As an omnipresent robotic voice condescendingly wishes my team luck, my eyes widen in disbelief as a massive portal materializes over a city block. It spews hundreds of raptors that rain from the sky, tumbling down buildings before they sprint in our direction. It’s a jaw-dropping sight, but that awe turns to intimidation at the staggering number of adversaries thirsty for our blood. Our tank units move forward and activate their shields to create a defensive wall. A healer fills health bars to the brim. A sniper takes point on an elevated perch. All the while, my finger rests on the trigger of my grenade launcher, waiting to see the whites of my scaly enemies’ eyes before unleashing hell.
I’ve experienced this tense situation dozens of times in Exoprimal’s cooperative wargames. Capcom uses a 5v5 hero shooter template to weave an absolutely absurd tale involving dinosaurs, parallel realities, time travel, time loops, artificial intelligence, and more dinosaurs. What appears to be a class-based multiplayer shooter winds up being a trojan horse to deliver a bonkers single-player tale. Your mileage will vary depending on what you’re here for, but this novel approach creates one of the most surprisingly enjoyable titles of the year.
Exoprimal’s premise drew me in for its sheer silliness. In 2043, mysterious outbreaks of dinosaur swarms plague Earth. Mega-corporation Aibius’ answer is training pilots to use high-tech Exosuits (basically suped-up Iron Man suits) to fight back. A small ragtag team of these pilots crashlands over a ruined island that Aibius’ sentient A.I., Leviathan, has overtaken. For whatever reason, this machine has trapped the island in an endless time loop, replaying a fateful day three years in the past and summoning exofighters from parallel realities to engage in wargames against the dinosaurs to fuel its mysterious obsession for collecting combat data.
The story sounds even dumber written out, and it only gets wilder and more intricate as it unfolds. I’m a sucker for over-the-top nonsense, and the narrative manages to be on the entertaining side of that spectrum. New cutscenes excited me more than unlocking a rare cosmetic skin or weapon perk. What impresses me most is how the story is told. Completing matches unlocks new story moments on a radial flowchart called the Analysis Map. These beats, whether cinematics, audio logs, or lengthy exposition dumps, feed toward the ending at its center. The more you play, the closer you get to solving the central mysteries and seeing how this band of likable misfits escape. It’s a neat approach to storytelling in a purely multiplayer title, and, as a more casual multiplayer fan, it effectively hooked me into playing longer than I normally would in similar titles.
On the surface, Exoprimal is a familiar sell. Two teams of five battle it out for supremacy, suiting up in various exosuits divided by class: assault, support, and tank. My favorites included the fast, melee-focused Zepher, the heavy samurai-esque Murasame, and the electricity-wielding healer, Witchdoctor. Though not every class satisfies my playstyle, all of them are enjoyable due to how good the gameplay feels. Whether you’re gunning your opponents down or slicing them apart, the action feels smooth, and the performance never skips a beat, even with hundreds of enemies on screen. Wiping out crowds of foes channels the fun power fantasy of Musou titles like Dynasty Warriors. Plus, watching dozens of dinosaurs across an evolving slate of species swarm arenas, from tiny velociraptors to giant triceratops and t-rex, always looks cool.
Each match tasks players with completing three rounds of randomized objectives faster than the opposing team. This includes killing a certain amount of a dinosaur type, protecting checkpoints, or escorting a payload. I enjoyed the tense, tug-of-war style race that matches become, as it’s often anyone’s game, even if you’re lagging the entire match. The final round is the only one that puts you in direct contact with the other team, letting you sabotage each other’s progress during the final push. Activating a Dominator accomplishes this task best; this single-use power-up transforms one player into a mighty rampaging dino to rip through the other team. I loved using this, as I felt like a bear invading a bee’s nest; I’ll get stung, but not before tearing apart as many players as possible so my team can catch up or maintain our lead.
Though Exoprimal offers only one gameplay destination, matches begin offering more levels, objective types, and dinosaurs as the story progresses. This helps freshen up and contextualize the inherently repetitive loop of playing match after match. I also like that the game occasionally throws curveballs by introducing story-based missions. Sometimes an ally invades the game in search of data and needs your protection, for example, but the most exciting is raid-style boss battles where both teams cooperate to take down a powerful monster. With a shared pool of limited respawns and several rounds of overwhelming enemy numbers, these bouts offer a fun and challenging change of pace from standard matches.
If you’re a multiplayer diehard, Exoprimal is nowhere near as robust as comparable titles like Overwatch or Apex Legends. Though it features familiar trappings like free and paid battle passes, individual class progression, and decently customizable load-outs, there’s nothing else besides playing a wargame. There are no other permanent modes, ranked options, clans, or leaderboards, so if the story isn’t the hook, you may find it shallow.
Exoprimal appeals more to casual players like myself, who generally prefer single-player, story-driven experiences. It truly feels like a solo adventure played alongside strangers, as it’s largely PvE, and you’re ultimately in a loop of completing missions and watching cutscenes until you reach the big finale. However, you have to play a ton of matches to finish the story (almost 60 for me), and they’re long and involved enough to make repeated runs tiresome after a few consecutive rounds. Thus, story-focused players are best playing Exoprimal in smaller doses to avoid burnout, but that also means a long wait to see how this wacky adventure wraps up.
Capcom is trying to have its cake and eat it, too, with Exoprimal by using its story to lure more general fans while hoping the loop keeps hardcore multiplayer fans for the long haul. I’m not sure that will work; I have little motivation to return now that I’ve seen credits. But I had a fun time while it lasted. Exoprimal’s creative subversion of expectations impressed me in more ways than one, and its approach to telling a robust narrative within a multiplayer framework is an example I hope other titles study. I just hope it’s enough to keep the game from going extinct.