Capcom’s experimental dino-shooter Exoprimal features a neat spin on co-op

Squad-based tactics and over-the-top sci-fi dinosaur lore mixes in this bizarre and chaotic multiplayer shooter.
Exoprimal from Capcom

When it was first revealed in 2022, many longtime Capcom fans saw the upcoming Exoprimal as something of an oddity. Pitting mech-suit-wearing mercenaries against an overwhelming horde of dinosaur baddies against the backdrop of a sci-fi time-travel narrative, it seemed like a shoo-in for a revival of the Dino Crisis series. But as it turns out, Exoprimal is really something all its own.

With Exoprimal, Capcom combines a squad-focused shooter with competitive elements that feels equal parts hero shooter, and horde mode-style action game. Admittedly, it’s a lot to take in, especially when your squad of high-powered exosuit-wearing mercenaries have to face down hordes of raptors and Tyrannosaurus Rexes. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how it leverages such a strange concept, offering an interesting take on dynamic multiplayer shooter action, with a Capcom-style spark to it.

Read: Exoprimal – Everything to know about Capcom’s sci-fi dinosaur shooter

During an extended hands-on preview, I took a deep dive into the game’s opening hours, running several matches with a team of players and learning more about the bizarre premise that the game embraces wholeheartedly.

Cancelling the Dino-Apocalypse 

The game begins on Earth in the 2040s, as time portals have brought dinosaurs into the modern world, creating a global crisis. Guided by a powerful AI named Leviathan that can predict when these portals will appear next, a crew of mercenaries known as ‘exofighters’ use their arsenal of exosuits and high-tech weapons to intercept each incursion, dispatch the deadly dinos, and complete objectives to acquire new intel to uncover the mystery of why the dinosaurs are invading.

Exoprimal preview screenshot. Image: Capcom
Image: Capcom

Even after the tutorial and opening cutscenes, the game takes a very complex approach to justifying its sci-fi dinosaur action concept – and it took some time for me to get my head around. The opening hours of Exoprimal really send you into the deep end with its lore. It’s a strange, yet still intriguing, premise that feels like Pacific Rim with some bits of the Dino Crisis series. 

But while Exoprimal may seem cut from the same cloth as the Dino Crisis franchise, my time playing the game reminded me more of another sadly forgotten Capcom property: the Lost Planet series.

Much like Lost Planet, Exoprimal gets some surprising mileage from its concept, using a chaotic and overwhelmingly hostile setting as a background. However, Exoprimal takes a very unorthodox approach to progression for its story and its gameplay. The campaign, headed up by the AI construct known as Leviathan, tasks the exofighters with competing in ‘wargames,’ skirmishes against the hordes of dinosaurs and rival mercenaries who are also looking to acquire data.

Image: Capcom

Completing these wargames will unlock new lore and story cutscenes, along with access to higher-end weapons and gear. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed elements of the game’s plot, which were unlocked as milestone rewards. In addition to adding more character backgrounds, these also hint at alternate timelines and parallel versions of key characters.

It’s an interesting way to present a traditional story mode within a multiplayer game. However, I do worry about repetition when diving into repeated matches, in order to max out a progress bar, to see new cutscenes. Hopefully, the requirements to see these story beats won’t be too severe in the final game.

Working As A Squad

At its core, Exoprimal is a squad-based hero shooter that mixes battles with both AI minions and rival players – otherwise known as ‘PvEvP’ (player versus environment versus player) gameplay. 

For each wargame match, two opposing squads are in parallel competition. Though both teams have similar goals, only one can come out on top, to get maximum intel for Leviathan. During each game, your squad will be tasked with completing objectives, such as culling the local dinosaur herds, eliminating high-value target dinosaurs, or capturing territories on the map. The match eventually culminates in a goal to escort data payloads to their destination, which puts you in direct competition with the rival team, who you can directly engage with.

Exoprimal preview screenshot. Image: Capcom
Image: Capcom

Battles can get extremely chaotic when facing the dinosaurs, and it’s an interesting dynamic to contend with in the various wargames. As it goes with the PvEvP setup, you’re mostly fighting against common foes and AI-controlled baddies, but when a rival player enters the field, it feels like an invading element comes into play, which changes the flow to something more fast-paced.

The setup for Exoprimal’s wargames reminded me of Destiny 2’s fan-favourite Gambit mode, a competitive multiplayer mode that introduces common and elite foes to fight. I enjoyed the flow of things when it went into high gear, but at times I did feel that some matches felt a bit too familiar, with how objectives were presented, and how combat encounters played out.

My favourite moments during matches came from when I could directly fight against the enemy team. Along with sneaking up on them to unleash an ultimate attack when they least expect it, you can also find a rare power-up that allows you to remotely control an elite dinosaur, such as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and unleash carnage as they try to secure an objective. When you time your attacks just right, you can really ruin a team’s momentum, which is so satisfying to see play out.

Exoprimal preview screenshot. Image: Capcom
Image: Capcom

Like any other squad-based game, success comes from working with your team, and using everyone’s skills as best as you can. As in games like Overwatch, you’ll need to balance out the classes on your squad, broken up into the traditional damage dealing assault type, the resilient heavy class, and the healing support archetype. While these three classes categorise the exosuits you have access to, each one has their own skills and abilities that separate them from the others. For instance, the Deadeye and Zephyr exosuits are assault types, but focus on ranged and melee combat respectively, which adds some complexity to each battle.

Fortunately, if you feel the team is not well balanced, you’re free to swap between different types anytime you need to. I liked how each battle flows, and I dug how different each exosuit felt from one another. The one suit I enjoyed the most, above all, was Barrage, a fire-spewing grenadier with a crossbow.

As you rank up, you’ll unlock upgrades and cosmetics for your class to further tune them to your liking, and add new ones to your arsenal.

Extinction Level Events

Exoprimal preview screenshot. Image: Capcom
Image: Capcom

Exoprimal is an interesting game to see from Capcom. In recent years, the developer and publisher hasn’t had much luck building a dedicated multiplayer game – most of their efforts have come from other IPs, like Resident Evil. But the fact that Exoprimal is its own game, away from the other established franchises, may work in its favour.

It still possesses that hyperactive and over-the-top vibe the developer is known for, and marrying that with such a wild premise means this game has the makings of something that could grow to find a passionate audience.

I quite enjoyed the flow and pacing of Exoprimal‘s matches, and how these related to its bizarre, yet still fun plot. While I do worry it could run into familiar issues of repetition, I feel the premise could help give it some solid mileage. 

Exoprimal is definitely not a Dino Crisis game, but it takes some wild swings that show promise for a satisfying action game to play with friends.

Exoprimal releases on 13 July 2023 for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.

Alessandro Fillari is a writer/editor who has covered the games, tech, and entertainment industries for more than 11 years. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, he previously worked at GameSpot and CNET as an editor specializing in games coverage. You can find him on Twitter at @afillari