Outcast: Second Contact is a third-person open-world action adventure game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Outcast originally released on August 31st 1999 at a time when it pushed even the highest of high-end graphics cards and PC specifications. Outcast was praised by many not just upon its arrival when it won GameSpot’s Adventure Game of the Year Award in 1999, but in fact for as long as a decade after its release for heralding a new era of open-world gaming as it preceded Grand Theft Auto III by over two years. A Dreamcast port was planned but was later shelved in favour of a sequel which was actively in-development in 2001 under the title Outcast II: Lost Paradise for PS2 and PC, although it was unfortunately cancelled when the developer Appeal went bankrupt and were not provided with the funds required to complete development on the sequel by their publisher. However, over a decade later on July 3rd 2013; it was confirmed by Franck Sauer, Yann Robert and Yves Grolet that Appeal had re-acquired their original intellectual property from Atari with major plans to resurrect Outcast for a new generation of gamers who had most probably not experienced the original game on PC. It was not an ideal start for Outcast’s revival as a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that launched on April 7th 2014 for an Outcast HD remake, surprisingly only going onto earn 45% of its $600,000 funding target. Following on from the unexpected disappointment, Appeal updated Outcast for digital download platforms on PC with Outcast 1.1 releasing on December 18th 2014 based upon the original source code which was upgraded to enable enhancements such as 1080p output, better stability and bug fixes. Appeal then pushed forward with a significant development cycle to entirely re-imagine Outcast as it would have been if it had been developed from the ground up for three generations worth of consoles after its initial release. How does Outcast: Second Contact compare to Outcast’s original 1999 adventure?
The story unfolds through artistic stylised cut-scenes in which the player is introduced to Commander Cutter Slade in his mission to save Earth from a scientific experiment involving transportation of a probe between Earth and a parallel dimension that has went horribly wrong; placing the Earth in immediate perilous danger.
The native Talan tribe asks Cutter Slade for help with a variety of scenarios that are essentially side quests encountered along the path towards achieving his primary mission objectives. For instance, workers have had an accident when tending to a temple which needs to be cleared with dynamite; therefore you must find a stick of dynamite and a remote detonator, so that the workers can continue their jobs without being punished by the on-looking oppressive soldiers. Further major side quests involve instigating a rebellion against Kroax by gaining the support of Talan workers to prevent them from picking rice as the rice feeds the soldiers far more than the oppressed Talan workers; therefore actively stopping the very cycle that energises the soldiers in the first place.
Character design is inspired as it paints the picture of a hero attempting to help the Talan tribe as they try to assist him in succeeding in his primary mission, despite being unfamiliar with each other; resulting in a bond that is a character in itself. Twon-ha are tame animals that are fast and strong enough to provide friendly transportation for Cutter Slade. Enemy design mostly revolves around enemy soldiers that operate under the orders of a violent military leader named Kroax who unfairly punishes Talan workers that are deemed to have not collected enough rice. Further enemies include primitive Talan that are inhabitants of small tribes called Oogoobar situated in camps throughout the Okaar forests, although they do not attack Cutter Slade because of who he is; they just feel the need to attack anyone who they are not familiar with as a form of protecting their friends and family. Soldiers who oppose you and the Oogoobar tribe are not your only enemies as there are red spiders named Krakits, piranhas and larger fish referred to as the killer of the seas that will all attack Cutter Slade if he as much as steps foot anywhere near them.
Environment design is stunning as there are six open-world regions on the home planet of the Talan tribe named Adelpha that can be travelled between via teleportation portals called Daokas that are reminiscent to stargates found in the Stargate film and TV series. Cutter Slade begins his adventure in a snowy mountainous region named Ranzaar before venturing onto humid Shamazaar which encompasses many temples, while Okasankaar is full of dangerous paths and villainous creatures throughout murky swamps, alongside Talanzaar which hosts a far greater population in comparison to other regions, although that also means there are more soldiers in the region; Motazaar has rocky mountainous terrain with magma running through the centre of the region; and Okaar is a large forest that contains ancient structures and monuments as well as a tribe and creatures that are exclusive to the region. Door keys can be found in certain areas such as nearby temples which can open particular rooms containing important supplies such as medikits, ammo and resources.
