A recent surge in games receiving reboots or sequels has seen Appeal game studio release Outcast: Second Contact. Sometimes, these releases on current generation consoles find success, rekindling that love affair from fans of the series, and bringing in attention from those new to be series. I do wonder why Timesplitters hasn’t received this treatment, but that’s a whole different story for another day. So, it’s time to assume control of Cutter Slade and pay a visit to the Talan. A race of humanoids that dwell in another time and place, who look to Cutter for guidance and help. Go Ulukai, it’s time to save the world.
The opening cut-scene jumps right in with a comic book aesthetic, that is pleasing to the eyes, and delivers a large bulk of information as to what is happening, and why Cutter’s involvement is paramount. The Earth is in danger due to the portal to another world that has been contacted thanks to an ever expanding portal that threatens to swallow the planet. Sending in a crew of scientists with Cutter, to recover the probe sent in beforehand, and put a stop to the shenanigans. However, upon waking up in this new world, sees Cutter climbing out of a bed, surrounded by the Talan. His equipment gone, his team gone, and a strange being before him.
It’s right about now, that you will see some quite startling issues. Outcast: Second Contact is not a sequel to the 1999 release, but more of a remake. A re-imagining of the original release, and yet there is something quite unusual about the graphics. Not that I hold this aspect of any game as the most important feature of any game. It’s gameplay for me personally. But it looks like a PlayStation 1 game. Angular features of the Talan, along with lip-syncing problems had me staring at my TV screen is disbelief. Not to worry, it’s not the be all and end all of a game. Stiff animation, expressionless faces came next, and static hands waving around during conversation from both parties was a definite throwback to the late 90’s and early 00’s era of gaming, as developers tried their luck at creating 3D open worlds for the latest titles. It seems that Outcast has decided to remain in that era on first glance. Again, it’s just the look. Sometimes an ugly duckling can transform into a beautiful swan, right?
The Talan are a simple folk, that look remarkably similar, and talk in an equally similar voice. Cutting costs at a guess. Never mind. We have Cutter, remember? Well, if there ever was a dated throwback to cheesy good guy one-liners, then Cutter is the trend setter here. Wisecracks aplenty, and more dodgy animation for the saviour of planet Earth, sees him tasked with helping the Talan escape their oppression, in return for their help. Not a bad deal really. They show you how to use their portals, and have left a generous amount of ammo for your weapons just lying around their world. Convenient, and also incredibly useful for Cutter.
To say Outcast feels dated in every department is an understatement. The frame rate at times, is atrocious. Stuttering and lagging on a regular basis, causing the already clunky combat to become a chore. It’s not been designed as a shooter, and this is immediately obvious, with the Talan enemies running in every direction like a group of headless chickens, and given that they take a ridiculous amount of ammo to kill, increases the frustration factor ten fold. Landing a headshot is beyond difficult, and unfortunately, combat cannot be avoided should you want to progress through the game.
Underneath all the issues, there is however a charming game, which has been covered up with some poor design decisions. I was hoping for something that resembled a more up to date release, but sadly, this is not the case. In fairness, the story is actually decent enough to help carry the game along, as is the wisecrack nature of Cutter. Who you will either love, or begrudge his constant smart remarks. The different locations within Outcast, are actually expansive, providing you with plenty of Talan to interact with, and various tasks to carry out. Which lends a lefty of bang for your buck when it comes to value for money.
Speaking of money, the price needs to be addressed, and at a staggering £35.99, will leave many questioning this. It’s a lot of money to drop on a game with many glaring issues, and will put people off making that purchase. So many gamers will be expecting a polished game for near to full price, and Outcast just doesn’t deliver that. I won’t say completely avoid it, not by any means. But a sale would be the only way to tempt many who are sat on the fence. To say it could have done with another 6 months of care and attention would be a fair comment. Or however long it would take to implement a smoother frame rate and combat system, along with a responsive camera.
One stand out area of the game is the musical score. It’s definitely one of the best I’ve heard this year, or for last year even. It’s just a shame that the rest of the game doesn’t reach the same level of quality, but your ears won’t be complaining at any point, and is a joy to behold. On the flip side, the voice acting sounds fuzzy, like they recorded it in a beehive. It’s not over powering the voices, but it is noticeable.
The menu system is something that could do with an overhaul, and feels awkward to use when selecting items from your backpack. Not that there is anything wrong with it. There’s your items laid out, plenty of lore to read up on, but not having a set of hot keys, or an item wheel to choose your items, it’s a long winded process to choose what you need.
Outcast: Second Contact is a game that deserved more TLC than it got. But there’s always financial costs and time that need to be considered when it comes to game development. I don’t see it as lazy, but a game that was originally released almost 20 years ago that has been brought to the present day, and still feels old shouldn’t be happening. Saying that, as I mentioned earlier, it does retain a good amount of charm, and if you give it a chance, you’ll find that it draws you in, without concern for what you may judge it as.
Overall, there is problems with it. Something that more time would have been able to sort out, with a bit of extra polish, and tightening up of combat and the like. I would love to have given it a bigger score, and that’s always going to be a problem for Outcast with its current state. Sale prices may tempt those who were fans of the original, but for those looking at it for the first time, it may just put them off. A downer perhaps, and it doesn’t deserve to be written off completely.
Overall Score: 4/10
Publisher: Big Ben Interactive
Release Date 8th November 2017
File Size: 8.53GB
Available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 & Steam
Xbox One copy provided for review