E3 2017: Hands-On with Outreach

Taking place in the 1980’s, Outreach explores the Lost Cosmonaut conspiracy theory which is a theory that the Soviet Union sent people to space prior to their first publically announced successful mission.

You play as a lone Russian Cosmonaut sent to replace a crew member on a space station only to find that the station has been abandoned. You don’t know where the crew is or what happened to them.

The game is a psychological thriller that takes place in zero gravity, which means you are floating and often spinning around and around in tight areas trying to piece together what happened. Navigating through small rooms and knowing that you may or may not be alone leaves a genuinely eerie vibe that feels claustrophobic and very creepy.

While talking to one of the developers, it was emphasized that their aim was to capture an authentic experience, it’s advertised as historical fiction so they wanted the game to come across as something that could have happened. This lead them to spending months researching and making sure they nailed a certain level of authenticity which shows. There doesn’t appear to be any technology or item that wouldn’t have been available during that time period. They even went as far as composing the music using Russian synthesizers from the 1980’s.

As for the gameplay, the controls are rather simple, the left shoulder button is used to stop and the right side propels your character forward. The level of interactions with everything is just a simple button press. Your goal is to piece together the story by finding terminals and audio tapes that give some insight on what happened to the missing crew and report that information to home base.

To be honest when I first started playing, it took a little time to get used to, I was a little disoriented dealing with the zero gravity. It’s a different type of experience navigating in relatively small areas while floating, but after a few minutes I found a comfort level with the controls and I was able to find out where I needed go and how to get there.

While exploring the station, I read a couple terminals that made it sound like there was some tension between the crew which likely lead to my character’s need to replace one of them. There were also other bits of information scattered throughout in audio tapes, letters and pictures, but with it being a short demo it was more about experiencing the controls and some of the gameplay elements.

At one point in the demo, I had to leave the space station and do some platforming to reach another part of the station and this is where Outreach cranked up the intensity. Space is horrifying and the game absolutely exemplifies that. The platforming involved jumping onto handles on the outside of the station till I reached a hatch that would bring me to the next part of the game and the end of the demo.

With the limited amount of control I had, I was sweating trying not to miss a handle and float away to my death. Again, there is no gravity and my controls were a stop and slight push, if I failed to reach a handle I just floated off to my death and that experience is intense as your character begins to panic and the game fades to black. This section was rather difficult to finish and I died a couple times during it, but there is a generous checkpoint system that started me back to whichever handle I was on before I died. Eventually I reached my destination and sadly as I began to open the hatch to the next section, the demo was over.

In my brief time with Outreach I was impressed with what I saw, the idea of exploring a secret Russian space station during the Cold War is fascinating. And while some of the gameplay elements are similar to other narrative driven experiences this one feels fresh because of the setting.

Outreach is slated to release on PC and Mac in Fall 2017 with consoles versions to be explored after.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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