Outcast: Second Contact review (Xbox One)

The third release of cult PC title Outcast is finally here, as after a delay we can now play Outcast: Second Contact on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. Familiar with the original on PC, we played Outcast’s next gen version on Xbox One, using an Xbox One X console.

The fact that we used the Xbox One X’s extra processing power is significant in a historical setting, as the original PC version was known to be quite demanding on the CPUs of that time. To put that into perspective, the original requirements were for a 200 Mhz Pentium processor with 32 MB of memory and 2 MB of video RAM. When the exact same game was re-released on Steam with support for modern operating systems, it was asking for a 1.2 Ghz processor and 1 GB of RAM – pretty power-hungry for a game dating back to 1999.

A lot of these power requirements had to do with the fact that Outcast used voxels, an innovative way of delivering quality 3D graphics in an era were 3D wasn’t mainstream and PCs still needed dedicated 3D graphics cards on top of their regular graphics cards. Outcast: Second Contact no longer uses this technique, but switches to the nowadays commonly used polygons and textures instead. Nevertheless, the game is still hungry for power, as I’ve heard others complain of framerate issues when playing on a regular Xbox One (S). The Xbox One X we tested on didn’t display any frame drops, but I though it fair to point out that Outcast’s reputation for straining hardware is alive and well.

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Outcast: Second Contact isn’t a remastered version of the original, not is it a reboot or a sequel. In many ways, it’s exactly the same game it was before, but rebuilt from the ground up – at least visually. The story, the characters and even the maps and item locations are the same as they were in the 1999 original, and the visual style doesn’t present a radical departure from what I remember either.

That’s not to say that Second Contact doesn’t look miles better than the original game. Despite its familiar facade, a ton of visual detail has been added to make this an Outcast worthy of this current generation of consoles. The same can’t be said of the audio and animation quality though – as it sounds almost as though the original samples were reused and the walking/running animation feels rather stiff. We had the pleasure of meeting with Outcast creators Appeal twice over the past year and a half and see Second Contact while in development, and the animation was an issue we kept noticing then as well. The good news – the final version of the game is already much better in this department, so perhaps we’ll see an additional layer of polish added post-release.

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A mix between action adventure and RPG, Outcast is a sci-fi tale about interdimensional travel where you’re suddenly hailed as a savior while trying to make your way back home. Its game world is large and as diverse as the characters that inhabit it – each with personalities and agendas of their own and with relationships to other characters in the game world. Your actions can affect these, making exploration of the game world as fun and interesting as it was back in 1999.

The gameplay aspect of Second Contact is largely identical to the original game, but with a few small changes. If you want, you can switch from Outcast’s original medpack-based health system to a dynamic where your health automatically recharges, making the game a little easier and less RPG-like. You’ll also notice that the game does a better job at explaining the alien language that its world’s inhabitants speak. The game’s controls haven’t changed much though, and after coming off Assassin’s Creed: Origins things feel a little awkward in Outcast: Second Contact.

Look beyond those mostly small issues, however, and you’ll find a game that’s rich in character and lore – crafted into an adventure that’s still well worth playing. For many, it will actually be the very first time they get to play it too – because either they’re console gamers or their PC just wasn’t up to snuff back in the day. For those, this is a more than competent look at a piece of gaming history. For people who played the original Outcast, it won’t quench your thirst for a proper sequel as Second Contact is too similar to your first contact with the game.

Score: 7.0/10

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