A while back, some previews were released of this upcoming title
but the release date was pushed back due to the developers
wanting to tweak the game some more. A few months later, the
new Belgium development company Appeal was ready to unleash
their first software package to gamers worldwide.
Outcast's story is original and very involving, as the lengthy FMV
introduction will dictate. The tale begins with a scientific discovery
leading to the ability to travel between parallel worlds. Disaster
strikes quickly though when a probe sent to one of these parallel
worlds is discovered by a sentient who unwittingly fires an intense
amount of energy at it, setting of a nuclear chain reaction. This in
turn destroys the laboratory on earth, creating a huge vortex which
slowly begins to devour the earth while growing at an exponential
rate. You, playing the part of Cutter Slade are ordered to escort
three scientists into this world with repair cards to fix the broken
probe. The mission seems easy enough ... but looks can, and
usually tend to be deceiving.
The graphics in Outcast are a rather touchy subject. The game
makes use of "voxels" which are completely different from
polygons and cannot be accelerated by standard 3D accelerators.
You may remember the old games like Commanche and Delta
Force using these, and how the game would pixelate horribly
when you came close to anything. Appeal really knows their stuff
though, and have managed to utilise voxels to their fullest
potential, creating beautiful outdoor environments and stunning
water effects. As you move through the beautifully crafted world of
Outcast, you will notice that objects far away can look rather
pixely, upon moving close you will see it better it will look rather
bland, when moving even closer, the detail will suddenly turn up
again. Using your handy zooming binoculars illustrates this point
better; the more you zoom in, the better the model looks. Some
people say that voxels require a lot of CPU power to run properly,
but for Outcast this is not the case. The game preformed well when
set to medium detail on a P200 with 64Mb RAM, and of course on
the 450Mhz with 96Mb RAM, putting all detail to full also ran
perfectly smooth. You will have to get used to the feel of voxels
because initially, you might be repelled by how it looks, but give it
a chance to display them in their full glory and you should grow to
love them. Polygons were never really meant to be used for
outdoor environments, because the environments they creates are
always so perfectly sharp and rigid. Using voxels means they can
have very nicely done random elements (outcroppings, tree
stumps, generally uneven terrain) which all look very smooth and
rounded, creating a superior sense of realism.
The sounds in Outcast are magnificently composed. The well acted
speech files used throughout the game dominate half of the game
CD, since every single (important) character in the game has their
full compliment of speech files, and soldiers and all make their
respective grunts and hollers when they discover you or get killed.
The whole second CD of Outcast is devoted to the audio tracks, all
of which are gorgeously orchestrated and are vital to enhancing
the game's atmosphere.
Outcast is the first successful mix of two genres: action and
adventure. In the beginning of the game, you have to complete a
few tests in the "Guardian" village to teach you the basics of the
game. After that brief tutorial interlude, you jump right into the
action element with soldiers patrolling the initial world you land in
(Shamazaar). You can either focus on fighting or stealth during the
game, both of which will achieve the tasks since you are never
forced to kill all the bad guys you encounter. The only difference it
will make when you kill them is that you will gain more items,
usually consisting of ammo and health. Personally, I felt it
necessary to kill every single bad guy I came across, but you can
easily ignore the majority of them and just focus on the small
groups which you are forced to kill to complete certain objectives.
The combat system is the best I have ever seen in a game using a
3rd person perspective, and the whole movement system is
beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. Your character is
controlled using the keyboard and mouse; keyboard for movement
and mouse for actions. An interesting feature is the laser sight
(hold the right mouse button while armed with a weapon). It
auto-aims vertically for you, but horizontally your all on your own.
This eliminates that disastrous Tomb Raider combat mode where
you end up just jumping madly and slamming the fire button,
knowing that 90% of the bullets would hit their intended target
(even though you might not have a clue what your target is).
After disposing of some soldiers (or avoiding them) you come
across the natives. A lot of information about the current situation
is gained as you wade through the lengthy selection of dialogue
options. Heading into their village and speaking to more "Talons"
(natives) will start giving you some choices of quests to complete.
In the beginning you get overloaded with information and you
might not know what to do with it, but your handy notepad keeps
up and jots down anything important. Your small dictionary also
puts in the meanings of different words as you learn them. The
world of Outcast is divided into four different lands. You begin in
the Guardian camp, which is in a snowy environment, but too
small to call a land. The first real area you reach is "Shamazaar"
which is where the talons produce 'riss' for the soldiers. This is a
rather average looking world, but the water in it makes everything
better. "Motazaar" is the lava world, where they produce
"helidium" for the soldiers, from which they craft their weapons.
This world is really the blandest of them all. "Talanzaar" is the
desert world with a huge city in which there are literally hundreds
of talons with whom you can interact. "Okanskaar" is the Swamp
world, which I personally think looks the nicest of them all
because the water looks so stunning, and the serpents and gorgor
are beautifully animated. "Okaar" is the Forest world, housing the
aggressive wood people and a stockpile of soldiers; this is the only
world in which there is no village of any kind. There is no exact
order you have to "complete" these worlds in. Even if you get the
Mon from one of the worlds, you will still be going back there for
requests from other talon in other worlds, and travelling in
between all the worlds constantly is necessary. This can get rather
annoying at times as you trundle across the land heading to the
next portal, from which you have to travel to the next portal, to get
to the place you want, and then you have to get back. But you are
not forced to do this often, and objectives for quests are usually
found relatively nearby. With so many added effect and other nice
touches strewn about, it is apparent how long and hard the
developers' have been working on this title to make it the best it
could possibly be. The Artificial Intelligence in this game is one of
the first ones I've seen that is even slightly intelligent. The normal
soldiers are just a bit stupid, but the stronger, bigger guys act more
intelligent and will pop out, lose some shots, and then run back
behind their soldiers to avoid your return fire. The AI also shows
adaptability as the small hyena type creatures which hunt in
packs, will run at you but retreat as soon as they get shot to
regroup and try to get you from behind. Another nice feature of
Outcast is that it boasts a high replay value, as the game tells you
the % of Quests and Bonus Quests you have completed. You can
then replay the game, find those bonus quests, gain more items,
and perhaps try the opposite tactic (stealth or aggressive).
Outcast is an excellent mix of action and adventure, boasting an
excellent combat and movement system and great replay value.
The game should keep you entertained for many hours straight
until you have finally completed it, and the wonderful music plus
speech immerses you into the world as you wonder what event
your next action will trigger. The voxels are used to their full
potential, displaying some beautiful (and some dull) outdoor
environments, making the whole world look far more alive than
polygons could ever be capable of doing. There are flaws, but I
just cannot think of any right now. The only person to whom I
would not recommend buying this are those who have a 'thing'
against voxels, and those who despise action or adventure games.
Excellent Control and combat system
Perfect blend of action and adventure
Voxels create great outdoor environments
Excellent replay value
Sometimes may get annoying travelling between worlds.
You may feel the game is a bit short (if you’re a gaming Jedi)