Cutter Slade has arrived at Adelpha expecting the possibility of hostile forces as he has brought his trusty HK-P12 standard issue sidearm, although further weaponry is gradually gathered throughout his exploration of Adelpha which will certainly help his chances towards completing such an important primary mission. Further weaponry includes the SLNT-B dart gun which is more of a stealthy and strategic gun as it fires poison capsules in combination with a telescopic targeting system that works well in long-range combat, while the Hawk-MK8 fires powerful missiles, although it takes time to load but allows several missiles to be rapidly fired successively, alongside the LN-Duo 500 lobs ammo in a mortar style trajectory to reach otherwise obscured enemies; UZA-SH is a powerful tracer gun that should be approached with caution when firing it in confined spaces; and FT-74 is a flamethrower. Dynamite can clear certain paths and blow open locked chests, although dynamite and tripwire devices can be set as booby-traps for enemies, especially when having run out of ammo for Cutter Slade’s guns.
There are also a wide range of gadgets such as a Proxi-130 HF tracker that informs of the location for the nearest enemy, while an Enhanced Vision Device is essentially a pair of binoculars that can magnify up to twelve times and alternatively function as an X-ray of your surroundings enabling the ability to see through walls in addition to lock-on functionality that allows you to follow the movements of a particular enemy, alongside a Proton Phase Shifter which turns Cutter Slade invisible, providing a momentary period of time to escape from the clutches of enemy soldiers; and much more besides as there are a total of 10 gadgets.
Recreators are capable of creating ammo for Cutter Slade’s weaponry by looking at a sample of it before determining the precise resources required in order to craft it, although recreators are unable to create weaponry for your character. For instance, if you want a recreator to craft SLNT-B ammo, then you would need to find then provide 3 rammu, 2 green helidium and 1 mool; therefore collecting every item you come across is essential. Items that can be found when exploring include a form of ore specific to Adelpha named helidium, a mon refers to a relic, a Krakit’s (red spiders) salivary gland called mool, rammu is a toxic plant and more besides with every item added to your inventory for quick reference and usage. Money referred to as Zorkins can be collected from some of the enemies you defeat which is essentially utilised as in-game currency to make such purchases as hiring a Twon-ha creature to ride around on and look after by feeding nearby vegetation.
Outcast: Second Contact is the kind of adventure that the Vita is crying out for, although at least remote play is a consolation. Outcast: Second Contact’s remote play performance is excellent as it produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. Controls have not been appropriately optimised as entering the weapon wheel and firing your equipped weapon is mapped to the top right of the rear touch pad, while entering melee combat when a weapon is not equipped is mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad followed by the right of the rear touch pad to throw punches and aiming your equipped weapon is mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad, alongside a map of your nearby surroundings and a larger world map being mapped to the bottom right of the rear touch pad. It would have been a more natural remote play control scheme if the weapon wheel and firing your weapon had been re-mapped to R with aiming moving to L and maps being moved to the bottom right of the touch screen, alongside stealth movements being re-mapped to the bottom left of the touch screen and checking your health moving to the top right of the touch screen. However, despite the lack of control optimisations; Outcast: Second Contact is a very playable remote play experience once you have got used to not being able to fire and aim with R and L respectively.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to view a weapon wheel of available weaponry and current ammo followed by pressing X to select the highlighted weapon; pressing R2 to fire equipped weapon; holding L2 when a weapon is not equipped to enter close quarters combat stants and throw punches by pressing R2; holding L2 to aim; pressing L1 to move stealthily; holding R1 to view your current health; pressing O to open and begin browsing your inventory; pressing X to jump; pressing R3 to view a small map of the surrounding environment and pressing R3 again to view a full world map; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move and explore the world; quickly moving the left analogue stick to the left or right to perform an evasive roll in that direction; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.
There is no touch pad support, although it would have made a great alternative to pressing R3 to display the map, while the smaller and larger maps could have been navigated by swiping across the touch pad. There is no light bar implementation which could have produced the same colour of metal or object that had been collected or alternatively it could have provided a varying HUD to showcase the tone of green, yellow, orange, red and flashing red that would best describe Cutter Slade’s health at that very moment. There is no vibration, although the controller could have vibrated when you are riding a Twon-ha creature as it stomps around the environments in order to emphasise how tall and heavy the creature is in addition to firing weaponry to reflect the recoil and being hit by an enemy.
There is a fundamental rule for videogame remakes in which the remake must look identical to how fans remember the original game looking from when they first played it and based upon that rule, Outcast: Second Contact is graphically everything that fans of the original game would have hoped for. Gamers who never experienced Outcast in 1999 can expect environments, skies and backdrops that are on par with the modern generation of gaming, while characters, weapons, items and effects such as firing weaponry and explosions have all been substantially upgraded. PS4 Pro support offers enhanced resolution and textures in addition to improved performance including frames-per-second and loading times.
