Heading Out is one of the most unique titles that I’ve played this year, with its clever blend of player-driven storytelling, resource management, and exciting driving sequences ensuring that it’ll be one road trip that players are sure to remember.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Heading Out puts players in the role of Jackie – somebody whose past is shaped by narrative decisions that the player makes at the start of each run, but whose future is determined by a road trip that they take across America. With Jackie’s route to his destination bringing with it an array of varied scenarios, each playthrough of the game has a different tale to tell. However, there is always one constant: The Fear. This is a mysterious entity that follows Jackie’s path as he soars down the highway, and if it catches up to him, it’s game over.

Progression in Heading Out takes place over a map of the country, with players able to see the varied roads they can take to get to their destination, the type of events they’d encounter on each road, how much gas they have, the condition of their car, and so forth. There are a few systems in play across the game that can be monitored on this map, with the player having to manage each aspect carefully if they want their trip to be successful. For example, you’ll get a game over if you run out of gas, but also need money to re-fill your tank. Run out of money? You better complete some races to earn some dollars, but also have to ensure you don’t cause any damage to your car in the process. Alternatively, you might find yourself in a story event that’ll get you some cash, but with these taking up precious time, you have to balance them out to ensure you don’t find yourself caught out by The Fear.

The varied mechanics in play add an extra layer of depth to Heading Out that makes each run all the more unpredictable. There’s a strategic element of risk versus reward in place, but with some events being the difference between success and failure on each run, it’s hard not to find yourself all the more drawn in. The events can affect your reputation too – one run saw me labelled a ‘Wandering Scumbag’ after I robbed a poorly woman of her medication, but come on… it’s survival of the fittest on these roads. It all plays into the storytelling strengths of Heading Out and ensures players can satisfyingly shape their run in their own little way.

“One run saw me labelled a ‘Wandering Scumbag’ after I robbed a poorly woman of her medication, but come on… it’s survival of the fittest on these roads.”

Of course, whilst there’s an emphasis placed on managing your car, playing through story events, or deciding which route to take on your journey, you’ll also get to spend a lot of time at the wheel. It’s in these moments that Heading Out is the most exciting, with players following a seemingly endless road as they jostle with other racers for victory or try to outrun pursuing cops. The term ‘outrun’ is actually quite fitting, especially since Heading Out gives off a lot of OutRun vibes with its emphasis on following one road whilst divulging off across shortcuts at set turning points along the way, whilst having to avoid other vehicles certainly reminded of SEGA’s arcade racer.

It makes for a fun experience too, with the core driving mechanics of Heading Out delivering plenty of thrills as you navigate each road. Sure, it could feel a bit simple in places, but with each new act of the game introducing varied mechanics that’ll affect your success on the road, there’s plenty going on to ensure each moment you spend in the driving seat is exciting. It ties in with the other mechanics of the game too, whether that’s when crashing and affecting the condition of your car or finding yourself drowsy when low on focus – again, you’ll have to keep on top of these when driving, with one mistake on the road easily throwing your run into disarray.

That being said, some of the driving sections could get a little bit repetitive after prolonged play, with the simplistic nature of the tracks meaning they don’t always have any defining features to help them stand out when compared to more conventional racing titles. I encountered a few awkward glitches when driving too, with these typically being caused by minor collisions that bug out the controls. The worst issue saw my car land on top of another vehicle and bugging out to the point where I couldn’t drive it anymore, forcing a failure. This wouldn’t normally be a problem (and, admittedly, I probably shouldn’t be landing on cars in the first place), but with Heading Out taking a rogue-lite approach where your mistakes can cost you your run, it’s hard not to be frustrated when your failure is caused by a technical issue.

Check out some screenshots down below:

These issues didn’t stop Heading Out from being a blast to play though, with its clever blend of player-driven storytelling, creative scenarios, and exciting driving making for one heck of a unique experience. It brings with it a tough yet fair gameplay loop, whilst progression through each of the game’s acts offers enough new ideas to ensure the experience doesn’t grow stale. That being said, it DEFINITELY won’t be for everyone. In some runs, it can feel more like a visual novel than a racer, whilst other runs will see more of an emphasis placed on managing your resources than seeing the story unfold. Whilst this unpredictability ticked all of the right boxes for me, I have no doubts that its unique blend of gameplay mechanics might not be to everyone’s taste.

I think everyone will agree that the stylish monochromatic visuals look great though, with the black-and-white graphic novel-style world brought to life with some dashes of colour that emphasise important parts of your surroundings. It’s gorgeous to see in motion, with it capturing the tone of a road movie but with a noir twist – something which is PERFECTLY befitting of what Heading Out is going for.

Heading Out Review

Heading Out offers a unique and stylish experience that’ll keep players hooked in as they venture across the roads of America to escape their past. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be for everyone, but I was captivated by its clever blend of player-driven storytelling, resource management, and, of course, exciting vehicular showdowns on the road. I did suffer through a few technical issues here and there whilst the lack of variety on the tracks was a little underwhelming, but they’re minor issues in what is otherwise one of the more unique gaming experiences I’ve had for some time.

Developer: Serious Sim
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed)
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1640630/Heading_Out/