Capcom has been on a roll for its 40th anniversary year, riding high on remakes and sequels of its tried-and-true franchises. A genuinely new title from the Japanese publisher is an exciting prospect in theory. What we have in Exoprimal is another online-only, team-based live service game to suck up gamers’ free time – and one we’re expected to pay full price for at that (unless you’re on Game Pass).
This is a company which knows how to make action games that look and feel supremely satisfying, so it only feels right to give Exoprimal a chance. Does it earn a place in the pantheon alongside Street Fighter and Monster Hunter, or is it extinct on arrival?
Exoprimal’s dinosaur invasion isn’t simply a near-future take on Jurassic Park; there are literal floods of velociraptors dropping in through random portals in the sky. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but try not to think too hard about it. You’re part of the team leading the fightback, equipped with cutting-edge, mech-like exosuits. There are assault, tank and support roles, with genuine variety to each type.
Deadeye is your all-rounder super soldier, Zephyr is speedy and melee-based, Vigilant excels at long-range, while Barrage is for pyromaniacs who like to make things go boom. And that’s just the Assault class. Some feel derivative of other hero shooters, with rollerblading support Nimbus reminding us a lot of Overwatch’s Lucio in the way she can also switch guns to attack opponents or heal allies. Still, each exo feels distinct with their own unique cooldown-based abilities, and you can even swap between exosuits (albeit not seamlessly).
Some classes can end up feeling redundant, though, as the game feels geared towards maximising your firepower in order to complete objectives faster. Moving to specific points of the map, fighting an incoming dinosaur wave, then moving on to the next point for more of the same gets repetitive pretty quickly. To instil a bit more urgency, your five-player team is actually competing against another team to see who completes their objectives faster. You’ll occasionally see holograms of where they are, before a final round has you confronting them head-on.
Exterminating big waves of dinos might be the big selling point, but the real meat of the combat comes from the various PvP scenarios. There’s king-of-the-hill-style map control, and moving a Data Key is a lot like moving the payload in Overwatch. Getting hold of a Dominator then essentially lets you control your own T-Rex or Triceratops to wreak havoc on the opposing team. These crop up in the second half of matches which run about 15 minutes apiece, and make the dino fodder of the first half feel a bit dispensable.
PvP clashes are where your exo’s different abilities are most effective. Roadblock’s shield can fend off enemy firepower as your assaults can be the charge, for example, while Witchdoctor keeps nearby allies healed. It all relies on team member communication, and if you’re not partied up with friends on chat you’re going to find it tougher using the basic emote/comms wheel. Exoprimal supports cross-play, but chatting and partying up across platforms is unavailable at launch.
Annoyingly there’s just not enough variety in the dinosaurs you encounter. Flying pteradons are especially annoying to fight, and you’ll soon be sick to the stomach of those raptors. It felt miserly that one of the coolest moments, when a massive portal opens up in the sky and drops what looks like thousands of dinos at once, only happened a few times through our total playtime.
War games never end
There’s more of an effort to tell a story compared to other online-only multiplayer games, perhaps because Exoprimal is a full-price title. Not that it makes a lick of sense, mind. From what we can gather, a rogue AI called Leviathan is forcing you to run war games against the dinosaurs, with a time loop/time travel element that sees you encounter different versions of yourself. The squad of characters all have questionable accents, and are hard to care about when they’re so divorced from the actual human players you’re squadding up with for each game.
Dollops of plot unlock after playing so many matches – sometimes just as audio recordings, and sometimes as more fleshed-out cutscenes, though some are incredibly brief. Your mute avatar has barely any input throughout. Progress and seemingly one-off events then get added to the rotation of possible survival scenarios, with genetically enhanced dinosaur varieties mixing up the gameplay (dinos with sniper rifles, anyone?).
How well you do in matches has little bearing on what’s unlocked or when: we lost a game and still got a major story change, which also introduced a new match scenario. The way these unlock feels arbitrary, and whether you’ll encounter them in a few games’ time or twenty is just as unclear.
More content is almost certainly on the way, with Capcom’s post-launch plans including crossover events from both Street Fighter and Monster Hunter. That ought to prop up players with the patience to persevere to the post-game, but from what there is currently, we’re not entirely confident that there’s enough to prevent the game from becoming a fossil by this time next year.
After Capcom’s smashing 2023 run of form with Resident Evil 4 and Street Fighter 6, Exoprimal doesn’t match the same heights, even though its exofighters have all the stylish action the developer excels at. There are moments when the dumb fun of blasting dinos and frantic PvP encounters spark something special, but the loop quickly gets repetitive. It also takes too long to introduce new elements to keep things fresh.
That’s a shame for the studio’s first new IP in what feels like yonks. A comprehensive post-launch roadmap may yet pull things back, but that doesn’t prevent it from feeling like an overpriced underdog in a fiercely competitive and unforgiving online multiplayer market. Game Pass members should definitely check it out (at least it’s slicker and more polished than Redfall in its action) but chances are Capcom fans will be quickly pining for a new Monster Hunter game instead.
Not destined to be an apex predator in the crowded online multiplayer space but still some fun and frantic action to be had
Cool and varied Exo roster and abilities
PvP sections add some urgency
Lots of dinosaurs!
Gets pretty repetitive
More interesting gameplay elements occur too rarely
Nonsensical story feels detached from gameplay