I could write over 1,000 words regarding the original Outcast and how it came to be (which I did before editing it out) but I think I’ll save that, possibly for another day, as it’s quite interesting and goes into detail on how a small unknown game became a cult classic. The main thing you need to know is that Outcast was the first 3D open-world game, the game that started the genre. Within the last 18 years, sequels have been planned and cancelled, the company has gone bankrupt and then bought the IP back, and the game was re-released in 2010 and had a failed Kickstarter a few years ago for a remake.
Now, in 2017, an official remaster has been released by the original developer on PS4, PC and Xbox One. I have waited many years for this to come out so I can dive back in and save the world once again. I’ve been very thorough with the game, having platinumed it and completed it a few times, so come with me as I travel back, to Adelpha….
The story so far:
The U.S. Government have been experimenting with matter/antimatter in order to try and seek out parallel worlds, in 2007 they manage to fulfil this task. They open a gateway with the help of Professor William Kauffman’s theories and send in a probe to investigate. However, the probe is shot by an unknown alien lifeform, which in turn creates a huge influx of energy to return back to Earth where it begins to create an uncontrollable black hole.
We are introduced to our protagonist, Cutter Slade, a former U.S. Navy SEAL with a troubled past as he is briefed on the situation by his old friend, Major Vernon. We are advised that we have approximately 25 days until the black hole grows big enough to destroy Earth. Unfortunately, the only solution would be to go through the portal into the unknown parallel world and recover the probe before any more damage is caused.
We are not sent in alone however, we are joined by three scientists, Professor William Kaufman (whose theories were used to create the portal), Anthony Xue (who had killed 11 people in a tragic accident trying to create a gateway back in 1999) and Marion Wolfe (an old colleague of Cutters who doesn’t have the best of relationships with him these days). However, upon arriving in the new world, Cutter is separated from the other members and awakens in a village surrounded by alien lifeforms who believe he is the Ulukai (a higher being who would arrive at this time to save their world from destruction according to an ancient prophecy).
You learn that the prophecy states that you would find five Mons (sacred objects) which are hidden around Adelpha (the name of this new world) and defeat Fae Rhan (the evil ruler of Adelpha). You agree to help them as long as they help you look for your lost colleagues, 100 of them looking for them will be a lot faster than one of you after all. The village you are in serves as a training ground where you learn how to use your inventory, jump, swim, shoot and sneak. Once all trials have been completed, Zokrym (the leader of the Dolotai Guardians) opens the daoka (a ‘Stargate’ like portal) so you can travel to a new region and begin your quest as the Ulukai.
Cutter Slade, as you would expect with a name like that, is a badass! Even though you have been thrown into this unknown world, you aren’t phased by anything. The main gameplay elements revolve around travelling between various regions, meeting up with the regional leaders, Shamazs (spiritual healers) and completing main and side quests to obtain a good reputation and acquire a hint as to where the Mon of the region lies.
One thing you have to bear in mind (even though this game has been remastered for modern consoles) is that underneath the pretty exterior lies a 1999 PC game. You can’t freely run up hills or climb up every surface you see – that’s what steps are for! If you have played Outcast before then you will know exactly what you are getting into as apart from a few new additions, the control scheme is exactly the same. For newcomers, don’t expect it to play like modern 3D games, the controls are clunky and take a while to get used too.
Among the new control scheme, Cutter has the ability to crouch, take cover behind objects easier and roll left and right to dodge the enemy projectiles (most projectiles can be dodged as they are bursts of life-force energy that move at a reasonable pace). These are decent enough additions but I didn’t use them much, well, not on purpose! The way the roll works is, if you hold R1 to run and tap left or right on the left stick, you roll. This is very, very easy to accidentally do and I fell off small paths so many times by accidentally rolling. Also, as above, the bullets are easy to dodge so I never felt the need to hide or crouch.
As you progress throughout the story and unlock new regions, you will be able to purchase new weapons and upgrades which makes your current guns more powerful. You will also pick up many, many items with can be used to sell or convert into ammo. You never run out of space and you can store anything you can pick up – there is a hilarious blooper reel from the original game regarding this here.
One of the new mechanics they have added is regenerative health. This can be turned off in the options menu and if you want to experience Outcast: Second Contact as we did back in 1999, I advise you to turn it off and set your ‘resistance’ to either low or normal.
Your adventure will take you through six distinct and very different regions: Motazaar (Mountains), Okaar (Forests), Okasankaar (Marshes), Ranzaar (Snow), Shamazaar (Temples) and Talanzaar (Cities). Four of the regions are providing the enemy troops with supplies which are making them stronger and smarter. You can talk to the leader of these regions and complete a few story missions in order to persuade them to stop supplying the enemy, thus weakening them and making the journey to Fae Rhan a bit easier.
Each region has its own unique style ranging from a bustling city to a dense forest, each with its own set of enemies and hazards. There is a short loading time travelling between the regions but once you are there, there is no loading at all. Another big thing that may come as a surprise if you haven’t played the game before is that the deceased don’t respawn. If you go to Talanzaar and go on a mad rampage killing all the enemies and also some innocent people, then when you return later they will still be dead. The bodies won’t be there but they won’t respawn like they would in modern games. This also means enemies and NPCs are limited and not infinite – this is great and something a lot of games don’t do anymore, it helps create a more realistic experience as once someone is dead they aren’t coming back. Luckily, if you kill an important person you just die, and you have to reload.
