Going from GDC to PAX East was a trek I didn’t expect would be so daunting, especially as someone coming from Indonesia to the US. But it was all worthwhile, thanks to the awesome games I got to see and the wonderful people I got to talk to. At PAX, I started off strong with Heading Out, and while I didn’t know much about it, I was captivated by its unique way of structuring its gameplay loop in a way that focuses on storytelling with a roguelike coating on top.

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In my playthrough, I was able to play the first act of four to give me a little taste of the overall gameplay and story. It starts out with you selecting different choices to build your player's backstory, which affects the events that appear later on, and then you are set off on the road. Your goal is to get from one spot on the map to another while managing your resources and evading the police. It is very roguelike due to the random events you can come across and how they will affect your resources, fame, and reputation. Some of these events culminate in events where you will need to manually drive to win street races or evade police to the beat of an awesome soundtrack.

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I like the little bouts of interactivity scattered throughout the game as well. For example, when you are going to new points on the map, you can speed up and risk getting police attention or go slower, which could end up using more resources. It's a balancing act, and it is nice. But, what really sold me on this is the focus on the narrative.

Heading Out places its primary focus on telling the story of why you are driving across the United States, with the events that happen throughout the journey changing little bits of the story. You will have to make choices that determine your fame and reputation bars, which end up influencing the types of events and responses you get from people you will meet on your journey. You start off running from the cops and escaping your starting city, and towards the end of Act 1, I was fighting against myself as I was uncovering more about what I am really running from and the overarching story.

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The combination of both the overarching story and the voiced-over events that give you the choices that will impact how people react to the character work together to create a compelling narrative that feels like it is of our own design, and a part of it is! The weaving in of the roguelike/randomized elements makes replaying the game to see how the story changes very appealing, and the inclusion of more intimate racing gameplay is a nice change of pace. And, with the black and white color palette, with red and yellow splatters, it feels extremely stylized and detailed, even without showing that much detail.

I even got to try Heading Out on the Steam Deck, and it runs quite well for the most part! There were some dips here and there, but with the optimization going in before launch, I would say it's a very good bet that it will be nicely playable on the Deck at release. It feels like the perfect fit to take on the go and play whenever you have a chance and easily take breaks whenever necessary, so I am going to be waiting for this one and hoping to review it closer to release!

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You can wishlist Heading Out now on Steam ahead of its May 7th release date.

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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