Last month, a demo for Outriders dropped on most every platform but the Switch. Then, yesterday, Microsoft announced that this latest buzzy looter-shooter would join the Xbox Game Pass library on launch day, April 1.
Presumably, whatever overlap exists between the 18 million people who subscribe to Game Pass and the however-many-millions-or-not-millions of people who are interested in Outriders will now choose to play the game on Xbox. Still, it’s a multiplatform, multiplayer-focused game; you can create squads of up to three players via drop-in-drop-out co-op, and crossplay is slated to be a major component. So, how well does it currently function?
In my experience, not great!
I’ve been playing the Outriders demo on PlayStation 5. Last night, I convinced two of my friends—one playing on an Xbox Series X, one playing on a PC that’s kitted out enough to run Cyberpunk 2077 with minimal issues—to try the game’s crossplay feature, which is currently in beta.
In Outriders, crossplay isn’t turned on by default. First you have to open up the game’s options to manually activate it. (You’ll see the relevant toggle at the very bottom of the “gameplay options” submenu.) From there, you have to hit the “play with friends” option in the lobby. Clicking “generate code” creates an eight-character alphanumeric code. Your friends can punch in that code after clicking on “join a game using code.” One load screen later, and you’re all synced up.
Well, that’s how it works on paper. Initially, our crossplay party consisted of myself and my friend on Xbox. I popped into his game without issue. It played smooth enough, too, outside of the occasional stutter. We experienced another hiccup of the inconsequential variety where I showed up wearing a helmet in his game despite having turned my helmet off, because Outriders, sorry, has some seriously ugly helmets. (Turns out, my friend needed only to turn helmets off too.) Throughout one run of the demo, we disconnected just once, an event that was described to me as, “You’re just running into this wall like an idiot.”
The issues really began when we tried to loop in a third player with a third platform. When my PC-playing friend tried to join, I ended up getting booted from the session. He didn’t end up in a session either. We tried a second time. I ended up in the session without issue. My PC-playing friend, however, ended up failing to connect. Steam apparently crashed right after. A third attempt actually ended up with all of us in the game, but, halfway through one side-quest, I noticed the PC player running into a wall like an idiot.
Then we lost the connection entirely.
Personally, cross-platform functionality is one of those now-common gameplay features that still rouses wide-eyed amazement every damn time I experience it. For so long, video games have segregated player bases by platforms. My friends and I could own the same game, but we couldn’t play together, which was a total bummer. So even something as simple as playing Spellbreak on my Switch in the same room as my roommate, who plays on PC, blows my mind. Destiny 2’s cross-save—which I only made use of for the first time last year, to carry my character from PlayStation 4 to Xbox Series X—similarly knocked my socks off. This was my old Guardian! From PlayStation! On Xbox! Super cool.
Again, the crossplay feature for Outriders is still in beta. And for the fleeting moments it worked, it is indeed super cool. It’s one thing to storm a room with three people all playing within the same ecosystem, firing off weapons and powers and reviving each other when necessary. But simply knowing we were on different platforms instilled in me a separate level of appreciation for what was going on. A report from last year suggests that fewer than half of all console owners own both an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4. That tracks: Video game consoles are expensive, and outside of exclusive offerings, there’s little reason to splurge on two machines that more or less do the same thing. Maybe I just have a basement-level bar for excitement, but my eyes always light up a bit when I see games—especially games as rock-solid as Outriders—lower that barrier for cooperative play.
People Can Fly says Outriders “will fully support crossplay” (emphasis theirs). The game comes out in two weeks. At press time, Square Enix, the game’s publisher, did not respond to a query from Kotaku about whether or not the crossplay feature will still be in beta then.
Update: 2:45 p.m. ET: Representatives for Square Enix told Kotaku that Outriders “will have a 1.0 launch version of [the] crossplay system at launch.”