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Star Wars Outlaws is discount Uncharted with a mysterious open world

Ubisoft claims Star Wars Outlaws is the franchise's first open-world game, but you wouldn't know it from the middling demo I played at SGF.

A young woman with her hair tired back wearing a heavy coat with fur lining clutches a gun, peering around an exhibit case looking at a robot, a small alien animal crouched behind her

I’m a bit of a secret Star Wars fan. I’ve seen all of the movies and a fair amount of the (many) spinoff TV shows, but I don’t exactly wear my Rebel insignia on my sleeve. Over the years, I’ve plowed dozens of hours into games like Jedi: Fallen Order and, of course, the OG Lego Star Wars, so Ubisoft’s upcoming Star War Outlaws has always been on my radar. Touted as the “first open-world Star Wars experience,” I expected to catch a glimpse of some of that expansive goodness during my Summer Game Fest demo – I wanted to look under every rock and explore every alleyway. Yet I walked away having completed three isolated missions, with no open world in sight.

Starting on the planet Kijimi, my mission is to retrieve a heavily guarded artifact (aptly called ‘the relic’) and return it to its owner – rightful or otherwise. I’m thrust into the shoes of Kay Vess, Star Wars Outlaws’ protagonist, armed with an electrical weapon to fry some robots, and a good old-fashioned handgun to dispatch fleshy enemies. With Nix, my adorable Merqaal companion by my side, I’m ready to go on an Uncharted-style hunt.

And that’s exactly how this mission goes. I can distract enemies with Nix, creep around corners, and perform stealth kills, or I can go in guns blazing. As the bodies hit the floor (or short circuit), I retrieve the relic and dart out into the fray, where more enemies await. I dispatch them relatively easily in a shooting gallery-style back-and-forth and return to the city, where I’m hoping I’ll finally get a proper taste of the first open-world Star Wars game.

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As I navigate the snowy streets, Nix lets out a gentle trill, alerting me to something I can’t see. The mysterious entity lies in a blocked alleyway, which I quickly duck into. As I approach the shimmering beastie, a warning flashes on my screen, demanding that I return to the demo zone. Refusing to let my adventure be cut short, I retreat from the alleyway, then circle back in, only to be met with the same message. Dejected, I return the artifact to its owner, and the mission ends. I guess that’s that, then.

And that sentiment is exactly how I felt after finishing every mission. During my second assignment, I explore the bowels of an ancient, rotting spaceship, solve some puzzles, and face off against a couple of enemies. It’s all still reading very Uncharted, but scrambling my way through precarious platforming challenges simply doesn’t feel as good in Outlaws as in Drake and Co’s most recent outings. Kay would often be pulled to the wall like a magnet, and I had several issues jumping out of an elevator onto a lower platform as I’d glitch whenever my feet grazed the side. My grappling hook didn’t help much here either, as I still couldn’t quite make that jump.

That jankiness carries into the closing cinematic sequence. I picked up one of my fallen enemy’s rifles for some extra firepower and then headed back to the ship’s battered old console to complete the mission. As the game switches into the cutscene, however, Kay randomly drops her newfound rifle, which simply falls off of her like a dead weight. Another downer. It’s quite sad, really, because the level’s cavernous surroundings are absolutely gorgeous, and the sound design brings out the echoing grandiosity you’d expect when standing inside a titanic spaceship.

A young woman with brown hair in adventuring gear throws a grapple hook high into the ceiling of a machinery-focused room

Onto the final quest, then, whose log image shows an interstellar dogfight – that’s why I left it until the end. Our story begins deep in the heart of an Imperial ship, where I take out yet more guards (this time they’re Stormtroopers) and am reunited with my beloved ship, the Trailblazer. Unfortunately, this is where the demo starts to fall apart.

During the cutscene, there’s a bizarre five-second pause where a dead-eyed Kay flicks some buttons with a vaguely disconcerting smile. Once we’ve dealt with the TIE Fighters who quickly pursue us out of the ship, there’s a ten-second cutscene of the Trailblazer flying in a straight line towards our destination, Mirogana.

The actual space combat puts Starfield’s to shame; it’s dynamic, fluid, yet has a sense of weight to it as a starship should. But because everything around it currently feels so undercooked, my excitement is muted by the jank.

A space ship fighting Imperial TIE Fighters in front of a huge orange planet

When I arrive in Mirogana, that sense of new hope (haha) is back. Channeling the grimy, neo-futuristic vibes of Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City, the hustle and bustle feels realistic. Creatures of all shapes and sizes mingle in dusty streets, huffing back fluorescent liquids and sharing stories of their skirmishes and adventures.

With a bit of time on the clock before the system force-quits the mission for me, I decide to head into the wilds to experience the open-world game I was denied back in Kijimi. As I leave the hubbub of the city behind, I get my first glimpse at what Star Wars Outlaws’ expansive world will look like – until an attendant taps me on the shoulder and tells me to go back to Mirogana’s central hub. “We’re not showing the open world in this demo.”

Tail between my legs, I slink back to whence I came, with the aid of the coveted speeder, which I barely had a chance to use. From here, I complete my mission and leave slightly deflated and confused.

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Now I’d like to clarify that I’m not upset at the attendant – in fact, they were incredibly helpful, even catching me when my stool capsized at one point. I was simply disappointed that the demo felt so railroaded. Star Wars Uncharted sounds great on paper, but I’ve played Naughty Dog’s games – they’re better at shooting galleries, platforming, and cinematic stealth missions. With Outlaws, I wanted to see “the first open-world Star Wars experience.”

Of course, this demo is merely a limited window and likely isn’t wholly representative of what we’ll see once the Star Wars Outlaws release date rolls around. I hope this is the case for Outlaws, because so far there’s no trailblazing here, just the recycling of dated mechanics with a lick of paint that’s already peeling off.