Exoprimal review: stop worrying and learn to love dino carnage

A group of players fights a T-Rex in Exoprimal.

“Exoprimal demands a lot of patience, but those who stick with it will uncover a shockingly innovative multiplayer shooter.”

Pros

  • Ridiculously fun concept
  • Diverse character classes
  • Lots of customization
  • Evolving gameplay
  • Innovative multiplayer storytelling

Cons

  • Requires a lot of patience
  • Live service frustrations

When I play Exoprimal, it feels like stepping into an alternate timeline — one where The Last of Us never existed.

Imagine this brave new world: We never get a groundbreaking piece of interactive storytelling that would push developers to chase Hollywood style and produce “cinematic” games. Grimdark storytelling would never become fashionable. Grounded realism would be a niche reserved for high-budget simulations like Call of Duty. Every other modern trend, like battle pass driven online multiplayer, would continue, but games would continue to evolve from the kind of unabashedly bombastic games that were commonplace before the 2010s. That’s the evolutionary what-if scenario Exoprimal delivers and I wish I could stay there with it.

So long as you’re willing to give in to its extreme silliness, Exoprimal is a deliriously fun team-based dinosaur shooter that delivers popcorn spectacle better than most modern action games. It’s a creative multiplayer premise that prioritizes moment-to-moment thrills above all else and that’s refreshing in 2023. Even if it’s driven to extinction in a few years by some modern live service pitfalls, there’s so much innovation hiding in its bones that will leave future developers with a ton of great ideas to exhume.

Dino crisis

Despite having some similarities to a lot of other multiplayer games, Exoprimal is its own beast entirely. It’s largely a squad-based PvE game in which players fight off waves of dinosaurs that spawn from sky portals. The most immediate enjoyment comes from mowing down hundreds of dinosaurs, from zombie-like velociraptor hordes to enormous Triceratopses. It’s a standard wave defense premise reimagined in the most over-the-top way Capcom could think of. Call me simple, but I’m not immune to the childlike joy that comes from beating the snot out of a T-Rex with a robot.

Barrage Exosuit in Exoprimal.
Capcom

There’s a competitive aspect to that too, though, as two teams of five are competing to complete the same string of objectives fastest. After running around a map and clearing a few rounds, teams race into one of many possible endgames. Those can be either PvE or PvP-focused. One endgame has teams racing to push a payload to a target destination on the same map, allowing them to finally face off and gun each other down. It’s a “best of both worlds” scenario. It gives teams time to communicate and build a working strategy against computer-controlled dinos before throwing them into a high-stakes finale that requires stronger coordination.

The closer you look, the more you can see DNA from other multiplayer games thoughtfully baked into its own. The most obvious comparison is Overwatch, as Exoprimal is a “hero shooter” that revolves around entirely distinct mech classes (split between assault, tank, and support). Krieger is a Bastion-like mech that fires a minigun and generates shields, while Witchdoctor creates healing areas and paralyzes dinos with an electric beam. With separate progression and alternate builds for each, there’s a ton to tinker around with.

You haven’t lived until you’ve blocked a charging Triceratops with an energy shield …

What’s even more impressive than the range of play styles, though, is just how consistently fun each is. When I jump in Murasame’s cockpit, Exoprimal turns into a hack-and-slash action game as I slice through dinosaurs with an oversized sword. I experience a totally different thrill when I play as the Reinhardt-esque Roadblock; you haven’t lived until you’ve blocked a charging Triceratops with an energy shield, holding strong to see which immovable object budges first. Even classes I initially didn’t click with have become some of my favorites once I worked out their strategy. Skywave has quickly become one of my favorite healers, as it can launch high into the air and rain down both attacks and healing shots.

I can see bits and pieces of other great multiplayer games in the formula too. In match endgames, each team can summon a controllable dinosaur (a dominant) that they can send to disrupt enemies, an exciting spin on Destiny 2’s Gambit invasion system. Each character can also equip different perks and secondary tools like personal shields, bringing me back to my Titanfall 2 glory days. It’s a lot of systems I love from other games packed into one that has me blowing up a charging Pachycephalosaurs with a landmine as my machine-gun-wielding teammate juggles it in midair. What more can you ask for?

An evolving shooter

If you were to only play nine rounds of Exoprimal, you may find it fun but too sparse to sustain a live-service multiplayer game. That would be an entirely fair perspective, as it’s an inherently repetitive game. While it looks like a team shooter filled with complex strategies, it’s more akin to a super-sized Dynasty Warriors title. That’s an acquired taste I’ve grown to love over the past few years, as I click with the at once exciting and morbidly Zen joys of obliterating hundreds of enemies, but the genre is niche for a reason.

