Heading Out review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Developer: Serious Sim
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: Not Rated

Heading Out isn’t really what it looks like. If you watch its launch trailer or the videos on its Steam page, and you might think it’s just a slightly artsy racing game. True, there aren’t a lot of racing games that could be described as artsy, but overall, there’s nothing to suggest the game is that far from the norm.

The reality is a little different. For one thing, if you scroll down to the bottom of the Steam page, you’ll notice a Mature Content that says Heading Out talks about “racism, mental health (anxiety, depression), inequality, and other social issues.” That by itself should be a sign that things aren’t what they seem.

More obviously, though, there’s this: Heading Out isn’t a racing game, so much as it’s a visual novel that happens to have some racing in it.

In fact, whether there’s racing is pretty much entirely up to you, because not only is Heading Out a visual novel, it’s a roguelite, which means your path in the game is constantly changing and adapting to your choices. You could drive as fast as you can through the United States, getting into highway races and outrunning cops – but you could also move at a leisurely pace, stopping to refuel and shop and check out the sights. It’s entirely up to you, provided you stay ahead The Fear, an unnamed, shapeless dread pursuing you every step of your trip.

On top of that, a lot of your time isn’t even spent driving, so much as it’s spent looking at a map, watching your progress along a map. Occasionally the game will give you a chance to drop in on the action (which is where the driving comes in), but it’s almost like an afterthought – the story is meant to be the attraction in Heading Out, not the driving.

It’s a unique approach to a driving (or, I guess, not-driving) game, but for the most part, it works. Heading Out’s version of the USA is filled with interesting characters and subplots begging to be uncovered, and the game does a good job of weaving all those things into what you see on screen, even when you’re flying down the highway.

It’s also worth noting that Heading Out is both absolutely gorgeous and it sounds incredible. On the graphics front, the game does a lot with a mostly black-and-white palette, throwing in the odd splash of red here and there to send you in the right direction or really emphasize a piece of the action. It’s accompanied by an outstanding soundtrack, a great collection of tunes that seem tailor-made for a long, aimless drive.

But again, if you go into Heading Out expecting a driving game, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed. It’s something entirely different from that – and, improbably (given the different genres being thrown together), it works incredibly well.

Saber Interactive provided us with a Heading Out PC code for review purposes.

Score: 8.5