In my experience, most wars are ‘out’ wars. One summer holiday, my best friend and I decided to have an ‘in’ war. No sooner had I built my fort from the sofa cushions however, than an irate mother forced a ceasefire and made us take the conflict outside. The particular ‘out’ wars in this game take place not in back gardens but in outer space. As a member of the elite CDF Marine Jump Corps, you’ll don your super battle armour and fight the evil insectoid aliens as they crawl across the galaxy.
The game should install without any issues on modern versions of Windows. Simply insert the first CD-ROM into your computers optical drive and follow the on-screen prompts. If the installation doesn’t start automatically, browse to the CD-ROM in Computer/This PC and run the “OWSetup.exe” file on the disc.
During the installation process, you will be asked what kind of installation you want to perform. We recommend you select “Custom” installation and install all available components. The installer will also offer to install DirectX for you, but since the version on the disc is ancient, you should choose not to.
The second disc contains the games soundtrack and some supporting files, all of which are obsolete now and can be ignored.
Running the game
We found that Outwars, despite its age, actually ran on our system without any other compatibility fixes or changes needed. See the notes under “Multiplayer” later in the article for a possible caveat to this.
Tweaking visual quality
Unfortunately, Outwars is limited to a maximum 640×480 resolution. While that’s still double the typical resolution of a console game of this era (just saying) it’s still pretty low-res by PC gaming standards. There are only a couple of visual quality settings to change. From the games main menu, choose “Options” and then “Graphics”. The screenshot below shows the available options.
Ensure that “HIGH” detail is selected at the top of the screen. Under “Resolution”, make sure 640×480 is selected. Finally, select “Use Direct3D”. The game will warn you that this might not work, but it should be fine. Click on “Back” when you are done changing settings.
As you might expect from a game of this vintage, setting up your controller can be the most tricky part of running the game. When using the games controller configuration options, joystick control worked only partially. The X and Y axis on our Xbox 360 controllers left analogue stick were recognised as the the same axis by the game. Because of this, we have tried to configure a suitable setup using Xpadder to emulate the keyboard and mouse for aiming, but we’re hardly experts at this game. Outwars has a somewhat unique control system that, in theory at least, lets you move the upper and lower parts of your characters body independently. In practise it feels a little clumsy at least for a beginner. Our control system ignores this aspect and attempts to emulate a more common third person shooter control scheme. Outwars veterans may dislike our Xpadder control system and they are free to make alternative suggestions in the comments.
For quick reference, here’s a list of how we mapped the controls to the 360 pad.
|Control||Default Binding||Recommended 360 Pad Control|
|Forward||Up||Left Stick Up|
|Reverse||Down||Left Stick Down|
|Turn Left||Left||Left Stick Left|
|Turn Right||Right||Left Stick Right|
|Fire Weapon||Mouse 1||RT|
|Jetpack/Jump||Space||LT and/or A (Green)|
|Aim Up||Mouse Up||Right Stick Up|
|Aim Down||Mouse Down||Right Stick Down|
|Aim Left||Mouse Left||Right Stick Left|
|Aim right||Mouse Right||Right Stick Right|
|Center Aim||E||Right Stick Click|
|Glider Wing||G||Y (Yellow)|
|Unlock Target||Backspace||X (Blue)|
|Lock Target||Enter||B (Red)|
|Helmet Light||L||Dpad Left|
Since the game lets you hold down the Shift key to make your character walk rather than run, we made use of Xpadders Distance Zone feature to facilitate the two speeds of movement on the left analogue stick. Pushing the stick less than 80% of the way will make the character walk (shift+direction) while 80% or more makes you run. For a tutorial on how Distance Zones work and how you can configure them, click here.
Notably absent from this setup is the command menu (keyboard key C). You don’t need this when you first start playing, but as you get more competent, you will want to order your team mates around. Unfortunately we simply ran out of buttons on the joypad to map this functionality to. Of course, if you want to try multiplayer games, you will need your keyboard handy in order to send messages to your team mates and to taunt your enemies. You could always use a Xbox 360 chatpad if you find a full-size keyboard to be awkward.
If you do decide use Xpadder in the game like this, remember to disable joystick controls in-game, as they will simply conflict with your Xpadder configured controls.
For those of you intending to use the keyboard and mouse rather than a controller, it has to be said that the default keyboard layout is a little clumsy too, at least if you are right handed. If you plan to play on keyboard and mouse and you’re not a leftie, you will probably want to remap the movements controls from the arrow keys to the WSAD keys. As a right handed user, I found trying to fly the jetpack (space bar) and steer using the arrow keys and the mouse very difficult.
Outwars fully supported multiplayer matches when it was first released. As you might expect the infrastructure that supported this has long since closed down. Using tools like GameRanger or Hamachi it may be possible to set up online matches again. There is a Facebook page here where a small number of dedicated fans appear to be running matches.
According to some information we found when researching this article, it may be necessary to run the game in compatibility mode for Windows 98/Me if you intend to play networked games of any kind. If you do change the games compatibility settings like this, you will likely need to run the game as administrator too in order to avoid a crash on startup. If you’re not familiar with changing compatibility settings, see this tutorial. Remember if you start the game as administrator, you will also need to start any supporting tools like Xpadder or GameRanger as administrator too.
Cannot open the help file:- Outwars comes with a full help file that contains the back story to the game as well as details on weapons and loadouts. This file is in an older format and will not open directly on modern versions of Windows. When you click “HELP” in the games menus, the game will send you back to the desktop but Windows won’t be able to open the help file. Microsoft offer a free download to fix this problem, simply attempt to open the Help file and follow the on-screen instructions. Many users have reported having issues with this download however, with the downloaded update claiming it is “not suitable for your system”. If you need to, use this link to download a program called “winhlp32″. Extract this program from the zip file and run it, you can then open your help file using this program.
Note that when you click on a help button in the game, the game will send you back to the desktop. The idea is you read the help file and then click on the Outwars icon on the taskbar to resume playing. In some instances however, this can cause the menus to malfunction (you will be able to click options on the menu but the screen will not update, which is obviously very confusing). We recommend that you read the help files outside of the game wherever possible.
Mouse does not respond in-game:- This can happen when a registry key gets incorrectly saved somehow (we’re not certain how). To fix this problem, start the Registry Editor (regedit) as an administrator, and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Games\Outwars\1.0.0. Under this key, you should see a DWORD value called “InputMouseStatus”. Make sure this value is set to 1. If you’re unfamiliar with editing the registry, there’s an introductory tutorial here.
Problems saving games:- Like many older games, Outwars places its save game files in the same directory that it is installed to. This can cause problems on more modern versions of Windows as programs are not normally permitted to write to the program files directory. To avoid this problem, either install the game to an alternate location (e.g c:\Games\Outwars) or manually edit the permissions on the “Outwars” folder. A tutorial on editing folder permissions is available here.