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Heading Out Review (PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)

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car and hooded man in Heading Out review

There's nothing quite like the sensation of cruising down an endless highway with the right playlist as your soundtrack, transforming your drive into a personal race show. But as tempting as it is to floor it, the last thing you want is flashing lights in your rearview mirror and a hefty speeding ticket. That's where a virtual experience comes in handy—minimal consequences, maximum adrenaline rush.

Heading Out is a game that delivers the ultimate speed fix. Drawing inspiration from the iconic road movies of the 1970s, players embark on a journey down American highways, complete with thrilling encounters with the law. Blending elements of roguelikes, racing, and visual novels, Heading Out carves its path, appealing to fans of GTA and even Need For Speed.

It's an ambitious endeavor, no doubt. But does Heading Out leave its competitors in the dust, or does it crash and burn? Let's dive into our Heading Out review and find out.

Leave The Past Behind

NARRATOR NOTES

Reading Out unfolds across four acts, each building up to the ultimate showdown against the best racer alive. The game doesn't bother naming this racing legend, so we won't dwell on such details either. However, you, the player, get an intriguing pseudonym: Interstate Jackalope. While players can name their character at the start of the game, ‘Interstate Jackalope’ certainly stands out. I mean, I couldn't have concocted such a name myself. I might have settled for something mundane, like Evans or the like.

We don't know much about the protagonist aside from the fact that he is escaping his past. 

Act 1 introduces you to a tutorial of some sort. You learn how to navigate the roads, steer clear of obstacles, and occasionally take detours. At first, it doesn't seem like a heavy task, considering you only need to keep your eyes peeled on the road. The game's driving mechanic is fluid, and the controls are simple. But there is an invisible enemy you have to stay ahead of. Fear. If Fear catches up to you, it's game over. Ideally, you must maintain a great distance by constantly being on reload. You can have pit stops, but only for a short time. Welcome to your unending road trip nightmare. 

Hit The Road Jack

Driving off-road

The journey to your destination is broken into runs. There is no start or finish line. But the songs on your radio are your cue to accelerate or stop. Instead, you must finish the run before the song winds up. Ideally, each run is a means of achieving freedom but has limitations. Don't expect to be driving the entire way. Much of it takes place on the grid map. You can see different states and choose which route to take from here.

The map also highlights different events you can participate in, your car's condition, and how much gas you have left. The map overview shifts the gameplay to resource management since you have to do with what you have. The routes also vary in terms of gas amount. So choose wisely.  

Crossing over into a new state comes in handy. Yes, you are inching closer to the competition of your life, but you can also repair your car or buy items you need. Items like duct tape or a repair tool kit will improve your car's condition. Ironically, cigarettes will help you focus. Indeed, an ode to the 1970s. Moreover, if you have a high wanted rating, crossing over reduces your police notoriety. 

Fear of the Road

FEAR

Heading Out's varied mechanics add extra layers to the gameplay. With Fear creeping up on you and a mix of events waiting ahead, you must make strategic decisions to reach your destination. Sure, you may want to burn some rubber and tear through the road, but this only means you'll run out of gas soon. Gas requires money. How do you get this money? Well, the grid map shows your progression while highlighting others, which will show areas where you can earn money. Once you approach it, you can choose whether to participate in a race or do deliveries.

Street races are an easy feat where you must race against opponents. Again, with no start or finish line, you just secure your first-place position as the song ends. A percentage bar at the top of your screen also shows how much of the race you have left. Thankfully, you get room for stunts, which increases your style meter. Winning every street race earns you fame, which at every level unlocks greater rewards and more story choices. But avoid crashing at all costs. It destroys your condition, which translates into a pit stop and also translates to fear catching up. Speaking of FEAR, the game uses Fear and Focus as elements to be wary of. You already know what Fear does. Focus is essentially having a clear mind while on the road. A low focus level means you're likely to fall asleep at the wheel. 

Shift Gears to Glory

A man standing next to an animal

Besides maintaining focus, you also need to uphold your reputation. Driving in Heading Out leads to branching storylines where you engage with diverse characters. Each interaction demands making moral choices that directly impact your reputation and encounters with law enforcement.

