Released in the summer of 1999, Outcast was the pinnacle of the hot new technological trend hoping to render (ha!) video cards obsolete: voxels. We were to be liberated from an ill-conceived 3D arms race in favor of CPU-focused, voxel ray casting engines. The problem was that games like Half-Life had already been released a year before, leaving some of the more impressive graphical feats like snow, rippling water, large rolling hills and shadows playing across character models not quite the industry shaking innovation they would have been a couple years before had the game released on time.
Outcast was more than an attempt at technical trailblazing, though. Fully voice acted and backed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Outcast did a lot to set the stage for the open world games we enjoy so much now. You play as Cutter Slade, a US Navy Seal who finds himself in another dimension and trying to save the earth, all while juggling a population who thinks he’s a God. This is plausible when you consider that it takes place in the far flung future of 2007. In what has now become a mainstay of modern game design, you spend a lot of time navigating the open 3D world, getting into random, real-time shootouts with unfriendly factions and running quests to further the story.
While hybrids are common now, the action/adventure/sandbox blend was pushing all kinds of envelopes in 1999. Outcast had some of the main tenets of story driven, open world exploration games like Fable popularized, all while Peter Molyneux was still mucking about with giant cows in Black and White. The best part is that in the age of dual-core CPUs, everyone can enjoy Outcast at the opulent 512x384 resolution, something few could manage with the hefty Pentium III, 128 MB RAM requirements back in the day. If you're feeling brave you could try the demo, or hope against hope that fans remake the original in a modern engine. We're not likely to ever see a modern sequel, Belgian developer Appeal shut down in the early stages of development with their slick new 3D engine. That's what you get for abandoning voxels.