2, Issue 14
February 29, 2000
"Think Hard...Think Real Hard, You Poor Dope"
the attack of the square jawed he-men.
Slade, star and alpha male of Outcast, is another in that
prestigious long line of wisecracking, tough talking, hairy knuckle
type action heroes. And what a bunch they are, the kind of guys
who open beer bottles with their teeth and tell people annoying
them to “skip it.” These thick necked types are the life blood
of the adventure genre, from megaplex blockbusters to comic books
and to video games, which is not surprising when you consider
that most storylines go for sensation rather than sincerity.
not to say that “roguish charm” doesn’t have its place or that
watching some hardbody’s smirking antics can’t be good escapist
fun. Even when clumsily handled, the monosyllabic cynicism of
tough guys and their snorting contempt for “the rules” amounts
to at least a few laughs for the audience, if only derisive ones
Slade, all around professional gruff talker, is Outcast’s
resident bad boy, a smart-alecky military type who can be relied
on to “do the job.”
cinematics are broken into two sections, the prologue or the “so
what’s this all about” material, and the introduction to the game
play proper. It’s all centered around Slade, our hero and surrogate
body during the adventure. When we first see him, he is lounging
in a darkened, sleazy looking bar and is at least sober enough
to make a few grumbling quips to the officer who comes to collect
him (which is a shame if only because I would love to have seen
him stumble around drunkenly while trying to be so hard bitten).
The problem is that, with their ‘round the clock five o’clock
shadows and form fitting t-shirts, the goon squad of strong arm
action heroes are, while often fun, also painfully ever present,
especially in the video game world. The type is so clichéd that
the portrayal of Slade’s character is the most distractingly annoying
thing about Outcast’s cinematics.
opens with the sound of a radio news broadcast recapping the recent
discovery of the existence of other dimensions and that travel
between them may well be possible. We watch a series of equations
and spinning chains of molecules receding before us within a shimmering
blue field. The voices overlap excitedly and are even interwoven
with the high pitched warble of AM radio interference, a wonderful
touch. We keep pulling back until it’s revealed that all the
molecules are in fact the inner world of ice cubes resting in
a glass full of Slade’s booze. The commander is “asked” to come
along and the top brass let’s him know that a probe sent into
another dimension was destroyed by something on the other side,
starting a chain reaction that threatens to destroy the Earth.
Cutter and three others are sent across to find the probe and
repair it, hopefully repairing the dimensional tear as well.
pretty standard fair, a few things make this opening stand out.
is very nicely done, “life-like” without being cloyingly so.
of the characters are conservative and realistic, having an almost
rotoscoped smoothness. The voice characterizations come across
as pleasantly grounded in their respective animated bodies, sounding
surprisingly comfortable and informal as if these really were
people acting in front of you. The designs of the dimensional
rip is also nicely imagined, sensational without being over the
top. The actual process of dimension jumping is refreshingly
involved yet also B-movie vague, making a nice change from the
simplified magical zippo-bang science of the average game. As
Slade gets into a machine that fills an entire room, we watch
a multi-step process unfold that feels both satisfyingly complicated
and comic bookishly exciting. We watch our hero pulled off into
the universe and then he’s gone.
section begins with Slade awaking to alien faces in a strange
land. Separated from his fellow earthlings, Slade is informed
by his camel looking host that he is the “Ulukai” (forgive the
phonetic spelling), the savior who the aliens have been waiting
for; Slade is predictably unimpressed. This intro proper is heavy
on the information as, indeed, it must be. Yet the creators take
steps to not let the need for story set up bog the whole thing
down. Slade and “Alien” spend much of the piece looking at each
other and talking, something the average film watcher is inclined
to deride as “box office poison,” but the possibility of stagnation
is circumvented by the use of subtle “camera” movements during
the conversation. The “camera” occasionally tracks toward and
away from the two figures, even moving around them in arcs, all
just enough that it feels deliberate but not intrusive.
intrusive is Slade. The character is clichéd, but especially
annoyingly so. The vocal performance is quite good, not too flamboyantly
husky, but the dialogue is rather tired. It’s just the same old
bit but for some reason in Outcast it really weighs everything
else down. This may be because the rest of the cinematics are
so unobtrusively well crafted that to see something so cliché
is to watch the illusion crumble.
the defects of the Slade character, the rest of the piece is quite
good, particularly the prologue. Solid design and animation coupled
with a subtle touch makes for a quiet success.
Joshua Vasquez is the resident film critic here at loonygames.
He also writes for the Internet film site Matinee