May 21, 2024

The successor to the Voxel legend is also a CPU hog

It has already happened. 25 years after award-winning action-adventure Outcast pioneered the non-linear open-world genre, Cutter Slade returns to the planet Adelpha. The ancient warrior is revived by the Yods and upon his return discovers that the Talans have been enslaved and his past is linked to the attacking robot forces – time to save the planet once again. Outcast: A New Beginning has big shoes to fill as the follow-up to the legendary 1999 film Outcast. You'll find out if this fares well in testing from our colleagues at PC Games once it's online. PCGH explains the devices you need to be able to seamlessly explore the new Adelpha.

Outcast throughout the ages

A landmark, groundbreaking, surprising: what Belgian developer Appeal released in July 1999 was impressive in every way. Outcast impressed from the first minute with a believable world, entertaining dialogue and a bombastic orchestral soundtrack. Much of the fascination came from the gorgeous graphics, where the developers used volumetric pixels, called voxels, to represent the extended living world. These elements have already been used in other games, including Comanche and Delta Force – but Outcast has taken the game to previously unknown levels with 3D pixels. Advantage of voxels: At the time, they made it possible to display organic-looking curves that would otherwise require huge amounts of polygons. Disadvantage: Due to the lack of voxel accelerators (which were already under discussion at that time), their computation was burdened on the main processor; The high-performance graphics cards of the time, 3dfx Voodoo 3, Nvidia Riva TNT 2 and ATI Rage 128, remained unused. Outcast used 550MHz CPUs when it was released – and didn't trust them with maximum detail via the preset in the graphics menu. This is true, as shown in contemporary tests: with the highest details at the maximum resolution of 512 x 384 (!), 10 to 15 fps were the norm on the high-end processor, and single-digit frame rates on common hardware. Like ray tracing today, the requirements were dramatically increased with resolution, so you could at least experience Outcast smoothly at 320 x 240 resolution. This “experience” had it all, and the game left a lasting impression.

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Source: PCGH


Yes, that's actually what it looked like and made all the computers smoke. Untouchable set the standard in 1999.

But we digress. While this is always a good sign of a quality game, our focus is on Outcast “2”. If you want the full story about Outcast, its developer gravity And you want to experience the disruptions that have occurred over the past 25 years, we recommend our technology test from Outcast: Second Contact. In what follows we will devote ourselves to Outcast: A New Beginning, which aims to bring the spirit of the original into the modern era.

Outcast – A New Beginning: Technology in Detail

The level of Outcast: New Beginning is very high; Realistically, it is almost impossible to meet expectations. The fact that the creative minds of the original get together again and still try deserves respect — and management of expectations. In 1999, it was still possible for a small team to set the standard, but games have become significantly more complex over the past 25 years. In order to process the project, an effective development environment was necessary. Therefore, the choice fell on the famous Unreal Engine from Epic, which was available in version 4 at the beginning of Outcast: A New Beginning. The final game is based on the latest version of UE4 4.27, with all the advantages and disadvantages of this sometimes ubiquitous engine. Bore illumination and nano-geometry are therefore non-negotiable, and Outcast “2” reverts to traditional methods. This leaves the first checkbox – the box for the jaw opening graphic – open.

Replaying Outcast still looks good to great, due to the different biomes, which can be freely explored (after the tutorial). You can immediately tell that the developers spent a lot of time thinking about how to update the gameplay. SCs are (1) relatively inadequate; Neither running, jumping, nor shooting meets modern standards. It turns out that the idea of ​​enhancing the hero's jet was clear from the first moment. In his old age, Cutter Slade can do more than just jump half a meter high. The all-new Adelpha is designed to offer multi-jump and glide capabilities – on the water and in the air. We had a lot of fun exploring the unusual “vertical” environment. Over time, you invest resources into skills, allowing you to move through the world at high speed. The game is strikingly reminiscent of this Elex 2, but with a more flexible and polished action repertoire. So there are worlds between the woodcut from 1999 and its image from 2024 — in a good way.

Although the graphics are stylistically distinguished by interesting environments and variety (see impressions in the image gallery), the underlying technology is less exciting. Outcast: A New Beginning surpasses everything Unreal Engine 4 has to offer – except ray tracing – including believable physical representation, great depth of field and particle effects, and beautiful lighting. While spacious outdoor areas are always a good look, indoor areas stand out due to relatively flat lighting. The level-of-detail system allows for tremendous visuals with decent depth of detail, but latitude transitions of objects are clearly visible, especially when moving through the world at high speed. These superficialities aside, Outcast: A New Beginning received a grade of B, also known as “Attention to Detail.” Plants and water react to Cutter's movements in a wonderful way, and Adelpha's animal world always stands out with its cute interactions. For example, we enjoyed not only the lovable Saï, but also the lovable Twon-Has, the grumpy Bonbars, and many other creatures. Then there's the fan service like the Ulucai Museum…

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If you played the first demo of Outcast: A New Beginning and were horrified by the state of the art, we have good news: almost all the “must-fix” points reported to us by the publisher THQ Nordic were immediately addressed. While the original beta literally screamed “I'm a UE4 game!” With stuttering so ubiquitous, the current release version 1.0.3 provides shader/PSO caching that prepares the most important data and thus reduces stuttering at runtime. Outcast 2 does not run smoothly, especially in the first few minutes of the game, but the condition is acceptable. Stuttering in traversal, that is, reloading stuttering when exploring the world, is still present – and it will almost certainly not be eliminated, because this problem is inherent in the engine, as Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Hogwarts Legacy, among others, demonstrate. Just a few days ago, another additional target was introduced in the form of a DirectX 12 pipeline, which alleviates the demanding processor requirements – more on that in a moment. In addition to the general polish, we're also pleased that in-engine scenes, previously limited to 30fps, now run at an open frame rate. On the next page, you'll find out the expected FPS rates in Outcast “2”.