance and, more importantly, feel balanced. The exosuits are fun to learn and use and have wildly different ways to approach battle baked into their design. Even support, a category you rarely see to be so popular in games like this, gets a fair shake of the stick when players are building their teams.
Even better, you can switch at any point in the match. With a button, your pilot can eject themselves from their exosuit and change to something else. I regularly switched up my suit depending on which objective was in play, which encourages experimentation with the numerous suits and their abilities.
But it’s not just about the players either. There are over fifteen different types of dinosaurs that the game will throw at you, big and small, that ensure that the action in Exoprimal never gets old. From the most basic form in the raptors and the Pteranodons to the history-bending neosaurs that mix dinosaurs we’ve come to know with outlandish mutations to make them more dangerous than ever. The game does a great job at mixing up the combinations of dinosaurs that it throws at you, and some of the heavier ones especially are difficult enough that they encourage you to work as a team to feel them faster than your opponents.
From time to time, the Leviathan AI will get testy and throw a random mission at you that becomes really intense. These are the moments where Leviathan will open a portal and pour out thousands of dinosaurs that attack you. Sometimes he’ll even cut a match short and transport you to an alternate dimension to fight a boss, turning respawns off and bringing together two competing teams of five to throw a ten-player co-op mission at you instead. It’s an incredibly dynamic system, and these set pieces seemingly bridge the gap between what you’d expect to see in a single-player campaign and the multiplayer game that Exoprimal is.
Of course, there is a big dark cloud looming over Exoprimal, and that’s the way that progression is handled. After competing in a certain number of matches, your party will eventually be interrupted by a “story” like mission that’ll pit you against a unique threat. Around six of these encounters’ll happen across sixty or so matches. They’re incredibly fun. But it’s what happens next that might be annoying or just too vague for some players.
Completing these missions then “opens up” more of Leviathan’s simulation for you. So future games you’ll play will have more objectives, maps, and dinosaurs thrown at you. Exoprimal isn’t forthcoming with how this content is dished out nor how you gain access to more of it. Playing with friends who are lower level than you will essentially “lock” you into the lower-level missions, creating an illusion that there’s only one map and a handful of dinosaurs. This is especially obvious in the opening weekend, where your average party level will be lower due to many factors, including the ease of access with the game’s inclusion on Game Pass and the like.
I’m trying to say that as time passes and the overall player population increases in level, the content on offer in Exoprimal will be more obvious to the broader player base. But the other side of this argument is that many players would not necessarily be bothered to get to this point but that they’ll assume Exoprimal is so much less than what it is.
Exoprimal currently has five PvE objectives and five PvP objectives that can be played out across six unique maps. But most players will easily only see almost half of these if they are playing for several hours. Capcom is promising multiple free updates – including exosuit variants with new weapons, new objectives to complete, new maps and even new dinosaurs. If they keep the content coming, Exoprimal will be something special. It already is, but it needs to put its best foot forward now to convince players that there’s more to it than their lower-level parties might be showing them.
Regardless, at the end of the day, Exoprimal does what I previously thought was unthinkable. It makes a competitive multiplayer game fun, even when losing a battle. There’s a good breadth of balanced exosuits to play with and many activities and dinosaurs to mess around with. Mix this with a unique approach to storytelling and some pretty fantastic setpieces, and it seems Capcom may be on to a winner with some tweaks here and there.
Exoprimal earnestly attempts to bring together engaging single-player style encounters that Capcom is known for with an unexpectedly solid multiplayer offering reminiscent of games like Lost Planet. It’s a joy to play and a great melding of PvP and PvE elements. While it’s a shame that what it has to offer is dealt to players so opaquely, Exoprimal is a pleasant surprise that’s well worth a look and not to be underestimated.