The original Outcast for Windows was one of the first open-world 3D games back in 1999. Now Big Ben Interactive has remastered the game as Outcast: Second Contact on Xbox One. With improved graphics and a fascinating sci-fi world to explore, Outcast is a huge game – but some of its elements are badly in need of updating.
Outcast: Second Contact begins with a fully-voiced animated comic-style introduction that replaces the CG original. That would be okay, but none of the characters' mouths move. Seeing closed-mouthed people talking to each other will never not look bad.
Thankfully, once protagonist Cutter Slade (ugh) travels through the government's secret portal to the alien world of Adelpha, the story switches to in-game cinematics with animated mouths. The characters don't emote much or look at each other, but it's still passable in an Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion kind of way.
Cutter's mission is to escort three scientists through the portal in order to recover a probe that inadvertently threatens to destroy the earth. But our hero arrives alone, his equipment scattered and stolen by natives called the Talan. Not all Talan are bad, though. A kindly group of freedom fighters agrees to help Cutter in exchange for his assistance in liberating their people from a tyrannical dictator.
Exploring the world of Adelpha
Outcast is a story-heavy open-world action game, not unlike the Elder Scrolls games without their RPG elements. Players will travel between six major regions of Adelpha, meet the regional leaders and perform tasks for them, and complete tasks to improve Cutter's reputation. Once Cutter has earned enough reputation, the natives will divulge the location of sacred objects needed to get back home.
While Outcast's simple mouse-based controls have been updated for modern consoles, they haven't been updated as much as you'd expect. Cutter's movement is stiff and awkward. His jumps are slow and plodding. He can't climb most hills, which forces the player to navigate around and find steps to climb. These issues should have been fixed when reviving the game for modern audiences. Outcast is far from unplayable, but you need the patience for a game that still plays like it's from 1999.
Combat is fairly simple, with Cutter relying on simple third-person shooting to battle evil regime soldiers and other threats. You can roll to dodge attacks, but sidestepping works just fine. Players have the option of enabling automatically refilling health, which keeps the challenge manageable. And this version does at least add stealth mechanics, allowing players to sneak past enemies instead of engaging them.
A big part of the game involves completing quests for friendly Talans. When speaking with non-player characters (NPCs), you generally have lots of dialog choices to choose from. Annoyingly, dialog can't be skipped or sped up, so conversations that would be pleasant end up just taking forever. Not only that, but the audio files inexplicably haven't been remastered for Second Contact. The actual voice acting is good, but the lines all sound scratchy and overly compressed.
This being an older open-world game, you don't get quest markers to help find where you need to go. You'll just have to navigate via the rudimentary world map, your compass, your quest journal, and the clues offered by NPCs. When searching for specific Talans, you can ask other NPCs about them, and they'll simply tell you a direction and whether they're nearby. It's an archaic Morrowind-style method of navigation, but actually, sort of charming when you're not too stumped about where to go next.
A simultaneously stunning but dated remaster
Despite occasional issues with character animation, Outcast: Second Contact looks quite good overall. All of the character models have been fully updated, all of the environments remastered to modern standards. The colorful locales you'll visit are beautiful artistically, with especially great looking water that Cutter can swim in.
Given the impact that Outcast originally had on open-world PC games, it's wonderful that original developer Appeal and Big Ben have rescued this game from obscurity by bringing it to modern console and PC audiences. If they really wanted to win over new players, though, they really should have improved the controls and added the ability to skip past dialog during conversations. Outcast: Second Contact is still a great game, but you'll have to tolerate some dated elements to enjoy it fully.
- A classic PC game returns to modern consoles.
- Great remastered graphics with updated characters and environments.
- A huge and fascinating open world to explore.
- Controls are clunky and dated.
- Dialog can't be skipped or sped up during conversations.
- Character dialog sounds scratchy and compressed.
Outcast: Second Contact costs $39.99 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and $34.99 on Steam.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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