The presentation of the game is fairly minimalist yet mostly solid with a very good user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it is rather odd to not have an overview of the control scheme within the options menu and it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The main menu background immediately sets the tone for the adventure ahead with Cutter Slade wearing his visor, bracelet and jetpack as his gun is aimed at nearby enemies up ahead of him, while numerous structures and vegetation are situated either side of him, alongside large plans and moons that appear to be closer than usual.
Every character is voiced accordingly by voice-over artists returning from the original game including David Gasman voicing lead character Cutter Slade having previously voiced Jonathan Harker in Dracula: Resurrection and Dracula 2: The Last Sanctuary, Edward Carnby in Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, Rayman in the majority of Rayman games since Rayman 2, Pey’j in Beyond Good and Evil, Lucas Kane and Tyler Miles in Indigo Prophecy, Mad Jack, Hassan and Paco Mendez in Heavy Rain and Officer J. Sherman in Beyond: Two Souls, while Juliet Dunn voices Marion Wolfe, alongside Michael Morris voicing Anthony Xue. Some of the conversations are quite humorous such as an undercover plant worker misunderstanding the question of “Where the dynamite was hidden” as “How the dynamite was hidden”, therefore providing an ongoing response that talks up his own bravery and courage before Cutter Slade sarcastically responds that he may just work for his opposition for free as the plant worker could have given him an answer within four words.
Sound effects include walking, jumping, evasive rolling, crumpling snow when walking within snow, swimming, firing weaponry at enemies, reloading, punching enemies and enemies returning fire, alongside ambient sound effects such as howling winds and other weather conditions, although the jumping, evasive rolling and jet pack sound effects could perhaps do with being re-recorded for modern day standards. When Outcast originally released in 1999, an orchestral score was extremely rare in videogames yet Outcast had a beautiful soundtrack composed by Lennie Moore (Star Wars: The Old Republic, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2) and recorded by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra that has gracefully returned in all of its glory in Outcast: Second Contact. In fact, the orchestral soundtrack technically sounds better than ever as Outcast: Second Contact’s audio has been upgraded to support 7.1 channel surround sound. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced specific sound effects such as when entering a teleportation portal to travel between two worlds, any sounds made by your Twon-ha creature, the voice-over that informs when a resource item or enemy has been detected, enemies discussing their possible alertness of your presence or firing weaponry back and forth.
The trophy list includes 40 trophies with 24 bronze trophies, 11 silver trophies, 4 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Jan’s Stealth Test bronze trophy for completing the stealth tutorial in Ranzaar with Jan; the Ready to Leave Ranzaar bronze trophy for completing all four tests with Jan; and the Can’t Wait to Use this bronze trophy for obtaining over 300 rounds for Commander Cutter Slade’s HK-P12. Harder trophies include defeating a specific quantity of soldiers within each area and finding the Mon located in their respective areas. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the difficulty curve is an intriguing one as it challenges the player from around 45 minutes into gameplay which is when you will start encountering soldiers in multiple quantities as they fire their advanced weaponry at Cutter Slade before retreating behind an object or structure for cover, then making a series of strategic decisions on how to approach you in terms of flanking formations during combat.
Outcast: Second Contact does not have any form of local or online multiplayer and local or online leaderboards which is forgivable as the original game did not feature multiplayer or leaderboards either. However, it would have been amazing to see split-screen co-operative multiplayer in which the lead character Cutter Slade pairs up with one of the Talan tribe to take on the oppressive soldiers, while split-screen competitive multiplayer could have seen one player controlling Cutter Slade and the second player assumes the role of the soldiers attempting to outsmart or outgun him. Competitive and co-operative multiplayer would have suited online functionality too, while online leaderboards could have displayed the fastest times in completing each side quest, fully exploring each area, having spoken to every Talan within each area and the entire story.
Outcast: Second Contact’s replayability stems from exploration of its six wonderfully diverse open-world environments in which along the journey of Cutter Slade’s adventure; players will encounter many Talan to have amusing dialogue with and help them through a multitude of side quests on the path to attempting to complete his primary mission.
• Title: Outcast: Second Contact
• Developer: Appeal
• Publisher: Maximum Games/Bigben Interactive
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1
• Hard Drive Space Required: 10.08GB (Version 1.02)