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30 Hidden Gems #14: Outlaws


Welcome to my blog series! This is 30 Years, 30 Days, 30 Hidden Gems. In honor of my 30th birthday, I'm posting about a different lesser-known video game every day in November. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy it. If you want to start at the beginning, check it out here.


Release Date: 1997
System: PC

Outlaws is a wild west Doom clone made by Lucasarts in 1997. Yeah, I said Doom clone. That’s what we called FPS games back then. Of course, it wasn’t actually a clone of Doom. Far from it, actually. Outlaws ran on the Jedi engine, the same one developed for Lucasart’s previous game, Dark Forces. When I was a kid, my parents rarely bought me games for the PC because they were too expensive. They did get me a five dollar Lucasarts demo disc once, though, and I played those games more than I would have any full fledged title.
Outlaws was one of those games. I must have played it a hundred times when I was little. The disc only had one level on it. It would start you at the gates of an old western town. As soon as you walked in, you would be overrun by hostile bandits shooting from every direction. You had to explore the town and shoot down as many of those bastards as you could before facing off with the boss.
The town was huge by those standards. At the time, the only FPS games I had any real experience with (besides the others on the demo disc) were Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. To jump from those flat, claustrophobic fortresses into a sprawling village under a bright blue sky was breathtaking. That level seemed enormous by the standards of the day. It was so open to explore, and there were so many nooks and crannies hiding little details that exploring it was very rewarding in itself.
I’ll never forget finding keys atop a cabinet in the kitchen of the hotel and being able to finally access those locked rooms. Or diving into the well, only to discover that you could swim to a secret cave stocked with ammo and a rifle scope and these weird spider monsters. You could to the undertaker’s and sign the guest book which would open up a trap door by the caskets. It seemed like every time I played there was something new to discover in that level.
As an added bonus, the cheat codes still worked even though it was only a demo. I spent more than one play session with infinite ammo, trying to make a trail of TNT snake through the whole town. I’d shoot it to make it explode in a domino effect. Oh how mad I’d be when an enemy would shoot it first and set off the chain before I was done.
This past summer I found it for six bucks on GoG.com and thought I would revisit it. The full game, while not without its flaws, holds up surprisingly well. One of the things that impressed me the most was the variety. Older FPS games seemed to usually have the player just running around some senseless labyrinth hunting for a key or a switch to open the next door. Even games like Unreal and System Shock 2 stuck to this formula, albeit loosely. Outlaws, well, still kind of did this, but the level design was varied enough that it gave the illusion of doing a lot more stuff.
Some levels are tight and action packed. Others large and sprawling with a sense of a long, hard trek. The village level lends itself to exploration, and even others still are built around solving puzzles. In many, the key collecting is merely and afterthought. There genuinely feels like there is a lot of different stuff to do in this game, even beyond what many modern FPS games offer.
Outlaws is only six bucks on GoG. Check it out if you get the chance. The orchestral score is quite amazing as well.
Thanks for reading! My plan is to make this a series, one entry every day this month. I hope you'll stop by tomorrow for the next entry.
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About Adam Pone of us since 10:34 PM on 04.28.2013

My name is Adam. I've been gaming as far back as I can remember, ever since the NES my parents owned when I was a wee lad. Writing has been a passion of mine for almost as long, and I've made quite a hobby out of combining the two pastimes.

I have a very wide taste in gaming. I'll give just about anything a shot, regardless of age, genre, or hardware. I like to think of gaming as an entertainment medium in the same vein as literature and film rather than a simple toy.

When I'm not writing or playing, you might find me in church, in the woods (probably on a four wheeler and/or carrying a gun), or in my room playing my guitar.