Back in July 2022, I previewed a new IP from Capcom called Exoprimal, an online-only competitive multiplayer game where two teams of players are tasked with exterminating hordes of dinosaurs and each other in a never-ending series of PvPvE matches. I had a good first impression of this idiosyncratic game as it was rich with potential having fun characters to play as and equally as fun enemy dinosaurs to fight.
Fast forward a year later and Exoprimal has now been released to the public and we at Windows Central have taken it upon ourselves to review it. Unfortunately, after playing the full game for over a dozen and a half hours, my hopes for this game slowly diminished. I came to agree with Jez Corden’s assessment that Exoprimal’s PvP elements drag the whole experience.
How, exactly? In this review, we’ll convey how Exoprimal’s PvP elements fail, what fun there is to be found in its PvE elements, and whether or not it’s ultimately worth your time on either Xbox Series X|S or your Windows PC.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible thanks to a review code provided by Capcom. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
Exoprimal Review: The Good Stuff
Genre: Competitive multiplayer
Playtime: ~17 hours (main quest only)
Release date: July 14, 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Windows PC,
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
First, let’s start off by explaining the premise of Exoprimal. It is the year 2043 and humanity is under attack from interdimensional vortexes, spawning all over the world and spewing out creatures long thought to be extinct – dinosaurs. You play as Exofighters – elite soldiers piloting militarized mech suits called Exosuits to protect mankind from these beasts and blast them back into extinction.
One day, on a routine patrol flying in an aircraft with a group of Exofighters, called the Hammerheads, you get attacked by one of these vortexes and crash land on a remote island called Bikitoa. After some exploration, you encounter Leviathan, an artificial intelligence that mysteriously vanished three years ago that helped develop the Exosuits.
He then displays godlike powers by teleporting you and other Exofighters from across parallel dimensions back in time to the year 2040. Here, Leviathan forces you to participate in an endless series of wargames in which you must fight against dinosaurs and other Exofighters to provide Leviathan with combat data.
To escape this island and find a way to defeat Leviathan, you must play Exoprimal’s main mode – Dino Survival. Every time you complete a match, regardless of whether you win or lose, you will unlock videos and audio logs in the Archives section of the main menu which will progress the plot and help you unravel the mystery behind Leviathan’s powers, why he wants you to play these wargames and why dinosaurs are appearing all over the world.
The story of Exoprimal is kind of ridiculous and insane but in a good way like Capcom’s other titles such as Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 4, or Dino Crisis 2. It doesn’t take itself too seriously as the characters exchange witty banter which pokes fun at the situation’s absurdity but not to the point where they undermine the story’s more serious and dramatic moments. It also does a good job of setting up epic action set-pieces in Dino Survival’s special PvE events which I will elaborate on later.
The best character in the story is Leviathan himself. This smug, omnipresent AI is a delightful villain who constantly backseats the players, has great dialogue where he openly mocks the player even while he’s congratulating them and he can be scary if he decides to up the difficulty level or if someone decides to go against his wargames.
Survive Leviathan’s wargames to escape your prison
But what do Leviathan’s wargames in Dino Survival entail exactly? Well, it’s essentially a race between two teams of five players to see who can complete a set of missions first. These missions usually revolve around the culling of a wide range of dinosaurs as quickly as possible, slaying specific dinosaur mini-bosses or defending objects/capture points from them.
Once a team completes enough missions, they will proceed to enter a final mission which can be either a PvP (Player vs. Player) or a PvE (Player Vs. Enemy) mission. The final PvE mission will be a repeat of the previous dino-culling missions while the PvP missions will have you engage the enemy team directly in combat. The final PvP missions include objectives like escorting a payload, collecting data chips or stealing them from enemy players, holding capture points, killing dinosaurs to charge up a hammer and using it to break down barriers protecting a generator you must destroy, and more.
If a player team is falling behind, Leviathan can grant them comeback mechanics to help them catch up. One is spawning a Trigger Neosaur, a special dinosaur which if killed, will cause the leading team to face more difficult enemies than the failing team.
The other comeback mechanic is the Dominator. This device lets a player take control of dinosaurs like a T-Rex, Triceratops, Carnotaurus, etc, then teleport them next to the enemy team so they can rip them apart.
Super Swarms and 10-player raid boss fights galore
This is the general gameplay loop of Dino Survival. However, once you start making progress in Exoprimal’s story, the game mode will gradually start to change. You will fight on different maps, and encounter mutated variants of dinosaurs called Neosaurs which possess superpowers and have new missions to complete.
These include fighting Super Swarms, where players fight off literally hundreds upon hundreds of dinosaurs raining down from the sky. Sometimes Leviathan will even cancel a match to teleport both teams to a special PvE-only event.
These rare PvE-only events will have both teams working together to fight dinosaur Super Swarms, dinosaur mini-bosses, and Neosaurs all at the same time. These events culminate in a special raid boss fight which the players must complete within a time limit and with a limited number of respawns allowed.