The storylines present intriguing and sometimes outrageous scenarios. For example, a thug might ask you to remain silent while they commit a crime in your presence. Agreeing earns you a cash reward, but speaking up boosts your reputation. These imaginative scenarios often find their way onto satirical radio stations, where hosts mock your progress based on your decisions.

I appreciate the radio's attempt to emulate the eccentric humor of GTA stations. However, the hosts sometimes force narratives that feel disconnected from the game. One female host, for instance, incessantly rambles about her dating life. While meant to be humorous, these segments typically feel out of place within the game's context. However, it does offer a much-needed break from the intense sessions. If you appreciate satirical humor, this will fall right into your alley.

There are moments when the game switches to a chill drive. You get some chill music to accompany you on your ride, along with a handful of obstacles. The chill ride reduces your desired level and keeps FEAR at bay for a while. You also gain some focus while doing it. This mode highlights the simple driving features that make Heading Out a delight. 

The Highs

car being chased by police

Heading Out shines in almost every aspect of its gameplay. The game's ambitious approach of blending various genres to create a masterpiece that beats the odds presents a unique experience. The game wears its iconic 1970s cult movie inspirations on its sleeves with monochromatic visuals. A splash of color creates a noir-like appeal, adding to the intensity of the gameplay.

What stood out for me the most was the varied storyline. You never know what to expect in each run. The stories keep you engaged, filling you with much anticipation for the next conundrum your journey will bestow you. 

The game's driving mechanics add to the overall fun experience. With simple controls at its core, you get enough time and attention to focus on other elements in the title. Plus, it ties in with the other mechanics, adding to the wholesome experience of being in the driver's seat. 

The light, roguelike elements are the right incentive to keep heading out. Navigating the entire country can be hectic. Failure is not impossible, with varying elements aiming to negate your progress. However, even with this, the game holds your hand to the finish line. If you can keep it steady on the road, you will eventually reach your destination. Plus, if things get too tough, you can kick down the difficulty settings. 

The Lows

Car hood

While Heading Out offers an exhilarating racing experience, it's not without its flaws. One notable issue lies in the artificial intelligence of other drivers, be they opponents, law enforcement, or regular traffic. They lack the responsiveness needed to adapt to aggressive driving tactics, making races feel too easy or frustratingly stagnant. Despite attempts to balance gameplay with rubber banding, it sometimes swings to the extreme, with rivals swiftly catching up even after being left far behind.

Another frustration stems from technical glitches or communication breakdowns. While some minor issues were listed by the publisher, others, like sudden changes in the game's UI colors or inexplicable difficulty moving forward after a crash, left me scratching my head. The color shift, for instance, eventually corrected itself, but the occasional inability to control my car correctly led to unnecessary restarts. It's a perplexing mix of potential bugs and game mechanics, leaving players unsure if they're missing something or encountering genuine flaws.

Verdict

Backview when driving in Heading Out review

Heading Out emerges as a captivating blend of varying elements. From modular storytelling to roguelike structure, the game offers a unique experience, particularly the rebellious spirit of the road genre. 

The game provides a satisfying, fast-paced adventure where player choices shape the narrative. It is highly entertaining and offers rewarding moments. Plus, the visually striking comic book aesthetic adds to the appeal, while the adrenaline-fueled races and dynamic traffic challenges keep players on their toes.

Despite occasionally veering into overly whimsical territory and a few glitches, the game expertly captures its intended vibe with remarkable precision. It's a refreshing departure from the norm, offering a one-of-a-kind experience unlike anything else in the genre.

Heading Out Review (PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)

Hit The Road in Style

Despite its flaws, Heading Out stands out as one of the standout gaming experiences of the year. Its seamless integration of diverse ideas and genres ensures excellent replayability, while the nuanced storytelling keeps players engaged. The thrill of navigating bustling cities and serene countryside, accompanied by a stellar soundtrack, makes for an unforgettable journey.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.