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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: September 14, 1999
In this world of copycat game releases, it is rare indeed to find a title that right from the start looks different, sounds different, and plays different from everything else out there. Indeed, I cannot remember the last time I encountered such an offering. There are such pressures to conform to what gamers have come to expect and desire that deviating from the predictable patterns has become an unacceptable risk for most companies.
Outcast, the new action-adventure title developed by the Belgian company Appeal and distributed by the French Infogrames, manages to accomplish this unusual feat. From the moment I saw it, I could tell it was going to be unlike any other release I had ever played. It is not surprising that it takes a small company from a country that has not produced a lot of globally available software titles to break out of the established mold. Requiring almost four full years to develop, Outcast’s originality is boundless, and it almost seems as if the designers kept themselves in seclusion — not exposed to recent releases — to prevent themselves from being influenced by prevailing fads. Even the title screams rugged individualism.
The story juxtaposes brain and brawn in an interesting way. After a couple of eccentric professors discover the existence of a parallel universe, the American military sends a covert probe to the other side. As one would expect, the experiment goes drastically wrong, and after an alien interferes with the probe a void opens up and begins sucking up the planet. Cutter Slade, a brazen Special Forces (Navy Seal) fighter, is called in to escort scientists into the black hole and save the world. Carrying his special nanotechnology-based miniaturized backpack (from which most of the crucial equipment has been stolen), Slade finds out that he has to save the native Talans on Adelpha from the evil Fae Rhan in order to get their help with his quest. Nonetheless, he sets off fearlessly with a chip on his shoulder on the expedition of a lifetime.
While labeled an action-adventure title, the balance in Outcast is clearly on adventure. Unlike Psygnosis’ Drakan, where combat dominated the play to such an extent that at times it resembles a first-person shooter, in Outcast there is an awful lot of character interaction, exploration, and collection in between fighting scenes. Rather than directly overcoming the creatures you encounter, you have to gain the trust of potential friends and exploit the weaknesses of potential enemies, and that takes time and considerable dialog to achieve. You have to obtain considerable information from them, as well as perform tasks for them, in order to gain needed information and special objects.
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