Not all of gaming’s original progenitors and trend-setters of many a genre or gameplay or even style of play, have been remembered and subsequently landed a spot in the industry’s figurative hall of fame. While the concept of a non-linear and, to the point, “open” World to explore in one’s game has exploded in recent times to become a common standard in the gaming calendar, many people have likely forgotten about the games that originally experimented and even went about implementing the very concept in the first place. Outcast was one of them.
Originally developed by studio Appeal, the third-person action-adventure caused quite a stir during the twilight period that was the end of the 20th century — preceding the likes of Shenmue and even Grand Theft Auto 3 as one of the very first 3D games to focus on the exploration of one’s environment. Though a sequel would never come to be, Outcast has previously skirted the digital retail regions with a re-release here and HD remaster there. But now, the game is returning for a third refresh so to speak; taking the form this time, of a reboot in Outcast Second Contact. Taking place in the fictional World of Adelpha — based in a parallel Universe to that of or own Earth — former Special Forces operative, Cutter Slade is tasked with aiding in an mission to locate and repair a downed probe that has inadvertently caused a space-time distortion that threatens Earth itself. As if that wasn’t enough, Slade is slowly drawn into Adelpha’s own internal struggles and it’s from here that the player will explore this alien World’s versatile mix of environments in much the same explorative fashion as its original build all those years ago.
Aside from the notable overhaul in graphics and visual effects, Second Contact is a fairly unchanged retread, gameplay-wise, from not just its previous incarnation but also many a flock of third person action-adventures that have been out in the past decade or so. That’s not to say its combat and indeed (at least from what was shown to me in a hands-off demo) the lack of any over-reliance on cover mechanics, wasn’t a welcoming variance from its usual — and more calmer — periods of quest-finding. The shift from merely exploring Adelpha’s more social surroundings to the introduction of hostile engagement is relatively smooth and quick from what was shown and as noted, Outcast‘s refusal to lay out obvious chest-high cover disguised as environmental objects is a pleasant sight to behold.
Indeed, Second Contact’s use of its sloping level design and broad amount of entryways/exits for particular sections while not as ground-breaking and indeed exclusive a feature as was the revolution of an open World philosophy, still offers a significant sign of Outcast’s absence of some prideful refusal to change — adapting instead to the more beneficial standards of open World game design as of late. Even still, it’s clear developers Appeal are not without a smidgen or trace of a little satisfaction in helping to give Adelpha’s environment a new, shiny and quite vibrant lick of paint. Emphasised strongly in its bold use of color; while not as nostalgic for the classic sci-fi literary aesthetic as say No Man’s Sky is, Outcast Second Contact is evidently arguing for the case that not all alien Worlds (or indeed, the palette for broad explorative lands) has to be toned down or scaled back.
Of course players will come to discover more than the brief demo’s yellow-green expanses with hints towards more wooded and even snowier conditions as the narrative eventually unfolds in latter proceedings. Above all else, Appeal aren’t simply keeping to the base of their literal original creation all those years ago by simply adapting the 1999 title to 2017 technology. An overhaul in the visual presentation won’t go unnoticed of course, but it’s the combat mechanics and indeed the in-game flow of exploring settlements and broader landscapes that will determine how well Outcast — in its Second Contact incarnation — will both fair and stand. The game is planned for release this Fall across PS4, Xbox One and PC.