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Outcast – A New Beginning review: Avatar meets The Rocketeer

Outcast, with a man in an orange outfit jetpacking over enemies.
Image: Appeal Studios

Outcast – A New Beginning is fast becoming our favourite game about jetpacking around an alien world. Sorry Anthem, sorry Jetpac; this slightly silly sci-fi sequel has you beat.

While it is basically The Rocketeer meets Avatar, it lacks the self-importance of the latter, and it’s all the better for it. Outcast – A New Beginning does, however, dial the Great White Saviour trope up to 11, which initially had us raising an eyebrow. Thankfully, its alien natives are infinitely more interesting than James Cameron’s elongated smurfs. And, in terms of its world, it gives the game a welcome boost.

Because while the notion of sticking it to the man, the invading human forces, pushes the plot forward, some of the tasks you undertake are essentially busywork. You’re shooting away at yet another group of drones, or clearing another outpost and so on. But you’re destroying those drones to protect a giant, flying creature, hatched by a bizarrely egg-obsessed native. The promise that we would, ourselves, get to fly that creature kept us coming back for more.

Outcast - A New Beginning, a giant flying creature soaring over the player's head.
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Appeal Studios

We’re also still grinning about the Village of Real Ale that we discovered about six hours into our playthrough. We can’t remember what the village was actually called, but the chief and half the villagers were utterly dedicated to brewing and marketing this golden elixir. Some of your allies are super serious, but others are completely out there, with their own takes and problems.

Related: The best open world games on PS5

Another neat (if less silly) touch is that your character is immortal, respawning after each death. Sure, that’s how most games work, but here it’s part of the game’s lore. It’s fun imagining how frustrated the human forces must be knowing they can never, ever get rid of you. They’re not your only foe, though: there are some genuinely disturbing enemies in this game. Avatar had six-legged horses, but Outcast – A New Beginning has alien cobras with mouths that run halfway down their bodies.

Outcast - A New Beginning - an alien character with his hands to his head.
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Appeal Studios

Traversing Outcast’s world is a blast, whether you’re jetting into the air or zooming along half a metre above the ground. Yes, it’s mildly frustrating to see Cutter soaring around in cut-scenes, when the game imposes limits on your fuel, but it’ll push you to pour upgrade points into your jetpack. And once you start mixing up flying and shooting, you’ll get even more of a kick out of combat. Cutter’s health doesn’t, by default, recharge, so you actually have to put some thought into encounters.

Well, mostly. Combat is great when you’re blasting away at beasties and bots in the open world, but when you’re indoors, Outcast’s enemy AI stumbles. In particular, combat bots are utterly stymied by open doorways. You can shoot at them, duck behind the wall, and rinse and repeat till they’re dead. They’ll never try to pursue you, and their lack of smarts took us right out of the game. On several occasions, we also ran into enemies who were stuck in the floor.

Outcast - A New Beginning, with a character fighting a swamp snake.
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Appeal Studios

Another issue is that while Outcast – A New Beginning does a respectable job of camouflaging how repetitive its tasks are, that starts to slip over time. The second time we had to escort that flying animal, we were a little less enthusiastic about the task. About eight hours into the game, we started to worry it was going to kill our interest in the game.

Fortunately, while the tasks do become a little samey, the combat is fun enough that you’ll still get a kick out of testing out your new upgrades and/or rocket pack skills on your foes. What does damage the game’s fun factor, however, is the way the story starts to lose focus. You’re supposed to be uniting the tribes but, between the various jobs you’re handed out, it lacks a sense of urgency or organisation.

When it comes to open world games, that’s not an uncommon issue. But Outcast – A New Beginning tries to impress upon you the importance of stopping the invaders and, hours in, it feels like you’re just going through a shopping list. Are those tasks fun? Yes, but there’s a disconnect between that and just why you’re undertaking them. As entertaining as the game’s characters can be, you can lose track of what you’re doing for who and why.

It does feel a tad dated and if you’re expecting a story on a par with Avatar, despite its shared themes, you’re in for a disappointment. But it’s charmed us with its characters, combat and a world that, thanks in no small part to your jetpack, is a joy to roam. Even when you mess up as we did, rocketing right into the middle of a hostile swamp and getting murdered by tooth-snakes, you’ll pick yourself up without a hint of resentment. And meddling with your weapons’ many customisation options never gets old.

Whether you’ve played the original or not, Outcast – A New Beginning is enough of a riot that you’ll overlook most of its flaws, rocketing over the rough patches.

Outcast – A New Beginning – GameSpew’s score

This review of Outcast – A New Beginning is based on the PC version of the game via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.
Weekend Editor // Chris has been gaming since the days of the Acorn Electron, which was allegedly purchased to 'help him with his homework'. You can probably guess how well that went. He’ll tackle most genres – football titles aside – though he has a taste for games that that are post-apocalyptic, horror-oriented or thought provoking in nature.