I have very mixed feelings about Dino Survival and Exoprimal’s gameplay structure in general. Let’s start off with the good stuff. For starters, I love the Exosuits you pilot in this game. Each Exosuit, whether they be an Assault-type, Support-type, or a Tank-type have fantastic, robotic character designs and they’re all fun to play with thanks to their cool abilities, weapons, and super moves that can clear out entire areas of dinos in an explosive second.
You can change the Exosuit you’re wearing at any time during a match depending on the situation if a mission requires more firepower or if there’s a boss that requires a Tank-type Exosuit to protect allies from. You can even upgrade an Exosuit’s abilities by purchasing modular upgrades by using Bikcoins earned from playing Dino Survival to make them even more effective in combat or change their functions to suit your preferred playstyle.
Combine customizable Exosuits with a squad of skilled players at your side who fully upgraded their suits, and you will feel unstoppable, completing objectives in no time. On a side note, you can also change the cosmetic appearance of Exosuits with different skins, charms, and decals by winning them through loot boxes earned in Dino Survival or purchasing them using real-life money or in-game Bikcoins.
The PvE aspect of Dino Survival is really enjoyable as there is a plethora of dinosaur species to hunt, each with unique abilities and tactics that players must overcome in order to survive. The fights against mini-bosses like the T-Rex, Triceratops, or the Neosaurs, for example, are challenging to beat but with carefully timed usages of your teammates’ abilities, you will melt down these arduous foes in mere seconds and it is very satisfying when you do so.
By far the best moments of Exoprimal are the dinosaur Super Swarm fights and the 10-player PvE-only events. Seeing a gigantic, dimensional vortex open up in the sky, spitting out hundreds of dinosaurs that shower down upon you is an awesome spectacle to behold. Without going into too much spoiler territory, the PvE-only events against the Dinosaur/Neosaur onslaughts with the raid boss at the end are just as impressive as they are the ultimate test of your skills as an Exofighter. The satisfaction level you will experience in overcoming such overwhelming odds is tremendous.
Exoprimal Review: The Bad Stuff
Unfortunately, as enjoyable as these moments of PvE excellence are, they are heavily burdened by Dino Survival’s poorly implemented PvP elements and systems. Remember when I talked about the awesome 10-player PvE-only missions, Neosaur fights, and the Super Swarms? You won’t encounter them until you have progressed through Exoprimal’s story by watching the aforementioned audio/video logs and cutscenes, which the game never tells you about in the tutorial.
If you hadn’t watched the logs because you were saving them for later, you will unwittingly lock yourself out of gameplay content and be forced to play the same beginner missions and maps. For example, when I first started Exoprimal, I unlocked some cutscenes to view but I kept them on the backburner because I was playing with some friends online.
As a result, I was stuck playing the same set of dinosaur cull missions and payload escort missions for several hours. After I left my friend’s session, I viewed the audio and video logs which unlocked the more exciting missions in Dino Survival, which I could’ve gotten hours ago if the game had bothered to explain how this progression system worked at the start.
After completing my review, Capcom announced on Twitter that progressing through Exoprimal’s story will unlock new missions, maps, and dinosaurs. While the PSA is a nice gesture, it does not absolve how counter-productive and poorly-explained this progression system is. Especially for people who want to skip the story and get straight to the action but end up locking themselves out of cool gameplay content without realizing it.
PvP woes ruin the fun.
However, a poor progression system is just the tip of the iceberg of Exoprimal’s problems because the biggest flaws of this game are the PvP-aspects of Dino Survival. Seeing as the very nature of Dino Survival is a race, you can’t stop to indulge in the dino-killing action because you’ll be tripped by the game’s lackluster PvP mechanics at every corner. Every few seconds, Leviathan will berate your performance even if you’re a mere nanosecond behind your opponents, demoralizing any enjoyment you may have had in the prior loop.
With this hostile atmosphere, you’re practically forced to hurry up by picking Exosuits which can dish out the most damage as quickly as possible. There’s an incentive to forego Exosuits you personally like but can’t use because they don’t do enough damage, owing to the game’s balance.
The PvP missions themselves aren’t designed very well as they are too basic and aren’t as exciting compared to the PvE missions. Also, if you lag even slightly behind the enemy team during some of these missions, it becomes almost impossible to catch them up despite the comeback mechanics Leviathan offers you.
Trigger Neosaurs rarely spawn, and the Dominators don’t make any difference half the time. Both teams know when a Dominator is coming, so they save their super moves when the player-controlled dinosaur spawns and unleash all their moves at once, the second they spot it, instantly killing it. Even if a player-controlled dinosaur manages to score some kills, the enemy players respawn a few yards away from their objective, rendering all the player-controlled dinosaur’s efforts worthless. The formulaic, undynamic back-and-forth in these sequences is choring.
