Heading Out is a Stylish Homage to Classic Car Chase Movies

Heading Out Preview: A stylish homage to classic car chase movies

Heading Out Preview: A stylish homage to classic car chase movies

Forget Fast & Furious. The '70s and '80s were the golden eras of car chase films, with cult classics like the original Gone in 60 Seconds, Vanishing Point, and Smokey and the Bandit.

Developed by Polish studio Serious Sim, Heading Out is a unique, narrative-focused driving game that pays homage to these beloved Hollywood road movies.

We had a chance to play the opening act and speak to technical artist Marcin Krzeszowiec to find out how Heading Out is taking you on a road trip you’ll never forget.

Heading for the open road

Work on Heading Out began four years ago. At the time, only four people were working at Serious Sim, but the team soon expanded as Heading Out’s scope grew, with a unique mix of racing, strategy, and storytelling.

“We try to find new ways to create games and mix genres. Creating something unique is always risky,” Krzeszowiec told RacingGames.

Heading Out screenshot
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Billed as a “narrative road movie racing game,” Heading Out sees you hop into a hefty muscle car, put the pedal to the metal, and head for the open road. As you run away from your fears, you'll tear through cities, highways, and dirt roads across America in an "emotional trip of discovery."

“We want the player to enjoy and live the fantasy of a road trip through America inspired by old movies like Vanishing Point and Thelma and Louise,” said Krzeszowiec.

Other film inspirations include Duel, Drive, Easy Rider, Two Lane Black, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and Death Proof. Serious Sim was also inspired by games like Need for Speed The Run’s cross-country racing, Driver’s white knuckle car chases, and Jalopy’s road trip gameplay and emergent story.

“Driving films disappeared from cinema," Krzeszowiec reminisced. "You rarely see good driving movies anymore. We thought we couldn’t make a movie, but we could create a game to show the same adventure in a more interactive way.”

On the run

While story-focused racing games don’t have a stellar reputation, the narrative is an integral part of Heading Out. Rather than customising your appearance like in RPG games, you shape your character’s personality by answering psychological questionnaires.

At the start, you’re asked about your feelings for your first love, your relationship status, and your greatest regret, with each act exploring new themes. “What are your fears? What is your family situation? What is your first love? The answers you give in the questionnaire build a narrative,” Krzeszowiec explained.

Heading Out screenshot
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Krzeszowiec was tight-lipped about specific story details but teased that players can expect a “unique twist” at the end. There’s a constant sense of dread as you’re always on the run from a mysterious threat. We’re intrigued to see how the story pans out after the opening act ends on a cliffhanger that references Vanishing Point’s surprise ending.

“The player wishes to run away from their problems and escape from reality. They are stuck in this loop of running away because they don’t know why yet,” Krzeszowiec explained.

As you drive through the American West, you’ll encounter mysterious characters, enter illegal street races, and get chased by the police. Between these encounters, the action switches to an overhead view of the map, with your car represented as a dot as you drive to the destination.

Heading Out screenshot map
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These sections play like a stealth minigame, as you’ll need to slow down to avoid the attention of passing police cars. However, leaving the road did break the immersion at times, with each encounter only lasting a few minutes.

While the location isn’t a fully open world, you can choose your own path across America at set points in the story, presented in animated cut scenes. There's some light resource management, too, as you’ll need to maintain your car’s condition and fuel by earning cash in street races along the way.

Every encounter is randomised and changes depending on the time of day and location. “We want the player to feel like every journey is unique and personalised for them. A lot of the mechanics are tailored to the choices you make.”

Heading Out screenshot events
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With over 100 encounters, Serious Sim estimates an average playthrough will take between eight and 12 hours, but rogue-lite elements will increase the replayability. Every choice you make has consequences that influence the story, your fame, and your reputation.

In one scenario, our character accidentally hit a dog, leaving you with the choice of helping their owner bury their deceased pet or callously driving away.

“It’s very rarely a good or bad choice. You often must choose the lesser evil. But we don’t want to force the player into making only bad or good decisions. It’s about choosing and experiencing your own path,” said Krzeszowiec.

“If you want to be an evil driver, the game will not punish you for that. Or if you want to be a good Samaritan and help everyone, that’s also possible. But something is chasing you - those are your fears, and they push you forward to run and go faster. Sometimes you’ll need to make difficult choices.”

Going for a drive

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You start behind the wheel of an American muscle car inspired by Vanishing Point’s iconic Dodge Challenger R/T, which Driver fans will recognise as the hero car in Driver San Francisco. Completing each act unlocks a new movie-inspired car - the car teased in Act 2 looked like the hot rod truck in Two-Lane Blacktop.

Four cars will be included initially, but Serious Sim says the car roster may expand in the future.

Heading Out screenshot
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As for the driving, Krzeszowiec says the car handling falls “somewhere in the middle” between arcade and simulation. Muscle cars feel suitably heavy yet responsive to control. “We wanted it to be accessible so the game is easy to learn but hard to master. The driving is based on physics so there are a lot of physics calculations – it’s not arcade driving,” said Krzeszowiec.

Radio stations play a key role in making you feel like you're in a road trip movie. In a nod to Vanishing Point’s radio DJ, each host has a distinct personality and acts “like a partner for the player.”

“Player’s actions are often commented on the radio. We have a huge number of radio hosts who not only show the main narrative arc but also pinpoint decisions the player makes.” If you win a race or steal money, you’ll hear the hosts react to your actions on the radio. They'll either cheer you on or condemn you.

Heading Out screenshot
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Accompanying your journey is an in-house soundtrack inspired by artists like Mumford & Sons, Audioslave, and R.EM. Serious Sim even plans to release an EP of Heading Out’s soundtrack. “We wanted to create a soundtrack that will be perfect if you want to go for a night drive in your car and pop on the radio.”

Heading Out's unique art style creates a moody atmosphere. While most modern racing games prioritise realistic graphics, Heading Out adopts a comic book-inspired art style. In a bold design choice, the visuals are predominately black-and-white. Not everyone was on board with the presentation at first.

“The game changed a lot visually over the last four years. Our art director and main writers are big comic book fans.” Heading Out was originally going to be black and white only Serious Sim added splashes of colour, which helpfully highlight road signs and indicators to direct the player.

The result not only looks striking but suits the team's limited size and budget. “If we went for a more realistic style like Forza or Need for Speed, we would fail. So, we went for this highly stylised aesthetic. At the same time, we thought it would look cool. I think it came out great.”

Heading Out is an intriguing mix of speed and storytelling, but whether it can break the curse of narrative-focused racing games remains to be seen. As a love letter to classic car chase movies, this could be the closest we’ll get to a new Driver game.

Heading Out launches on 7 May and is available to wishlist on Steam. Serious Sim is open to porting it to consoles in the future, but this will depend on the Steam release’s success. If you’re going to Pax East this week, you can play a demo of Heading Out between 21 and 24 March.

Will you be taking a road trip in Heading Out? Let us know in the comments below.

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