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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Heading Out

Developer: Serious Sim

Publisher: Saber Interactive

Available on: PlayStation 4 & 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

I call it America’s "Blue" moment. It is the 70s. Upheaval is everywhere. Draconian establishments are being deplatformed. The last soldiers have left Vietnam. Government corruption runs amok within the American capital. It’s getting harder and harder to afford the bare necessities like milk and eggs. Some have hunkered down to suffer and those with the means to escape to a hopeful and better life. This is Heading Out. 

With a tank of gas, a sturdy muscle car, and your wits, players set off across a dystopian America, where anything can happen, all in a bid for a new life. Players will encounter everything from cops to drug dealers. Gas and rest will be just one of the things that players will have to manage. However, the biggest enemy to conquer is not how fast one can go but to escape the biggest enemy of all: Fear. 

Born in the USA

Heading Out caught my eye at PAX East 2024 this past March. The black and white greyscale immediately caught my attention as it appeared plucked straight out of a graphic novel. The graphic novel inspirations were further confirmed as the story told itself through various panels. I knew I was in for a unique adventure. What I got was a complex and emotionally driven narrative that is certainly going to make my list of the year’s best. 

America is dystopian. Drugs, joblessness, the works. You had a life that was solid and grand and then it steadily fizzled into nothingness. You’ve tried everything to get back only your feet the old-fashioned way, but all options are exhausted. There is a car and a tank of gasoline. Somehow, there is a means to escape and start anew in Canada, despite the fact that Canada is in a Civil War. What you do is up to you, but you need to get to the border. In the name of a better life, it has to be worth it. 

Nowhere to run, Nowhere to Go

Heading Out is a narrative adventure with procedural generation and roguelike elements. The objective is to meet up with the fastest racer, marked in blue. This mysterious racer holds the key to your freedom. Along the way, players travel from point A to point B. How they get there is entirely up to them. Want to go through Chicago? You could. Want to go south through Oklahoma? You could too. As the tagline for the game goes, it’s not the destination but the journey. 

Players have no weapons. Only choices to make and sick driving skills. Each route presents unique challenges for the player. One job might be to deliver a package for a little cash. Other challenges include racing other drivers, evading the cops, and meeting others for information. Between stops at cities, players need to get rest and maintain focus as well as repair the vehicle. This keeps players sharp as they make it to their destination. 

Heading Out On The Road

Some moments aren’t easy. Helping a drunk man to a homeless shelter may get you tagged by police and a chase ensues. Giving money to a sick person may cost cash but will mean you have a good standing with everyone. Whatever way you want to present yourself is up to the player. A good reputation may mean others trying to help you but also for the cops to know who you are. A lower reputation may keep you below the radar but unlikely to receive any help. It’s a playstyle that caters to how you are feeling.

A very unique feature that Heading Out performs is to leave the story almost entirely to your whim, as if the game handed you the pen. The beginning of each act asks one or two deeply personal questions. It won’t go terribly deep but it’ll ask if you are single and if you are in a relationship, as one example. These questions, then the decisions made, shape the story. While there is a mostly set beginning and ending, everything else is up to the player. Even the player isn’t specifically listed as male or female, just a person wearing attire clearly inspired by the Ryan Gosling movie Drive. 

Medal to the Medal

In addition to Drive, the story is unmistakably inspired by the rebellious cinema of the '70s: American Graffiti, The Outsiders, and even Easy Rider. The '70s was a true time of the American Rebel, born out of the fires and chaos of the '60s. Rules were meant to be broken, and the '70s saw many rules ground to dust. Heading Out is a gaming metaphor for this world. As the player drives, the radio breaks out with all sorts of happenings. Some serious, like a friend OD’ing, and some silly, like a proposal over the airwaves. At times, this tonal shift is very hit and miss but for the most part, it works. 

The game does handle the aspects of fear quite well and plays into that psychology of a car being something of a blessing and a curse for one’s problems. Fear can be suffocating and harmful. Fear of failure. Fear of not finding happiness. Fear of being alone. However, with a tank of gas, some money, and a car, perhaps it is possible to find freedom. As each act unfolds the stakes get higher and the opportunities grow. Soon enough, races get tougher and cops get more aggressive. Players have to balance more items from money to cigarettes.

Bug in the grill

Being that the central point is driving, driving is incredibly satisfying. The game genuinely feels like players are in control of a powerful, engine-heavy muscle car and every roar is a roar to freedom and a new beginning. Evading the cops and racing is exciting as well. No power-ups mean good, lean, and pure driving is essential. Shortcuts and knowing when to apply the brakes and drift are important. The soundtrack is excellent in underscoring the feeling one would feel racing against fear and anyone standing in the way. 

If there’s any setback to Heading Out, it may not be for everyone. Someone might be expecting a good lean racing video game with tons of action but this is a rather deep take on mental health and the environment, as well as what the fear of fear does to a person. There are moments of levity and outrageousness but it's a surprisingly bold experience that gets one thinking.


Having said that, games that can provoke a question have something important to say. One might say “Go to therapy.” but Heading Out is kind of an essay on personal freedom, and the feeling of overcoming fear. Fear is constantly represented by red in an otherwise grey world. If one can overcome fear, one can overcome anything. 

Heading Out is one of the most memorable games of 2024. Its visual style and unique gameplay are entertaining but its story and setup give one plenty to think about. The world is changing. People are finding new reasons to live. Are you ready to escape fear and go for it? The car is running. 


Reviewed on Steamdeck thanks to Sandbox Strategies.

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