Over the years, games based on the Old West have proven popular with gamers. Entries like Gun, Red Dead Revolver, Red Dead Redemption, and Red Dead Redemption 2 helped to fill that niche. Players enjoyed visiting the world of horses, stagecoaches, lawmen and tumbleweeds. Their mission? Mainly to dispense some Colt 45 justice. But before all that Red Dead fun, LucasArts had explored that genre back in 1997. Following the popular first person shooter format at the time, they brought us Outlaws for the PC.
The game was patterned after the Hollywood “Spaghetti Western.” This was the style of western made popular by Sergio Leone and starred Clint Eastwood as the mysterious stranger with a quick draw and imposing scowl. Likewise, Outlaws tells the story of retired U.S. Marshal James Anderson. Who, after losing his wife and having his daughter kidnapped, seeks to bring justice to the gang of criminals responsible. Or to be more accurate, YOU are seeking vengeance.
Spaghetti Western Shootouts
LucasArts developers decided to use an animated graphic style that was powered by LucasArts’ INSANE animation engine. By using special filters, they made each piece of the story to look hand-drawn. The resulting cutscenes played between each mission and set up the action for the next stage. As for the gaming platform itself, it was based on an advanced form of the Jedi game engine. This was originally used for Star Wars: Dark Forces.
In the style of Sergio Leone
Outlaws is largely credited as the first shooter game with a sniper zoom as well as a gun reloading mechanism. Because the game was a homage to the Sergio Leone styled Western, the game also made use of a similar style soundtrack. This was created by composer Clint Bajakian. The composer used an orchestra with authentic instruments for the project. Since most games of the time used synthetic instrumentation, this was unusual. However, the results produced a soundtrack that was highly regarded by critics.
Bringing the Characters to Life
A great story needed great vocal talent. Because of this, the voice cast for Outlaws included veteran talents such as John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek: TNG) as Matt Jackson, and Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court) as Bob Graham. Veteran Voice Performer Jack Angel portrayed two characters, George Bowers and Jack Sanchez. Jeff Osterhage, himself a veteran of western television films, voices the game’s protagonist, U.S. Marshal James Anderson.
Wild West Multiplayer Action
One of the other things that made an impact for Outlaws was its multiplayer capability. In multiplayer death matches, players could assume the role of one of six characters from the main game. These included Matt “Dr. Death” Jackson, “Bloody” Mary Nash, James Anderson, Chief Two-Feathers, “Gentleman” Bob Graham, and “Spittin'” Jack Sanchez. As per most multiplayer games, each possible character had its own advantages and disadvantages. Among these abilities were differences in speed and maneuverability, as well as weapons selection and damage resistance. I always picked the Marshall (apparently I was channeling my inner Marshall Dillon). During it’s original planning, LucasArts planned for up to 12 characters to be available in multiplayer mode. However, because of network and budget restraints, it was whittled down to the six characters offered.
A Handful of Missions
Hoping to increase the games visibility, LucasArts decided to release a small official expansion pack for game owners at no extra charge. The free expansion entitled A Handful of Missions, added four single player missions as well as multiplayer maps. This addition updated the game’s version to 2.0. As a result, LucasArts had hoped that when added to home player designed levels, the expansion would help increase the games replay factor. It did, but not that it’s sales reflected that fact.
Critical Response and Sales
While sales for Outlaws were never poor, they simply were not up to the standards that LucasArts had envisioned. Despite the brief excitement after the expansion pack was released. This probably explains why a sequel was never discussed. That being said, the game received favorable reviews from most critics and it has since become a cult classic. So if you want to see how LucasArts got the drop on those that preceded it, try Outlaws. It can be found on Steam and on GOG. Give it a look. Marshall Anderson is waiting for your help. There’s a daughter to be saved and varmints to be killed.
I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.