Outstayed it’s welcome?
Outcast is a game I vaguely remembered, despite never having a very capable PC at the time. Maybe it was the interesting looking worlds, the box art or the orange-shirted protagonist, Cutter. But I also remember it was largely forgotten about, even in 1999. Does it deserve a remaster 18 years later?
Outcast offered unbelievable freedom for 1999, and some critics have credited it with starting the trend for 3D open-world gameplay as there was almost nothing else like it at the time (GTA was still top-down at this point in history!). Whilst the game isn’t quite as open as some modern sandboxes, it was still an impressive feat.
It also included some impressive storytelling for the day, with optional quests and denizens that went about their activities regardless of what you were doing, that can react to you depending on what you’ve done. It reminds me a little bit of the gameplay I started to really get a feel for in Morrowind, except, of course, that Outcast came a good 3-and-a-bit years prior to Bethseda’s seminal RPG.
However, with a classic sci-fi twist, Outlast certainly had some originality to it, despite the clear references to the Stargate universe. It also personally reminds me a little bit of the 5th Element, although that might be my own brain!
It becomes almost immediately clear that Outcast: Second Contact has more in common with an HD remaster (even if the level of graphical work goes way beyond what you’d probably expect) than a remake. The controls and mechanics feel a bit lumpy by today’s standards, with Cutter not having the same range or precision to his movements.
Jumping feels a bit sluggish, swimming leaden, but nothing is as bad as the shooting. Regardless of whether auto-aim is on or not, the slow pace of the weapon bullets/ projectiles and the precision of the controls make landing hits incredibly difficult. Even the control scheme itself seems dated.
When you’re talking, exploring, or puzzling, this is obviously less of an issue, but the game never feels particularly modern. Some reviews I’ve seen have commented on what a big improvement the controls and animation are; never having played the original for more than a few minutes it’s abundantly clear that if developer Appeal have made improvements, that they aren’t distinct enough.
Given the game received a ‘sort of’ HD remake in Outcast 1.1 a few years ago, I’d have thought that this would have been given a more significant overhaul to appeal to new gamers as well as those returning for a new playthrough all these years later.
Screenshots of this remake will probably have you thinking this is a complete overhaul from scratch, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Adelpha looks, from screenshots, like a modern game. And the flora, fauna and landscapes are quite impressive, certainly when compared against the bare textures of 1999. However, the game still suffers from some pretty significant fogging and texture pop-in.
And the character models, whilst massively improved, still look a generation behind the competition. The intro movie feels cheap, and the animation is pretty terrible; too much feels like it has been re-used rather than started from scratch.
The same applies to the sound, although it falls into two camps. The music and sound effects, which were always highly praised at the time, sound better than ever with modern sound technology and remastering. The voice samples, however, haven’t been re-recorded, and sound muffled and low bit-rate as a result.
“Outcast: Second Contact” has to be one of the oddest experiences I’ve reviewed this year. There’s been a he amount of effort put into the environments, and the music sounds as good as or better than ever. But with dated animation and gameplay that hasn’t been enhanced to the same level, and little to no effort put into areas like the voice samples, you end up with a game which doesn’t look much like the original, but still very much plays like it.
Therefore, the appeal of the game is limited to those with nostalgia for the original, whereas everyone else will almost certainly find Outcast too clunky for modern tastes.