Deadeye fights dinosaurs in Exoprimal
Capcom

To really get what makes it special, though, you need to hit your 10th game — something Exoprimal hides from players, both for better and worse. Taking after its own dinosaurs, Exoprimal is entirely built around evolution. After those initial 10 rounds, the core game begins to change. New maps are peppered into the mix, mutated dinosaur breeds start attacking, and extra endgame scenarios join the rotation. Any complaint I initially had about a lack of content began to fade the deeper I got.

The changes are occasionally drastic, which creates a level of surprise that we don’t often see in a mechanical multiplayer game like this. Around 15 matches in, my team loaded into a standard Dino Survival round only to be confronted by a previously unseen NPC who joined us. The AI overlord running the wargames, a rogue program dubbed Leviathan, freaked out about the unauthorized intruder and flipped into defense mode. When we got to the end of our objectives, we were thrown into an MMO-like raid scenario. Thousands of raptors poured out of a massive portal in the sky, throwing an entirely unexpected wrench into the equation. Moments like that kept me on my toes, eager to see how it would twist my expectations when I was least expecting it.

Exoprimal is a strong 15-hour story campaign ingeniously baked into a progression-filled multiplayer shooter.

That trick has some thematic relevance too. Exoprimal has a much bigger story emphasis than its peers, gradually building the mystery of what caused the dino outbreaks through unlockable lore snippets. It’s a B-movie narrative centered around a quippy misfit squad trying to uncover the pieces, but it functions as a well-timed sci-fi cautionary tale. A major piece of the mystery revolves around an unregulated megacorporation creating risky tech in the name of profit, including a dangerous AI overlord that’s grown out of control. Sometimes evolution, both in biology and tech, is a wondrous thing that helps a species adapt to a constantly changing world. But those changes can come at the expense of nature’s weakest links. Exoprimal plays with that dynamic both in its story and the mounting threats in its multiplayer rounds.

It’s a surprisingly high-concept idea for a game like this, and one that demands a lot of unearned patience early on. With no indication that the game itself is in a constant state of mutation, it initially seems like a thin thrill that’ll only keep friends entertained for a few nights. In actuality, Exoprimal is a strong 15-hour story campaign ingeniously baked into a progression-filled multiplayer shooter. Stick with it and you’re in for a big sci-fi blockbuster with a lot of meat on its enormous bones.

And if you don’t care about any of that: dinosaurs go boom. It’s as simple as that.

Facing extinction

Though I adore Exoprimal, I feel like I already know its fate. As an online-only game releasing at full price during a moment when even the most creative multiplayer games are shutting down, it’s destined for extinction. Even its lore tidbits are inaccessible offline, as I’m frequently reminded when I’m booted out of a cutscene due to a random server issue and forced to start it over. For a game like this to survive, it needed to be the strongest predator on the scene at launch. That’s not the case for a variety of reasons.

Murasame slashes at enemies in Exoprimal
Capcom

Some of those are small and could be fixed with a quick patch down the line. Some control complexities make equipping perks and gear more cumbersome than it should be and its tiny UI can be tough to decipher. Other threats are more existential. It has a prehistoric approach to cross-play support and features no cross-progression. It’s also a full-priced game that still includes a paid battle pass, a shop full of cosmetics, and even great exosuits locked behind paywalls. Even with an initial launch on Xbox Game Pass to ease in a new player base, those limitations and aggressive monetization puts some clear design flaws in the new IP’s potential evolutionary line.

Granted, there’s a clear vision for its future that does inspire hope. We already know it’ll get an infusion of new exosuit variants, new maps, and some delightfully silly crossover collaborations with games like Street Fighter 6. With a sturdy, relatively bug-free foundation, I do believe Capcom is well-positioned to evolve the live service project much better than, say, 343 Industries was with its featured-devoid Halo Infinite launch. For those who are willing to hang on until that inevitable meteor wipes out Exoprimal’s servers, there should be enough content to come back to.

It’s a flightless bird that carries itself with the confidence of a swan.

Even if there isn’t, I’m not sure Exoprimal really needs it to be worth its price tag. Thanks to its well-integrated story, it’s something that can be enjoyed as a 15-hour campaign. It’s almost built with players’ waning attention spans in mind, allowing anyone willing to spend a week or two with it to come away with a full experience. I certainly feel like I’ve gotten my fill just as much as I would have playing 20 hours of Diablo 4. Does it really matter how I arrived at my hour count if I enjoyed every minute it took to get there?

Exoprimal’s time on this Earth is sure to be brief as it’s devoured by much bigger multiplayer predators capable of shape-shifting to match every industry climate change. But for once, I find myself at peace with that possibility; it’s just nature. Rather than anxiously hoping it’ll stave off a premature demise — like a tired scientist trying to force disinterested rhinos to breed — I’m wholeheartedly savoring every moment I spend with Exoprimal while it’s here. It may have the brains of a dodo, but that’s what I find so endearing about it. It’s a flightless bird that carries itself with the confidence of a swan.

Exoprimal was reviewed on a PS5 hooked up to a TCL 6-Series R635.

Editors’ Recommendations






Leave a Comment