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Heading Out review – Cruisin’ USA

Heading Out review header
Image: Serious Sim/Saber Interactive

Being a narrative-driven driving adventure with roguelike elements, Heading Out is pretty unique. Inspired by classic road movies, it presents players with a road trip across America, but there’s a twist. You see, Jackie, its protagonist, has seemingly made a name for themselves. Now they’re on the run, but no matter how hard they try they can never seem to escape. They’re stuck in a loop, and they aren’t quite sure why.

Always starting in Angola, Indiana, each act in Heading Out challenges you to cross numerous states in order to reach a destination where a driver lies in wait for you to race. The problem is, with an entity simply known as “The Fear” always in pursuit, you have no time to dilly-dally. And so, you have to take your journey stage by stage, racing from one location to the next. While this is a driving game, however, you’re not always behind the wheel in the way you’d expect. Much of the game plays out on a map, with you simply choosing your route and controlling your speed.

As you journey from one location to the next, events may occur that put you in the driving seat. You might encounter some street racers and decide to race to earn some money, for example. Or, having been pulled over by the cops, you might decide to run from them in order to save time. With numerous acts to complete, you’ll perhaps be unsurprised to hear that Heading Out gets more complex as you progress, with more events opening up, the police gaining new techniques to make your journey harder, and more. Needless to say, your journey is never a walk in the park, especially considering you also have multiple resources to worry about.

Heading Out review 1
Image: Serious Sim/Saber Interactive

For example, you have your focus and car condition to manage. Should your focus get too low you might fall asleep at the wheel, losing valuable time in the process. If you’re low on focus during races, the screen often dims for a period of time and the audio quietens, representing you dozing off. Your car condition, on the other hand, is pivotal to keeping you moving at a brisk pace. Crash too often and you’ll find the performance of your chosen vehicle deteriorating, putting you at a disadvantage.

You’ll find places where you can rest or repair your car on your travels, and also shops where you can buy consumables that help keep them both in check, but all these require money and, in some cases, time. In fact, money is probably the most restrictive resource here; starting with just a small amount, you’ll need to manage it well, as each leg of your journey you’ll need to use some of it for fuel. As such, you’ll probably want to complete in every road race you encounter, and also consider taking on quests and bets that reward you with money if completed.

Racing isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing as you move from point-to-point, either. You’ll frequently encounter people, situations and mysteries on the road, presenting you with important choices to make. These are often influenced by your answers to personal questions presented at the start of each act. These encounters add a little flavour to each run, and most choices you make have some impact, whether it’s restoring your focus or rewarding you with a sum of cash. Primarily, though, they affect your reputation and fame levels, which in turn affect how you’re perceived by people, potentially altering your future interactions.

Heading Out review 2
Image: Serious Sim/Saber Interactive

Overall, Heading Out is an interesting concept, but there are some issues that let it down. The core story and the random scenarios you encounter aren’t really all that gripping, which is pretty disappointing for a game so focused on them. The driving mechanics, too, aren’t anything special; they just get the job done. For us, though, the worst thing about Heading Out is some of the radio station chatter you’re frequently subjected to. Some of the hosts are truly awful, spewing inane chatter at you that is neither interesting or relatable. Thankfully you can skip these if you wish.

Still, this doesn’t mean you should skip Heading Out. While it doesn’t fulfil its true potential, it’s still entertaining and rewarding to some degree. Its largely black and white comic book visual style is a treat, and its races are genuinely heated at times. We also like its traffic races, where you’re required to weave in and out of traffic to keep on the move rather than waste time by waiting and letting The Fear catch up to you. And some of the scenarios you encounter while on the road may strike a chord or two.

This review of Heading Out was facilitated by a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PC.

Heading Out review - GameSpew's score

Heading Out
7 10 0 1
Heading Out doesn't fulfil its true potential. But while its story isn't as gripping as it should be, and its driving mechanics aren't anything special, together, along with an eye-catching black and white comic book visual style, they make for an enjoyable time on the whole.
Heading Out doesn't fulfil its true potential. But while its story isn't as gripping as it should be, and its driving mechanics aren't anything special, together, along with an eye-catching black and white comic book visual style, they make for an enjoyable time on the whole.
7/10
Total Score

We like...

  • Its black and white comic book visual style is great
  • It's an original concept

We don't like...

  • Its story isn't as gripping as we'd have liked
  • The driving mechanics aren't anything special
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!