War: it sure is unpleasant. So it's a bit of a relief to find a World War II game that refuses to take itself too seriously and creates a shamelessly fun experience without too much consideration of historical accuracy. That's THQ's action/strategy shooter The Outfit. Despite some pretty glaring shortcomings, such as bland level design and yucky controls, The Outfit's commitment to delivering a good time raises it above those flaws and makes it a game that you should play. That is, if you like to have fun. That is why we play videogames, right?
And fun is what The Outfit is. Mixing third-person action with the ability to call in gun emplacements, reinforcements and vehicles like a real time strategy game, this isn't like other games you've played. It pleasantly reminds us a bit of Mercenaries and Battlefield: Modern Combat, but The Outfit's unique blend of gameplay is its strongest point. Unfortunately, hard-to-control vehicles and weapons that occasionally feel underpowered make for frustrating experiences playing the game.
The Outfit is set in WWII, but the storyline is much more a beefed-up Hogan's Heroes than Saving Private Ryan. You choose from three characters: J.D., the stealthy sniper guy; Tommy Mac, the flame-spewing badass who can clean a bunker of Nazis in no time; and Deuce, a hard-nose, bazooka-wielding Colonel who leads the scrappy bunch. Different levels are best suited to different characters, and the game will reward you for smart choices.
As a member of the outfit, you lead a four-man, AI-controlled squad that can be given attack and suppress orders, as well as special attacks specific to a character, like Tommy Mac's Gas Attack. Thanks to the variety of vehicles, emplacements and air strikes, the game never plays the same way twice. But it's far from open-ended in the GTA sense, and most single-player levels feel as ducted and walled in as a level of Quake. The best maps in the game are more like an open sandbox, allowing you to build up your defenses and strategize as if you were playing WarCraft II.
Of course, none of those constrictive levels are a problem with online multiplayer where the game starts to truly shine (single-player co-op on Live is a killer feature, too). Playing two-on-two multiplayer maps - where each player commands his own squad and builds his own equipment - offered some of the most fun we've had online in a long time.
The Outfit may be a little ragged, but we'd follow those guys into the breach anytime. The unique gameplay is extremely well conceived, if not perfectly pulled off, and coupling it with some super hot multiplayer action earns The Outfit a medal.