Heading Out Review – On The Road Again

Image Credit: Saber Interactive.

Heading Out presents a lot of intriguing ideas regarding its narrative, gameplay, and aesthetics. Combining a narrative-driven roguelike adventure with the look and feel of a classic noir movie that touches on the current state of affairs in America is, on paper, a home run.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t consistently deliver on this premise. Whether due to untapped potential, shallow gameplay, or performance issues, Heading Out can’t live up to its expectations. 

Heading Out Is Filled With Style But Lacks Substance

Players assume the role of Jackie, better known as a renegade driver called the “Interstate Jackalope.” While the game presents you trying to outrun your fears, there are additional motives presented at the start of your run. As a roguelike, each run has an intended destination. Getting there involves choosing from a branching pathway as you traverse America. Sure, you can take the straight shot from Ohio to Minnesota, but there’s also the chance to dilly-dally through the Great Plains and encounter more the game offers. 

You can choose your own backstory, which will change how each story plays out. Ultimately, however, things feel a little shallow. It does give a more personal feel to the notion of outrunning from generic, faceless fears. 

heading out
Image Credit: Saber Interactive.

As for the driving, Heading Out does a nice balance between simulation and arcade racing style. During my time with the game at PAX East, I recall how the developers wanted to make sure they combined accessibility and challenge. In the final release, it’s a job well done here. 

Whether it’s outrunning fears, avoiding the police, or racing others, driving is one of the better parts of the game. More often than not, I found myself doing everything I could to get back on the road. In Heading Out, that has more than one meaning.

Between races, you’ll be traversing the country, literally. Traveling to your destination is more than a simple cutscene. You’ll need to monitor your speed to avoid police and save on gas. Additionally, several events will pop up on the road. They can raise your fame, which unlocks more options, but come at the cost of precious resources and time. 

Heading Out Balances A Lot of Genres, But Nothing Ultimately Stands Out

As good as the driving is, though, it pales in comparison to other racers on the market. Granted, this is a narrative game at heart, but there lies Heading Out’s biggest problem: it does a lot of good things but nothing really great. 

There are a lot of intriguing decisions that need to be made on your journey, and they will leave somewhat of an impact. However, at the end of the day, there needs to be more of an emotional punch. It doesn’t make much sense to say that I was betrayed by someone I trusted only to perform actions that go against it.

Image Credit: Saber Interactive.

Or maybe that’s the point? Maybe that’s the country we live in today, the America that Heading Out portrays. We’re presented with a dark, depressing state of affairs, one that is echoed by radio DJs who talk after every race. Sadly, the message they’re trying to say fails to stick the landing.

They’re more annoying than anything, but thankfully, they can be skipped. It ties back into how I wish there was more meat on the bone. 

Wrapping Up

Heading Out is a great idea that can’t stick the landing. I had a lot of fun seeing how long I could outrun my fears, which led to making some decisions that I didn’t personally agree with, but I had to do what I had to do. 

Sadly, it feels like Heading Out is trying to say more than it actually does. It’s an enjoyable experience filled with style, but I wish there was more to it. 

Heading Out Review – On The Road Again
Heading Out is a unique, compelling narrative racing roguelike that presents a lot of good ideas but fails to truly follow through.
An excellent visual style that matches its vibes.
The driving is enjoyable.
Great use of a map as you traverse the country and stumble upon various encounters.
Ultimately too shallow.
Doesn't follow through on its ideas.
The decisions made don't leave enough of an impact.


Written by Jake Valentine

I am the Editor-In-Chief of BossLevelGamer. I'm also a lover of video games, food, and beer.

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