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Written by  :  Nick Drew (412)
Written on  :  Dec 30, 2006
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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Summary

Outlander captures the atmosphere of Mad Max nearly perfectly, and is a solid, fun arcade\action game.

The Good

I have to admit from the start, I’m not a huge Mad Max fan, but I think the developers here have done great things with the concept, and managed to pull off a fun game, which is freely inspired by the source material.

The game-play here is broken into two sections, firstly a driving\shooting style of play, that takes place from the first-person view point, where as you see the action through the windscreen, and car interiors are visible such as the dashboard, speedometers, rear-view mirror (which works in real-time) and the drivers’ hands are seen manipulating the steering wheel.

You speed along a desolate baron highway, and you are harassed by vermin on motorcycles, whom approach from every direction, and periodically hurl Molotov cocktails in your general direction, which you have to traverse. You can dispense with these cretins in a number of ways; you can simply run the suckers down, or shoot them with your mounted machine gun, which is fitted onto the front of your custom Trans-Am, which subsequently results in their bikes bursting into flames, and the wheels fly off and roll away in abandon, which looks quite spectacular.

However, what really got my attention was, that when the bikers approached from either side of your vehicle, a picture in picture display will appear, showing a FPS view looking out the side window, looking down the barrel of a sawn off double-barrel shotgun, and you can take pot shots at the geezer’s, and if you hit one dead on, there is a nifty animation of the biker being thrown off of their hog from the impact of the scatter blast. While all this is going on, you still have to keep an eye on the road, so you don’t find yourself crashing into signs on the road side.

The visuals here are good, and the pseudo three-dimensional vehicles work well, and the game chugs along at a respectable pace, even during the more busy moments. I suppose the visual structure of these driving sections is comparable to the likes of the ‘Road Rash’ series of games, or something like ‘The Duel Test Drive 2', just for some examples. The Genesis’s limited onscreen colour palette doesn’t pose a problem here, as the earthly colour tone of the environment evokes the desired feel of the dry, desolate atmosphere of the movie which inspired it.

Music here works well with the overall theme, and is sort of sombre, a little downbeat and some what gently harrowing. The sound effects are standard fare, with familiar gunfire and explosion effects, nothing out of the ordinary, but functional. Fairly good overall.

The second part of the game begins when you reach a stop off points, which are towns in the early parts of the game, when you are at the outskirts, and you reach cities later on. When you reach these points, your car will stop, and pull over automatically. You then proceed on foot, and the style of play changes to a side-scrolling beat em’ up/shooting affair. Depending on how much damage was dealt on you during the driving section, will dictate how much health you come into these sections with, and this is indicated on the status bar, in the form of a circular gauge at the bottom of the display.

As you move along from left to right, bikers’ advance on you from either direction, ranging from fat balding tattooed guys who attack with their fists, or woman biker’s with shotgun, and others’ that attacks on motor cycles, here with either clubs or Molotovs. You deal with them hand to hand, using punching and knee butting, or by using your trusty shotgun. There is also the occasional explosive mine appears on the path, which you have to negotiate by jumping.

When you dispatch the enemies, they sometimes drop various useful items, such as food to replenish your health, fuel or ammo for your car, among some other choice collectibles. The pacing of these sections is slower than the mayhem of the driving parts, and serves as a kind of interlude, which gives you a chance to catch your breath and gather needed supplies to aid you in your progress.

Visuals here remain smart, and the level of detail is solid. In the foreground, there are shrubs, ruins, and just to make you feel more welcome, human skulls held aloft by stakes protruding out of the earth. The backdrop consists of cloudy blue sky, dewy mountains on the horizon, and a lovely parallax scrolling desert scape, completes with numerous cacti scattered about the plane to complete the scene.

The sprite representations are also well detailed, and bear likenesses to character’s seen in the film, especially the road warrior himself.

Music here is also quite good, and sports a moody tune with a lot of base, and three distinct beats which provide an eery audio compliment. The sound samples, such as grunts and screams are short and to the point, and other incidental effects work well enough.

The title tune is also very neat, and has very mechanical overtones, and is also more upbeat, and periodically a robotic voice says “Outlander”, which sounds cool. There are a few other compositions that show up on the cart, so the variety here is better than you might expect.

The Bad

Um, er, . . . there wasn’t anything I genuinely disliked about this game.

The Bottom Line

Outlander is a fun, well produced arcade style action game, which harks back to the days of high score pursuits, with its immediate grip on the player, lots of fast-moving action, explosions and chaos, peppered with breaks in the form of the horizontal scrolling sections, before returning to the thick of it again for another burst of adrenaline fueled hi-octane madness. I was really taken by the picture in picture combat, which is really innovative, and adds a lot of spice to the proceedings. Overall, the dominating post apocalyptic atmosphere and suitably moody soundtracks nicely round out this visceral fight for survival outing. Definitely one worth checking out on Genesis.