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Star Wars Outlaws is a major cinematic milestone for Star Wars games – and a cracking start to Ubisoft's stewardship of the IP

We checked out Star Wars: Outlaws at Summer Game Fest 2024, and it's looking really good.

Star Wars Outlaws hands-on banner featuring art of a droid and a human walking in front of a setting sun
Image credit: VG247/Ubisoft

At Summer Game Fest 2024, I was able to sit down and play Star Wars Outlaws. In our 90-minute session with the game, I snuck through gang hideouts, tip-toed across a derelict ship in search for scraps, and darted through orbiting debris in daring space combat. Star War's Outlaw's Corellian hound-eat-hound universe is rich with character, deadly fun in short bursts, and (pending a few massive question marks) is frankly one of my most anticipated games this year.

My hands-on preview session was split between three distinct missions, and I'll start with the best and work my way down. But first, I'll begin with Outlaw's bedrock foundation: you, as Kay Vess, are a galaxy-faring gunslinger that scrapes through with wit and agility, mostly alone. You sneak into places uninvited, swiping bits and bobs here and there. When alarms start blaring you whip around corners picking off goons and gangers with your trusty blaster. Controlling Kay Vess is a blast, and it was the glue that kept the whole thing together.

But Vess's kit is basic. You've got a few consumables, two blaster modes for regular shots and anti-electronics, and a stun. That, plus your own aptitude, of course, is it. But with Nix, it became way more interesting. You can use them to mark your surroundings, distract enemies, and even temporarily discombobulate them. On her own the gameplay experience in Outlaws can appear quite vanilla, but with Nix it's genuinely enticing. They're like the eagles in Assassin's Creed games, I suppose, but way more fun to use.

Vix, a small axolotl-like alien in Star Wars Outlaws, looks up curiously to the camera.
A little weird creature thrown into the mix – this is Vix. | Image credit: Ubisoft

The peak Outlaws experience was hands-down The Relic mission, in which you must infiltrate a gang hideout and slip out with a stolen relic for a mysterious faction in town. The mission starts with you approaching the fortified building and having to find a way inside. This leads to some proper lush stealth gameplay - with various vents you can sneak through, guards you can knock out incognito, locks you can crack, and computers you can hack. It's typical 3rd-person stealth action, but done well, and with enough Star Wars specificity to push it over the edge from samey to gamey.

While you can probably make it in and out without getting into a proper gunfight, I'll admit that I fumbled the bag a little and accidentally alerted a guard, knocking him clean out just after he started screaming for his friends. What's good is that, even when you do botch that perfect stealth run, the game doesn't devolve into bland shooty bang bangs – a la Far Cry. Rather, those sneaky paths and tight corners instantly become avenues for counter attacks. It's also true that, even here - a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - waist high cover is thriving and acts as a safe haven for you and your weird space dog. Some things are universal, I guess.

If it's pure, rip-roaring action you want, I believe Outlaws is a little weaker when its flexing its muscles than it is when its sneaking around on its haunches. That's not for lack of merit - I had a grand time sliding across the ground, snatching other empowering weapons like blaster rifles, snipers – and even a gatling blaster – but I feel the game is at its best when you're trying to stay as silent as possible. This doesn't mark a bad game - look at Dishonored for example. An excellent game that allows you to go loud if you want, but the real meat of the experience comes when you play with subtlety.

Star Wars Outlaws combat
So anyway, I started blastin'. | Image credit: Ubisoft

As a matter of fact, this part of the game really gets to shine in another mission I played: False Flag. Here, you make a hasty and action-packed escape from an imperial space station, fending off waves of troopers as you pack an escapee on-board. This, as you can imagine, showcases the hectic nature of face-to-face combat. You can't really run out there and shoot a bunch of lads - you'll get blasted to pieces! Instead, you peek out from cover, picking off stragglers and shooting at red barrels (or the Star Wars equivalent) to turn the tide. You've also got this ability, inspired no doubt by Overwatch's McCree/Cassidy, that allows you to mark multiple enemies and quickdraw blast 'em. It's pretty cool.

