Outcast: Second Contact review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Bigben Games
Developer: Bigben Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Last week, I suggested that, more often than not, remastered games do more to show the flaws of the original than they do to introduce said game to a hidden gem from a previous generation. This week, I can provide a perfect example: Outcast: Second Contact.

See, when Outcast originally came out in 1999, it was seen as groundbreaking. It wasn’t just a 3D action-adventure game, it had an open world (a novelty at the time), branching dialogue trees, a soundtrack one contemporary reviewer described as “movie-quality”, and graphics and voice-acting that were considered way ahead of their time.

Nearly two decades later, of course, all those innovations are now considered standard. For that, I guess, Outcast deserves kudos for giving gamers of 1999 a glimpse at what the future held for their hobby.

At the same time, however, everything about the game feels so dated, it’s hard to appreciate any of it. The graphics that once seemed miles beyond what most people could imagine now look hideous; the aliens look like talking prunes (while the human main character doesn’t fare much better), and the environments are eyesores. Likewise, the voice-acting that seemed way ahead of its time 19 years ago now sounds contrived and painful.

In fact, the same could be said about literally every aspect of Outcast: Second Contact. The controls are awkward, and shooting your weapon is a massive chore. The dialogue adheres to the “tell, don’t show” school of storytelling, as every interaction turns into a reason for the planet’s inhabitants to tell you their life stories. The AI is incredibly stupid. The sound effects sound like they were recorded in 1999, and left to degrade ever since.

Don’t get me wrong: as someone who was gaming in 1999, I totally see how this would have seemed groundbreaking at the time. However, just because it was good then doesn’t mean it’s still good today. Outcast: Second Contact feels like a product of its time, and like many other products of their times, it’s hard not to look at this game and think it probably should have stayed in the past.

Bigben Games provided us with an Outcast: Second Contact Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: C-