To add insult to injury, Leviathan also awards the leading team a Dominator even if they’re further ahead than the losing team, making them waste their super moves so they can’t defend themselves later against enemy dinosaurs or players. Needless to say. It compounds a sense of impossible odds on the losing team and makes these PvP missions go from being annoyingly boring to frustratingly awful. It’s more efficient to simply leave the match at that point and start a new one, and many players do this, owing to the game’s hostile design choices.
Another problem with PvP is that thanks to the Exosuit upgrades I mentioned earlier, it’s incredibly unbalanced. If a team of players who are trying out new Exosuits to level them up gets pitted against a group of players, with fully upgraded Exosuits, they practically don’t stand a chance in direct combat unless the enemy team is completely asleep at the wheel. Half the time I couldn’t tell if I beat a team of Exofighters due to my skills or if my team was better geared up. The lack of clarity in the game’s UI makes it unclear to know whether or not another player one-hit killed you due to some special attack, or because their gear and levels outmatched yours. There’s no information on whether or not gear is normalized in PvP combat, and there’s little real incentive to learn through it. The whole PvP experience simply leaves a sour taste, weaving forcefully into what might’ve otherwise been a decent PvE shooter. It’s impossible to “out skill” opponents when gear imbalance comes into play, leaving every loss and, even every win feeling stunted and dissatisfying. Exoprimal feels like the product of a team that hadn’t made a PvP game before this.
The poor PvP even poisons Exoprimal’s PvE
People have already complained about Exoprimal’s PvP mission during the beta tests and Capcom responded by implementing an option during Dino Survival’s matchmaking where you can choose to have the final mission be PvP or PvE, or randomly select one of the two. I turned on the PvE-only option after several hours of slogging through the PvP final missions as I eventually grew tired of them.
Unfortunately, this supposed quality-of-life improvement is merely a small band-aid on a gaping wound. Setting Dino Survival’s final mission to PvE-only does let you play the good PvE missions but you’re still forced to race against other players to beat as many dinos as possible and teams can still attack each other using Dominators. This brings back all the problems I mentioned earlier about the comeback mechanics but this time in a PvE environment, meaning you can never escape this game’s poor PvP.
It’s impossible to really catch up, even with the “come back” mechanics haphazardly slathered on top of this bland cake. As noted, it incentivizes players abandoning matches. If a player disconnects from a match, they’re replaced by an incompetent AI bot. These bots are dumber than the dinosaurs, charging into the fray without any thoughts of self-preservation. They do not use their abilities against enemies as often as human players, causing you to lose valuable time.
If you get an AI bot on your team, your team is given a huge handicap and if you have multiple bots on your team, you’ve already lost before the battle has even begun. One time, I had two AI bots on my team and the human players immediately logged out before the match started because they knew they were never going to beat a fully human team when half of our team is comprised of inept bots who can’t aim straight. The bots wouldn’t have been such a big deal if Exoprimal didn’t completely revolve around racing another team. Sadly, nobody at Capcom seems to have realized this.
Capcom seems to have known how bad the PvP systems were here, lowering the stakes to the point rewards do not matter all too much for winning or losing. But then … the problem is the rewards do not matter all too much for winning or losing. Everything feels low-stakes, pointless, and formulaic. Every match plays out in exactly the same way, robbing the game of any sense of staying power.
There is a 5-player PvE-only horde mode called ‘Savage Gauntlet’ coming soon to Exoprimal in a free update on July 28th, 2023 but I feel this game mode should’ve been included at the game’s launch. Clearly this mode was rushed in at the last second after Capcom had realized how poor PvP was going to be received. At launch, Exoprimal is a hollow game, but can they turn it around?
Exoprimal Review: Should you play it?
At the end of the day, I was very disappointed in Exoprimal. It’s a repetitive, unfocused mess of a game that tries to juggle many gameplay concepts and genres at the same time but ends up falling flat on its face. What sucks, even more, is that there is potentially an awesome game hidden beneath the surface. The PvE missions fighting dinosaur bosses are engrossing, the Exosuit classes are fun to mess around in, the online matchmaking is instantaneous and the online netcode is very stable for the most part.
Not to mention, Exoprimal is impressive from a graphical perspective as it’s able to render hundreds of dinosaurs on-screen without causing any damage to the game’s solid 1080p resolution and 60fps performance. If nothing else, this game is an exemplary showcase of the technical capabilities of Capcom’s RE Engine and the potential it holds for future projects.
If the developers focused on Exoprimal’s PvE elements, where you fight massive dinosaur bosses and Super Swarms, Exoprimal could’ve found its way into best Xbox games lists. There’s a frustrating and tantalizing layer of potential here not being realized.
If you’re still curious about Exoprimal despite its flaws and you’re a fan of competitive shooters like Overwatch or horde shooters like Left 4 Dead, it is available on Xbox Game Pass so you can check it out. Exoprimal, in my opinion, is a tough sell at its full $59.99 retail price tag.
Exoprimal is now available for purchase on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam and Windows after launching on July 14th, 2023.