Advertisement

Outcast - A New Beginning is old-fashioned PC gaming fun—but I just wish its hero didn't remind me of my own painful mortality so vividly

 Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade.
Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade.

Cutter Slade, ex-Navy Seal cosmic adventurer, is back to kick ass, save hella ugly aliens, and generally be the prophesied chosen one space Jesus once more. The thing is, though, this isn't Cutter's first sortie and, well, 25 years after he was sent by the US government to Adelpha, an alien world in a parallel universe where he became trapped, he's now rocking some incredibly vivid (and to me at least) painfully close-to-home middle-aged dad vibes.

There are signs of a paunch developing, despite some still pretty muscular upper body strength (clearly opening cans of alien larger is good for that), some noticeable bags under the wrinkled eyes too. Cutter's pronounced 5 o'clock shadow communicates he's just finished another term of school runs in-between the usual daily grind.

Throw in some world-weary sarcastic quips, the odd flashback where Cutter is talking to his young daughter (he's been in the parallel universe for all this time, remember), and a tired, rumpled resting face expression, and you get a man that's one football shirt plus ill-fitting pair of jeans away from winning the dad bingo.

Has it really been 25 years since the original Outcast?! Damn I'm getting old, just like Cutter.

Outcast - A New Beginning portal
Outcast - A New Beginning portal

You know what, after musing on this point, I think I do really like that Cutter is presented this way. But then again that's exactly what I, a nearly 40-year-old PC gamer who played the original Outcast back in 1999, is supposed to think, right? The devs have tapped into my middle-aged look, my familiarity for the series' slightly-dated design, and rose-tinted glasses for the original game with aplomb.

I like the fact that A New Beginning's hero isn't a Cloud Strife-style super youth. I also like the fact that A New Beginning does recognise what came before (not washing it away in a clumsy reboot). Cutter sounds and looks like the same hero from a 1970s space adventure comic that he always did. He's now just older, almost painfully so.

Whether or not that's a good thing for this heritage-laden (but firmly NOT mainstream) series, though, it's unclear. This is a game that will appeal to older gamers, as its hero is old-fashioned. And from what I've played so far, so is A New Beginning's gameplay and storytelling. Younger gamers, though? I can't comment because I have no Dorian Gray portrait in my attic, but my feeling is it isn't going to connect with them the same way.

Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade talks to an alien about blankets
Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade talks to an alien about blankets

Because the truth is: this is a game that you've played before, with mechanics and structures that come from the late-2000s through to the mid-to-late 2010s. Fetch quests, enemy base clearing, and busy work there are in abundance, as are buckets of conversation options that, in the main, welcome the skip button to be pressed. There's too much, go here to get X from Y, but Y won't give you X until you get Y some Z, but getting some Z requires to you go here, and so on and so on. Combat so far, feels like Mass Effect Andromeda, but without a cover mechanic. Is that a good thing? I'm not sure.

Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade flying around with a jetpack on his back.
Outcast - A New Beginning hero Cutter Slade flying around with a jetpack on his back.

What I will say, though, is that A New Beginning features one undoubtedly awesome thing that also feels pretty darn fresh and empowering: Cutter's jetpack, which lets you to do a myriad of cool things and makes navigating around the in-game world super fun. Check out the video above for a demonstation. You can boost jump multiple times if you unlock the ability, boost-dodge in any direction (excellent for avoiding enemy fire, or closing the gap on enemies for a melee strike), skim just above the ground at high speed without penalty or time-outs (fantastic for getting around quickly), and even fly around in the sky with a gliding mechanic.

It honestly makes touring around the alien world Cutter's adventure is set in (which does look pretty darn good btw, not Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora good, but good nonetheless) a lot of fun. It borderline captures the experimental feeling that much of the original Outcast did on original release.

Outcast - A New Beginning
Outcast - A New Beginning

Oh, there's one more thing that makes this game feel a bit old-fashioned now. It reeks of that now increasingly-rare animal of the AA release. A game from a mid-sized studio with no pretensions to be either AAA (or, in the case of Skull & Bones, AAAA, sigh) or a small-scale indie release.

It feels to me like a RoboCop: Rogue City, and while I'm totally down with that, when you look at the rarity of these level of releases in the gaming industry today, as well as factor in my aforementioned points about this game's old-fashioned elements, it's hard not to wonder how successful Outcast - A New Beginning will be. 20 years ago, when I and this series were far younger, I think it could have been. Now I'm not so sure.

But what do I care? Here is a game that feels like it is made specifically for me, and that's refreshing, regardless of its middling quality (based on my limited experiences so far). Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got more jetpacking to do before I get any older.