Outcast was originally released back in 1999, at the cutting edge of 3D gaming it was well received by gamers and critics like. Roll on 15 years and 2014 saw the initial Kickstarter campaign fail leaving Outcast in limbo, Big Ben Interactive picked up the pieces and finally in 2017 we have Outcast: Second Contact.. Will the re-master that the fans didn’t want, break enough new ground…
The original story is one of many things that have had a straight port from the 1999 original, the Earth is in trouble and a team of Scientists have sent a probe into an alternate dimension, unfortunately this probe has been damaged and the only way to save planet earth is to retrieve the lost tech.
Playing as Cutter Slade, you’re thankfully more interested in saving planet earth than you parents where in naming you, so you agree to join a small team of scientists comprised who head to this alternate world known as Adelpha. upon travelling through the portal, you find yourself awoken by a strange alien being who seems to be the inhabitant race of this new dimension.
This is where the nostalgia kicks in and anyone who’s played an early 3D action-adventure title will remember the lengthy, detailed and deliberate introductions and likewise the harsh and sometimes brutal nature that is guaranteed to leave you wandering around looking for the objective.
Waypoints are few and far between and with every new area there’s a challenge to learn the whereabouts of just about everything and everyone.
Being a 18 year old game, it’s great to think that the developers wanted to stay so true to the original, but gaming has come a long way in nearly two decades.
Characters models, animation and core gameplay has changed very little, so rather than quick precise movement, traversing a few basic obstacles feels slow, laboured and inaccurate, this leaves any sort of precision movement frustrating especially if you’re trying to jump across a small stream, you’re likely to get your feet wet, that’s if you manage to reach the water at all.
The shooting mechanics suffer in the same light, as bullets don’t fly through the air, destroying scenery and altering the world around you, instead they seem to float as they gradually get to the intended target, even hitting your target doesn’t feel powerful or rewarding, but this is the core gameplay that we know and love from an earlier generation. Some additions have been made such as crouching, a light cover system and the ability to dodge-roll, but the core gameplay is incredibly accurate to the 1999 original, so it has to be applauded that developers Appeal have stuck so close to their roots and Big Ben haven’t pushed them into something much different.
The problem really comes from modern day gaming, many will enjoy retro titles, but Outcast (as good as it was in 99, never quite reached the cult following of titles like Mario titles. Maybe the more commonly seen method making a 2017 game, which was new, exciting and ground-breaking while remaining true and loyal to it’s predecessor would have been a better direction for Outcast, maybe it would have even fulfilled it’s Kickstarter, but trying to reproduce too much of yesteryear isn’t always a good thing, especially when it comes to gameplay.
You can get away with old fashioned graphics, especially if they’re done right, and this is another question mark area for Outcast, much of the scenery looks sharp, detailed and more in line with the current generation, but in sharp contrast character models just don’t have the same level of fidelity, at times it feels like one team concentrated on the scenery, while the team covering gameplay refinement had to do character models and didn’t have time to do any particularly well.
At times you’ll look at Outcast and it will feel quite similar to Morrowind, just as it’s 2002 release suggests, it’s a little better than you’d expect from 3 years prior and has some lovely views, however character models where still somewhat short and miles away from what we’ve come to expect, especially with the power of modern day machines.
Audio seems to have had improvements across the board, and while voice acting still feels last decade, somewhat stale and artificial, there’s an awful lot of voices within the game, sounds and effects are clear and precise and the music feels like the freshest part of the whole title, It’s a shame that, like the scenery/character graphics, the music/voices share a similar gap in quality, but overall audio is one of the better areas across the entire game.
Many will feel I’ve ben pretty harsh so far, and In ways I have, but having played the original, but not enough to love it, there just wasn’t enough nostalgia for me, and whatever was missing 18 years ago to really capture my affection certainly hasn’t been added since, loyal fans of the 1999 hit will surely love second contact, and true retro enthusiasts will have a blast too, but unfortunately there’s just not enough quality to captivate modern day gamers.
Longevity is probably it’s saving grace, as there’s plenty to do and as the first 3D open world game, Outcast is a nod to evolution and how far the genre has come in the last 18 years, sometimes that’s Outcast: Second Contact’s biggest problem, but also a more than adequate reason for it’s existence.