Hands-on With Outcast – Second Contact: Nostalgically Dated but Visually Improved
I never played the original classic Outcast, which came out in 1999 and really set a new bar for open world third-person shooters, but I did get to go hands-on with its 2017 remake — Outcast: Second Contact. Now this is a true remastering, as the gameplay and story are exactly as they were presented back in 1999. Second Contact mostly improves upon the original’s visuals and animations, which when you compare them to the 1999 version, the graphical improvements are glaring. Although, even with the new coat of polish, Outcast: Second Contact still feels like a game developed in the late 90’s because its gameplay engine’s animations are very dated looking, which is realized while controlling the lead character Cutter, as well as during conversations with the AI aliens he comes across.
Depending on your age this could be a dangerous formula for Second Contact, because younger gamers will look past the highly improved visuals and just focus on the archaic looking movements for the lead character while you control him, as well as the robotic delivery of dialogue during cutscenes and conversations. The graphics do look very modern, but when they’re skinned over an engine that looks like it’s nearly 20-years-old, the whole lipstick on a pig analogy can come into play.
Now with that being said, older gamers — especially those who fell in love with Outcast’s revolutionary gameplay back in ’99 — will more than likely appreciate that Second Contact is purely a graphical overhaul, and didn’t change the gameplay formula in the least. I really do believe there will be this type of divide when it releases this fall, so it’s hard to predict how it will review when it ships final code.
I can tell you that even with the dated gameplay engine, I still enjoyed playing it. The shooting action is a blast, and requires fast twitch skills and more strafing than some of today’s most played FPS titles. The AI isn’t dumb and reacts to your movements and cover, and there are plenty of them to blast in an open world setting, so the challenge was strong and somewhat resembled the advanced AI we’ve come to expect in today’s video game releases.
Being an elder gamer made the gameplay feel nostalgic and fun over dated, but again, when I put on my video-game-blogger-hat I have to wonder if younger gamers — say those in their teens and early twenties — will probably discount the game as a whole because it doesn’t feel like a modern title. On the other hand I think older gamers, especially those with a soft spot for the original Outcast, will absolutely love to return to it with modern visuals being a strong selling point, but also because the game maintained the same feeling gameplay from the original.
Remakes and remasters are tricky business, but a tactic many developers and publishers will continue to employ as new generations of gamers get older and want to revisit games from their past with modern design touches. It’s a hit or miss tactic, and there are camps for both sides of the coin. Some would prefer nothing but new IPs and sequels, while others enjoy a nostalgic trip down video game memory lane, so in the case of Outcast: Second Contact, I urge both parties to try it out before making a sweeping judgment on its merits one way or another. The promise of a visual upgrade is legit based on what I played and experienced at E3, but the choice to keep the engine very similar in terms of animations and performance could turn off those who aren’t used to playing games as if they time traveled from 1999.
Stay tuned for more on the game’s development as we approach its fall launch.
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