Throughout your adventure, you will meet various NPCs who will ask for your help in order to either save someone, find an item or kill something. I don’t think I ever came across two missions which were the same which is great as it added a lot of variety as there is a lot of missions to do. The thing that may once again surprise you is, the quest-givers are not marked on your map like they are in modern titles. A lot of them will have a different colour icon on the mini-map, but there is no pop-up in your HUD telling you which way to go, no placing markers on the map and no indication of exactly where people are. The game is about exploring, interacting with everyone you meet and reading your journal (as every hint you get is recorded in there and automatically marked off upon completion). You also find important characters by asking other Talons (The local inhabitants of Adelpha) for directions to said Talon. This results in them giving you directions or simply pointing if they are near-by.
This also means you can actually complete the main game with a low percentage as you get a separate ‘main story’ and ‘side mission’ percentage. The lowest I completed the main story at was 85% and 75% on the side missions, however, after going back and spending many hours seeking out the few people I hadn’t talked too, I managed to complete it on 100% main and 90% side. In the older versions of the game, it was possible to achieve up to 107% on the missions as you can accidentally kill off certain people or complete a side mission that has a character dying before completing another quest that involves them, so they offer a little wiggle-room.
One thing I’m not too happy with in regards to the missions is that a few are buggy, and I wasn’t presented with the ‘Ulukai song’ bonus video [The link contains character spoilers] for achieving 100% in main missions. I literally played the game for 10 hours post-endgame in order to get 100% for the special ending, which I never got.
The music in Outcast: Second Contact is beautiful and powerful. It was amazing back when it first came as it was fully orchestrated and gave an amazing sense of depth and emotion, even though it was just audio tracks and not dynamic music like today. The soundtrack has been remastered for this game and it sounds great, if not a little too quiet.
And now we come onto one of the few things I really didn’t like but I can see why this is the case – the voice acting. The acting itself is great – most voices matched the characters, they fully voiced all the characters in three languages verbally with a massive list of voice actors but the quality is bad, really bad. This is an issue that also plagued the original and unfortunately, the remaster is simply using all of the original voice assets so you get very loud, to the point of distortion, voices which can’t be individually volume controlled via a slider. This results in a lot of the music being drowned out and some of the voices do sound like they were phoned in. I would have loved for them to re-record all of the voices for the remaster but when you see that the list of all the voice actors was about as long as everyone else who worked on the original game, you can see why they most likely didn’t have the resources and finance to do this.
Outcast: Second Contact is gorgeous. I put a comparison in this review which shows you the original 1999 version and the new 2017 version so you can see how different the game looks. Literally, everything has been given a facelift and re-textured to look as good as it can on modern hardware. I know for a fact that some reviewers and gamers will look at the game and say it looks like ‘PS3 graphics’ but you really have to play the game to experience how good it looks. Okay, it’s not Uncharted or Bloodborne but it’s a massive improvement over the quality we have been forced to play the game at over the last 18 years.
I would have loved the game to have a camera mode so I could grab some amazing screenshots, but I guess that would involve quite a lot more work and the remaster team seems quite small. All of the photos I have posted in this review have no filters and were all taken by myself throughout my adventure.
Back in 1999, you were lucky to run this game at anything above 15-18fps so fans of the game won’t mind what I’m about to say, but younger gamers or those who have never played it before may think it sounds ‘bad’. I played the game on the PS4 Pro and the game runs mainly at 30fps or there-about (at 1440p), but there is a lot of slowdown in areas with a high count of NPCs and enemies on screen. I would say it probably drops to the low 20’s, if not lower. As I said, much better than the original back in 1999, but not as stable as I would have hoped. The game is 100% playable, I had no issues with that aspect, no crashes or single-digit framerates, but it does drop in big fights.
One final thing I wanted to say is, you can obtain the platinum before finishing Outcast: Second Contact. Collect four Mon and complete certain missions and you have platinumed the game – please don’t give up and stop playing at this point. Play the game through to the end, which may be about two or three hours from getting the platinum. It’s a cheesy but satisfying ending and you get to see a few remastered cutscenes which are pretty cool.
Outcast: Second Contact is a love letter to fans of the original game, it has everything the original had (including its bugs) but with a new coat of paint and some useful new moves. Appeal have made the game more accessible to gamers today with regenerative health and difficulty choices, but you must understand that the game still thinks It’s 1999 in the controls department (this was adjusted and even more modernised in a later patch).
I love Outcast: Second Contact so much that I continued to play for over 12 hours after I had achieved the platinum. I’m sure anyone who would like to see where the 3D open-world genre began will also come to love it too.b
Outcast: Second Contact£39.99
- - Great soundtrack, region design and dialogue
- - The graphics look gorgeous – this is the definitive way to play Outcast
- - Plenty of unique missions and individuals to talk to so the game never gets repetitive
- - Decent length (about 15-20 hours to platinum and about two hours to complete the game)
- - Encouraged to think for yourself and actively find the quests you can take on
- - Some people may be put off as you aren’t hand-held and you have to explore and think for yourself
- - Voice quality isn’t the best