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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Heading Out Juggles Lots of Concepts With Middling Results

One of the old adages of game development is if you do too many things, you end up doing none of them particularly well – that is, too many concepts and genres tend to spoil a game. Sometimes, however, a developer breaks this rule, throws all their ideas together and they stick – but Heading Out is not one of those games. That might sound harsh –  and don’t get me wrong: Heading Out has its merits, but it just tries to be too many things.

Heading Out, at its core, is a racing game with rogue lite elements, and some visual novel/narrative game elements. It really tries to do a whole lot all at once. It’s ambitious, and lots of its execution actually comes together into a coherent game which is impressive enough considering all of the disparate elements. 

There is also a strong sense that Heading Out is meant to be cool. It's very stylized, with the racing segments in black and white, and random encounters illustrated in a digital hand drawn style. But it feels like it's trying really hard to be cool, and the whole thing comes off a bit corny, in an endearing way. 

Dialogue delivery is an issue, and mostly full of misses. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is written sloppily, with clumsy,  heavy-handed social commentaries. Even as someone who agrees with most of the political ideology espoused in Heading Out,  I still felt uncomfortable with just how hard it leaned into it. This will certainly reduce its review score. Which is too bad, because it should have a low review score because it’s just an ‘okay” game.

The basic gameplay premise is that you’re a racer and you are outrunning your fear. You even have to answer somewhat personal questions about what you’re potentially outrunning. It adds some personal touch to the story, but again, ends up feeling simultaneously invasive and eye roll inducing–most of the time.The story is told by a narrator with a southern drawl. He invokes memories of Bastion. Every bit of description and dialogue is read by him, except for the radio’s talking heads.

As you travel across the States toward your ultimate goal, you will have the opportunity to choose your route. Each route has different opportunities for random events, and careful planning should be considered so you have enough money for each stop. This is represented using an overworld map where you actually do most of your traveling. You can actually control the speed of your little dot as it travels across the map –  but go too fast and you’ll burn up extra fuel and get the attention of the cops.  

Any problems that arise that you can’t solve through money can be solved through racing. If you don’t have money for fuel, you can run from the cops. If the cops try to stop you, you can decide to run instead of waiting to be detained (as fear is ever creeping towards you). 

Heading Out’s racing is its marquee feature, and it’s a surprisingly good racing game. It’s not great–just good. The different cars you can unlock handle well, with a difference between pavement and road. There are many different camera angles, even a cockpit view–something that was completely unnecessary, but absolutely awesome. As you race across different states the scenery changes. But it’s a cosmetic illusion, as most tracks are very same-y, with none of them really standing out.

Damaging your car in a race can have lasting effects. If your car totally breaks down, fear will catch up to you and your game will end. You also have to worry about fatigue–you need to sleep or use items to stay awake to outrun fear.

While you drive across the states your reputation is important. The more good deeds you do, the better off you are generally. You can also do things that will make you seem like a dick, often for short term gain. In fact, it’s pretty obvious that doing the “right” thing helps in the long run moreso than any short term gains. But it also sometimes means more racing.

Heading Out isn’t a bad game. It tried to do something different, and it’s “okay” as a result. It does get a little heavy handed in its political messaging, which I feel like takes away from any potential message it could have. While driving in Heading Out feels fun, its very basic and gets repetitive very quickly. If you want a unique narratively driven, rogue lite driving game you might want to wait until something better comes along–if that combination even manifests again. 

Heading Out is available now on PC via Steam.

A Steam key was provided to us for this review



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