Star Wars Outlaws Hands-On: I’ve Got A Good Feeling About This

Star Wars Outlaws Hands-On: I’ve Got A Good Feeling About This

Kay Vess, lovable scoundrel and star of Ubisoft’s upcoming action adventure game Star Wars Outlaws, has a data spike shoved through her ponytail like a number 2 pencil. Alongside Kay at all times is her adorable companion Nix, a Merqaal that can help her snag hard-to-reach objects or distract enemies by running in front of them and playing dead. When repelling down ledges with Kay’s grappling hook, he’ll hop on her back and peer down with excitement while panting. On crime-hub planet Mirogana, neon signs inject bright pops of color into dark, seedy alleyways, droids cook strange foods at little stalls, and citizens enjoy some back-alley gambling. As Kay walks through this bustling world, a Mon Calamari asks for some credits to feed his gambling problem.

Throughout my nearly hour-long time with Outlaws, there’s so much lovely Star Wars texture like this that I frequently catch myself just staring at things rather than playing. But there is a lot of playing to do here—Outlaws is a third-person open-world game that features gunplay, stealth mechanics, dogfights in space, platforming, and more. My hands-on demo was on rails and I was still somewhat astounded by how much Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have packed into this game.

Image: Ubisoft

Playing the scoundrel

I was able to play three missions during my Star Wars Outlaws hands-on, each of which had a 20-minute timer. One required Kay to escape an Imperial ship and dogfight some TIE fighters, another saw her platforming her way around a derelict High Republic ship, and the final one tasked her with infiltrating a Crimson Dawn base on snow-covered planet Kijimi. Ubisoft was smart to give us these little slices, as each one showcased all the tools and tricks Kay has in her arsenal.

Read More: 14 Cool Details We Spotted In Star Wars Outlaws’ New Gameplay Trailer

The Imperial ship level leaned into using Nix as a distraction, which requires you to hold down the left bumper on your controller to bring up some commands you can issue the little guy. He can attack enemies, distract them, or interact with objects. Distracting enemies is a bit simplistic—Nix will fall over dead in front of them so that Kay can sneak behind them and knock them out, but none of the other enemies ever noticed the bodies I was leaving behind as I snuck around. I also had to do a bit of hacking in this level, which takes the form of a Wordle-like minigame in which you try and guess which three symbols will crack the code. Guessing the wrong one will give you a big red X, the right one in the wrong spot will go yellow, and the correct one glows blue.

Image: Ubisoft

The High Republic level was all about platforming, which feels like a mix of the Star Wars Jedi games and Assassin’s Creed. Kay scrambles up yellow painted grates (yes, yellow paint is in this game), times her jumps to avoid getting her fingers caught in vents that are opening and closing, and can use her grappling hook to latch onto certain things and swing to faraway platforms. I struggled with the platforming at certain points, partially because I am bad at platforming but also partially because Kay can feel a bit unwieldy during these segments, and this mechanic does seem to be a bit too reliant on Tomb Raider-esque vibes and Uncharted-style gags (platforms fall out from under Kay a lot).

The third mission is all about stealth, which is another thing I am very bad at. You can really only duck behind cover and crouch-walk around in order to remain hidden, or duck into an occasional vent if you can do so without getting caught (I couldn’t). Nix can only distract one person at a time, and in the Crimson Dawn base there were quite a few baddies patrolling about. Fortunately, as soon as I’m spotted, a shoot-out ensues, and those are very fun.

Kay wields a blaster that can swap between lethal and EMP rounds, the latter of which works great for droids, shields, and powering up dead batteries. She even has a one-shot knockout round that’s on a long cooldown, and a Red Dead Redemption-style ultimate ability that slows down time and lets you mark up to three enemies to take out with ease. The gunplay is pretty tight and satisfying, but don’t expect much Division-style cover—Kay can duck behind things and dodge roll, but Outlaws feels more like you’ll either be avoiding combat or going into a room guns blazing.

Image: Ubisoft

A thoroughly Star Wars world

Though the gameplay was very structured and likely won’t represent the final, open-world product, I was able to get a great taste of Outlaws’ version of the Star Wars galaxy— and I was very impressed by the vibes Ubisoft has curated. Kay Vess is a fantastic character, voiced with a slightly scummy, plucky perfection by Humberly González. Nix is adorable and animated, and feels at times like a secondary protagonist because of how often he gets involved, how reactive he is, and how much Kay chats with him. He’s BD-1 with teeth, and I would die for him.

The side characters all feel like they stepped off a movie set, and getting to delve into the seedy criminal underworld we only get tastes of in things like Solo is a devilish delight. Deciding who Kay will align with will affect her reputation with different factions, a mechanic which was hard to get a feel for during my hands-on, but seems like a smart way to allow players to roleplay their version of a Star Wars scoundrel. Everyone loves Han Solo, but what would you do if you were in his boots?

Outlaws’ aesthetic is beautifully retrofuturistic. It feels like you’re playing through an unreleased ‘70s Star Wars film, from Kay’s shaggy haircut to the retro menu design and the tactility of the gameplay. Whenever Kay plucks her data spike from her hair to unlock a door, you’ll have to complete a little rhythm minigame by pulling the trigger in time with a flashing light, your controller vibrating with each pulse. It feels like you’re actually cracking the lock yourself, high praise for a lockpicking mechanic considering how they can often feel like throwaway features.

And though I was a little bummed that a lot of the world I encountered felt like it was behind a display case (I desperately wanted to order a drink at a bar, or sit down at a random table and play sabacc, rather than just lean on a railing via a somewhat sticky animation), these are beautiful virtual spaces that are steeped in Star Wars lore and vibes. And I’m sure once Ubisoft launches Star Wars Outlaws and we’re free to roam these spaces without restrictions, I’ll be even more excited for what Kay’s journey has to offer.

Star Wars Outlaws launches August 30 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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