Every now and again, you come across a game that's a genuine surprise. I'm willing to bet that I, alongside many others out there who caught an early trailer for Exoprimal around a year ago shrugged it off as Capcom's attempt to cash in on some of that juicy live service wonga. I do still believe Exoprimal is an attempt to do so, but as far as cynical follow-ups to Overwatch go, it's certainly one of my favourites.
That reality is something I'm still slowly getting over. Exoprimal is a PvPvE team-based objective-based dinosaur word salad of a game that blends many tried-and-true aspects of the live service market with its own distinct style. The unique selling point of Exoprimal has been obvious ever since the game was first announced back in 2022: this is the game where you get to pilot cool robots and blow dinosaurs into a million pieces. It's an unashamedly honest premise that I frankly do love – and one that doesn't lose its lustre once you hit credits.
You, as the pilot of one of ten distinct exo suits each with its own distinct spread of attacks and abilities, are thrust alongside four other pilots into a race against time. Each dino survival mission (currently the only game mode available in Exoprimal) places two teams against one each other in a mad dash to complete identical objectives before they are teleported to a shared final location where a victor is decided.
There are of course ways to influence the outcome. Teams are given dominators; player-controlled dinosaurs that you can send over to attack the enemy team. There are also team-wide upgrades and debuffs you can apply through the destruction of special glowing monsters. Each allow each game to retain tension. Comebacks are a constant possibility thanks to a single smart play.
But at its core, beneath the occasional clash with the enemy team and the intricacies of the various objectives you'll run into, are the dinosaurs who act as natural barriers to progress. Each different type of dinosaur is a puzzle, requiring different approaches to take down quickly. Sure, any team can take down a T-Rex, but quickly? Therein lies the challenge.
Everything good about the game works because of Exoprimal's excellent use of its greatest asset: dinosaurs. They are endlessly entertaining to fight. Even the basic raptor makes for hilarious chattel, whereas in the larger special dinosaurs which I won't spoil can totally shift the pace of a match. There is rarely a moment of boredom in Exoprimal, and I'll take fending off a triceratops over any bland copy and paste robot you'll see in an Overwatch PvE mode any day.
The game is lacking in places. For one, it desperately needs some kind of roll queue that allows players to lock in their preferred exo suit class. I do recognise the intended purpose of the barrierless ability to swap out of suits as you play – different combat encounters can benefit from more DPS, an additional tank, maybe even one more healer. For those serious about Exoprimal, a role queue would be redundant.
But for the layman and newer players, it would vastly improve the experience. Garry, 43 years old and back from a long day working in the coal mines, just wants to come home and lock in Roadblock. Great choice Gazza, nice one. However, the team has three tanks now, meaning they lack the damage required for any chance of victory. You can't tell Garry to swap, and being dragged through the slow doom of a bad team composition in Exoprimal is as close to a tortuous experience as video games get.
I also do believe the game has something of a pacing problem. In the initial few hours of Exoprimal, the selection of maps, game modes, and enemy dinosaurs is quite limited. Still fun, but absolutely limited. This does open up and expand wonderfully as you play, with each of the game's especially rad raid encounters acting as gates to additional content. However, I fear that by the time a curious Game Pass user finishes up their sixth game escorting the data cube, they might believe Exoprimal a shallow experience.
I must also make special note of the RE Engine shenanigans at play here in Exoprimal. There's something truly special about seeing a horde of dinosaurs climb over each other, rushing through a street as they charge at you. There's this wonderful interaction with the Roadblock suit where if enough raptors hit your big frontal shield, yo get slowly pushed back is they claw and climb their way over you. The cool factor at play here is only enhanced during the massive swarm events, where over one thousand raptors pour from the sky and pour over your team in staggeringly cool fashion.
My major worry with Exoprimal comes with its longevity. If it were a single player experience you'd of course judge it by its price and what's on offer as of launch, but as a multiplayer live service game, you must look forward into the future. The game as of writing has its singular game mode, however those who hit credits will unlock a challenge mode called Savage Gauntlet later this month. There's also a roadmap of future updates out there that promises additional maps, exo suits, Capcom collaborations and even a new final mission (which I personally am not a fan of).
Also, it's a game selling at full price. Sure, with Game Pass you can download it for free, but for those not interested in the service the question of "why drop $59.99 on Exoprimal when far more popular games are already out there" is unavoidable. Overwatch 2 may be a constant string of problems, but it's free-to-play and at little risk of player abandonment.
I believe – in spite of this game's undeniable fun factor and morish nature – that Exoprimal is at risk of fading out. It's because of this that I recommend that you at home, with a vague interest in multiplayer action games and an open mind, grab a Game Pass subscription and download the game sooner, rather than later. There's no better time to experience a game like this than when it's at its most popular. Yes, it may still exist in the future thanks to computer-controlled bot party members... but it's just not the same.
Exoprimal will be a rollercoaster of surprises for the majority of players. Making your way through the fifty-or-so matches it takes to hit credits, experiencing all the spectacle on display in this curveball of a game, is in my opinion worth the cost of admission for Game Pass users, and perhaps at a discount for all others. It'll remain a presence on my PS5 home screen, for now at least.