In the year of the coming Red Dead Redemption 2, it is worth flashing back to a major touchstone in the Western video game genre, one marking its 20th anniversary, LucasArts’ Outlaws (1997).
Released for PC (personal computer) platform, Outlaws is a “first-person shooter” in which players experience the game thru the eyes of the main character. That character is James Anderson, retired U.S. Marshal, who returns to his ranch from errands to find his property burning, wife dying, and daughter kidnapped. Henchmen working a railroad baron had attacked Anderson’s family for not selling their land to the tycoon. Anderson then sets out to find and recover his daughter, dispatching the railroad baron’s men along the way.
Outlaws made effective use of animated “cut-scenes” – sequences between game-play – to set the context for the next segment. To this writer, these scenes also function as Western mini-films. In this opening to the game, an example of those animated scenes can be viewed (note: mature content):
The music for Outlaws was specifically created by composer Clint Bajakian, with use of an orchestra. The game’s CD (compact disc) contained 15 different songs that could be played on an audio CD player.
In a nod to the Italian Westerns of Sergio Leone, the difficulty levels to the game ranged from “Good” (easiest) to “Bad” to “Ugly (hardest). On-screen bullet and heart icons let the player know the levels of ammunition and health, respectively. Outlaws even offered an online multiplayer option, giving players the choice of six characters, each with their own specialties and weapons.
This clip shows some single player action in the opening level:
Outlaws has become a sort of cult classic among many video game aficionados, and in 2008, game site IGN included its soundtrack as one of the “10 Great Video Game Albums”. Disney, which acquired LucasArts in 2012, re-released the game for digital sale in 2015.