My team had been progressing objectives nicely right up until the villainous AI Leviathan decided to spawn over a thousand raptors, and sent them streaming over the walls of the dam, like a scene straight out of a zombie apocalypse.
Exoprimal is an absolutely fascinating game, a multiplayer experience that clearly has a unique vision and sticks to that come hell or high water, choosing to completely disregard almost every trend multiplayer games typically fall into. It’s the biggest surprise of the year, creating an overtly campy experience that packs in a surprisingly ambitious story and some of the most explosive gameplay experiences I’ve seen in years.
Taking place in 2043, in Exoprimal’s world violent dinosaurs have started appearing from dimensional rifts around the world, wreaking havoc on the populace. The phenomenon stems from a small island called Bikitoa, where an AI named Leviathan went rogue. Your team of Exofighters is sent in to monitor the island, but after crash landing Leviathan draws you into its “Wargames,” where it transports you three years in the past over and over, to play through the first dinosaur outbreak.
This isn’t just a tacked-on narrative for a multiplayer game, as the entire experience revolves around that central story and setup, which goes to some truly surprising places. As you progress through multiplayer matches you unlock tidbits of audio logs, emails, newspapers, and more, all of which help you piece together the core mystery. It’s all shlock, in the best kind of way, but if you really dig into a lot of the details there’s some interesting history Exoprimal builds, like the corporation Aibius forcefully moving into Bikitoa and essentially creating a police state and erasing the native culture.
There are also hints of climate activism and global warming, and how corporations seeking profit damn anyone in the way. Amidst all this, there’s some truly hilarious writing, as Leviathan constantly spouts lines like “Many entities award a go-getter attitude. A T=-Rex does not.” The mix of camp and serious storytelling somehow works, but like any multiplayer game, the real attraction lies in the gameplay.
Exoprimal is a class-based PvEvP shooter, where two teams of five separately compete to complete objectives before being transported to a final mission that often pits them against each other. The ten different Exosuits in the game are grouped into three classes, Assault, Tank, and Support. Righ off the bat every single suit feels wildly distinct, with its own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, and Exoprimal does a great job of making all of them viable.
For example just with the Assault Classes, Deadeye focuses on ranged combat with an assault rifle and grenades, Zephyr is entirely melee-focused with the highest speed in the game, Barrage is great at AoE damage with explosives, and Vigilant is a sniper with a charge rifle that can pass through enemies.
The absolute strangest choice the game makes, however, is in its progression and how it gates content. For the first five or so hours you’ll play through the same Dinosaur Cull and Area Defense objectives, fighting largely the same handful of dinos. However, once you reach a certain point the entire game explodes open. For the next ten to fifteen hours Exoprimal layers in wildly different objectives and dinosaur types, which culminate in a handful of raid-like battles where the two separate teams are combined into one.
These raids are pulse-pounding affairs that have your ten-person team going up against literally hundreds and thousands of dinosaurs, altering the terrain or creating unique objectives. In one the map turned into a rat maze with the target dinosaurs at the end, while another made our team fight up a staircase that was simply overflowing with raptors. These instances also feature massive boss battles, like the Neo T-Rex that’s essentially Godzilla, shooting out massive layers and puddles of goo that damage and slow you down.
What’s remarkable is that the gameplay is getting more complex and wild as the narrative becomes more unhinged. It’s an intentional choice that ramps up the difficulty and intensity to an absurd climax at the end.
Despite the weird progress-gating, the actual minute-to-minute progression of Exoprimal is off to a good start, but like any live-service game could be improved. Each suit has its own experience level on top of a player level and battle pass. What this means is that between suits, player level, and story you’re getting at least one reward for each and every match, most times more.
Life Finds a Way
At the same time, Exoprimal runs absolutely flawlessly. In 150 matches I haven't had one single problem with matchmaking, as any player that leaves is replaced by surprisingly competent bots. I’m also completely blown away by how well the game runs, as I can’t think of a single moment of slowdown or lag, incredible considering the thousands of dinosaurs on-screen some moments.
There’s just something inherently charming about everything in Exoprimal, from the bright 90-esque aesthetic (almost like Transformers with dinosaurs) to the undeniably satisfying gameplay moments when your team really clicks and takes down a horde of dinosaurs you thought would be impossible. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve played a multiplayer game that just feels so satisfying, whether you win or lose.
There are some balancing issues between the classes, and going forward Capcom will need to provide more diverse content and game modes. I can understand the initial barrier of content-gating turning off a lot of people, but it’s clear that this ties directly into Capcom’s overall vision. If you can stick out those first few hours, though, you’ll find one of the most enrapturing experiences of the year.
Exoprimal is out now on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Inverse reviewed the PS5 version.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.