This mission culminates in an aerial battle against several star fighters. It's not especially complicated: you've got a blaster that practically tracks enemy pilots, and a lock-on missile on cooldown. It's fun to fly around sure, and zipping past space debris is neat, but don't expect Star Wars Squadrons here. This space section acts as a pseudo-open world area. You can fly around freely, boosting between landmark areas and even planets in your surroundings, but there wasn't actually much out there, from what I can gather. If you do decide to land on a planet, you get this gorgeous moment when you fly through the atmosphere towards your chosen destination. It's a hidden loading screen, sure. But it's a lovely one. And better than Starfield's way of doing things, at any rate.

Both this mission, and The Relic mission, eventually allow you to roam the streets of two totally distinct, absolutely stunning hubs. In The Relic, it's this freezing cobblestone-esque urban sprawl where you can walk down tiny alleys that act as veins through the settlement. Droids carve and serve food on streetside stalls, and people sit and socialize at huddled tables. At the end of False Flag, you touch down on a smaller, but equally rich, town. Remeber how Uncharted did it? Here speeders roam the streets, a random alien repairs his own ride in a hidden garage, and you can walk inside this dingy sprawl where a packed cantina offers rumour, work, good conversation, and, of course, some danger.

Star Wars Outlaws absolutely nails the worldbuilding of a crime-ridden, populated Star Wars world in way I don't think many other Star Wars games ever have. I just wanted to walk around the streets and look around, I wanted to explore. In the Star Wars Jedi series, the linear structure encourages you to backtrack and clear paths. In Star Wars: Outlaws, its open structure pushes you to envelop yourself in all the tiny details spread around. It's intoxicating - bourbon rich and just as fancy. Add on top of all this how nice the game looks graphically, and I just can't get enough of that heady hard liquor.

Star Wars Outlaw snow mission
This being the first sight of the demo was a real tone-setter, and it just gets better from here. | Image credit: Ubisoft

The third mission, set in a wrecked vessel, was the demo at its weakest. It had you traverse a linear ship, flip a few switches, and do a bit of platforming. I don't believe platforming - merely hopping between moving parts of the environment – is particularly engaging in Star Wars: Outlaws. There is a grappling hook, and sure it helps a little, but it seemed more a fancy way of getting from A to B then an actual tool at my disposal. The music was great, and the level itself looked great, but I wasn't as engaged as I was in the other two segments.

There are some major question marks with Star Wars: Outlaws, though. The biggest being the open world itself. I and other previewers were able to see a vast open plane just across a bridge in the False Flag level, but weren't allowed to actually get to it, despite being only a short speeder journey away. I was making my way over when the demo assistant assigned to the station sensed a disturbance in the force and asked me to head back. I was busted, and decided not to chance it, in case a big trap door opening up beneath me [please note: he was actually lovely].

The game is ultimately an open world experience. And I have seen delicately curated elements of that. These missions I played were chosen slices of an otherwise helixed, and player-directed game. For example, after you escape the wrecked ship you're meant to hop on your speeder and race away, but for me it faded to black. If these open areas are filled with interesting stuff then that's ideal, but if they're like the outer space bit I played - that moment when I flew around the abyss without too much to interact with - then there's cause for worry. I can't point you to either right now, but it's something to keep an eye out for in future reveals and announcements for this game.

Star Wars Outlaws reactor no logo
If they can keep the vaster spaces looking like this, with stuff to do in 'em, then we're good. | Image credit: Ubisoft

Then there's progression. On your ship, you can customize both your outfit and your blaster. The blaster itself appears to have an additional unlockable firing mode that was greyed-out for my preview, and you can change its appearance as well - though no alternatives were provided for me. As for your clothing, each piece comes with passive abilities. They can range from a chest, belt, leg, and charm slots that can impact stats like reload speed. I don't recall picking up a new bit of clothing, but there are chests hidden around levels that could potentially provide such rewards, and I spoke to a geezer on a balcony who said that some bandit-esque fellas had stolen some charms off him, so take that as you will. It seems like in Star Wars: Outlaw looks can do more than kill; they can affect your DPS.

Star Wars Outlaw appears to be a major cinematic milestone for Star Wars games, and well worth getting excited over. Pending some mysterious elements that I hope match the same level of quality on offer as part of this demo, it's lined up to be a proper banger. It's a game I'm certainly going to be keeping an eye on, and while there are some aspects I don't think are especially ground-breaking, it does real service to the IP in a way I reckon fans will appreciate.

Ubisoft has a lot to prove with its first take on the Star Wars IP, and, honestly, I think this is a diamond that's being formed under that pressure.

Star Wars Outlaws launches August 30 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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