Heading Out (hands-on preview)

Heading Out (hands-on preview)

Cannonball? RUN!

Serious Sim’s Heading Out is best described as a mixture of different genres that come together to tell a road journey. It’s a 70s car chase movie with a lite Mad Max tint to it that asks us to become infamous across the map of America, mostly by sticking to its asphalt (or avoiding it altogether).

The game has three main parts: an interactive story, a planning phase, and straight up driving on US roads.

Set in the alternate future, the plot of the game requires us to build up our infamy by outwitting every authority around us. We need to develop our legend on the road by taking on tasks and missions and interacting with people in towns and road stops. It’s a road trip, but sometimes more violent. Depending on how well we’re doing, an in-car radio will mention our feats during its right wing/prepper programs, further adding to our list of possible missions. Time to take down THE MAN, but also find out about driving conditions in Iowa. The story beats include us acting as a courier or shuttling people around, or forming alliances (or enemies) based on our responses.

Then there’s the planning part. It’s presented like a big map across the US, where we have to plan our routes to get to our intended goal, learning to manage our fuel and our weariness and supplies and car. Sometimes we’re racing on the map, other times we’re just watching our car move by itself to the next point. But it’s mostly just a 2D map that our perspective slides around, like when we were kids and our parents traced their fingers on the route to plan the next stop.

The driving is fun. It’s a bit basic, with a focus on outrunning cops or other drivers or getting to a goal. It’s not difficult to do either, and it mostly focuses on how we can either stay on a road or go off of it when we want to take a short cut through a field. The police and our opponents mostly stick to the pavement, so going backroads is almost always the easiest path. Roads are fairly linear; it’s not like we’re taking turns down side streets or looping to a different part of town. The game is just drive, and drive fast. We can’t even really get disoriented… as long as we’re pushing the accelerator we should be fine. There’s also an interesting thing happens when our route-planning tiredness starts to seep into the driving: the edges of the screen start to get dark and we need to try and force ourselves awake. As someone who’s been in a situation of tired driving, this was almost too real, triggering a weird PTSD on the show floor for me.

The demo hit the main points of the gameplay, but hopefully the full game will present more of a variety of missions and unique driving experiences when Heading Out launches on PC on May 7.