Heading Out Review: A Memorable Road Trip Adventure

Heading Out main art

Heading Out main art

Inspired by classic 1970s car chase and road trip films, Heading Out is a narrative-focused driving game from Polish developer Serious Sim. Out now on PC, it mixes different genres to create a unique blend of driving, resource management, and visual novel storytelling.

Drive to survive

Split into four acts, the story sees you play as a mysterious outlaw known as the ‘Interstate Jackalope,’ racing across America to chase down the world’s greatest driver while running away from your fears. These fears constantly chase you as you put the pedal to the metal and head for the open road, represented as an ominous red mist on the map. 

Heading Out's story is told through animated comic book-style stills accompanied by a gritty voiceover. The ambiguous plot delves into emotional themes like grief, denial, and anger.

a black and white drawing of a car driving down a road .
expand image

Your character’s backstory, personality, and morality are shaped by how you respond to questions at the start of each chapter, with subjects ranging from relationships to fears and regrets. Playing like a visual novel, this innovative storytelling method makes Heading Out a unique experience, unlike any other driving game. 

As you tear across America, you’ll encounter colorful characters who give you challenges or moral dilemmas, from helping stranded hitchhikers to fulfilling a crash victim’s dying wish.

Every decision has consequences that affect your reputation, opening different story choices, dialogue choices, and multiple possible endings. A high reputation also makes people more likely to help you on your journey. These diverse scenarios make the story engaging and unpredictable, as you never know what you will encounter next on the road.

Hands off the wheel

Watch the cinematic launch trailer, and you might think Heading Out is a high-octane car chase game harking back to the Driver games. This is misleading because you spend surprisingly little time behind the wheel. Instead, around half your time is spent managing resources.

Outside of driving missions, your journey switches to an overhead map where you choose a route to the destination and manage your money, car maintenance, and focus. Having to balance these results leads to strategic choices. For example, you can rob gas stations to save money, but this will affect your reputation and wanted level. 

Heading Out map
expand image

Managing your time wisely is essential. Losing focus causes the screen to blur as you get disorientated and eventually fall asleep at the wheel. Sleeping restores your focus but uses up time.

Likewise, your fear will quickly catch up if you spend too much time helping strangers or taking longer routes. There’s a sense of tension when managing resources, as terminally damaging your car, running out of money, or fear catching up with you results in a game over.

Once you’ve planned your route, you drive your car, represented as a dot on the map, to the next story encounter or driving mission. These play like stealth mini-games as you need to watch your speed and hit the brakes to avoid the attention of passing police cars. If you get caught, you can pull over and pay a fine or try to escape the police.

Heading Out screenshot
expand image

When you are behind the wheel, driving sections range from road races against random strangers to fleeing from the cops and rejuvenating cruises with no objectives. These driving sections usually last only a few minutes on stretches of open road and are timed to the length of the current song on the radio. There are shortcuts you can take advantage of, but the paths are otherwise linear, and repeated routes make the races and chases feel repetitive after a while.

Creating an expansive open world wasn’t feasible for the small team, but the short driving sections interspersed with resource management on a 2D map make the road trip feel less epic.

Rubber banding AI can also make races frustrating, causing opponents to magically reappear behind your bumper after leaving them in the dust. Behind the wheel, the driving has a sense of heft you would expect when wrestling a 1970s muscle car around. However, they can feel too slippery and unrefined, making it easy to lose control and oversteer into obstacles.  

Have an opinion on this article? We'd love to hear it!

A stylish homage to 1970s car chase movies

Presented in black and white, Heading Out’s stylish visuals stand out. Splashes of color highlight road signs, rival cars, and the red mist fear, giving the game a comic-book-style appearance similar to Sim City.

There is some occasional pop-in, but the game runs smoothly on Steam Deck, even though support for Valve’s handheld isn’t fully verified. However, playing on a PC is recommended, as some players may find it hard to read the small text on the Steam Deck’s screen during the narrative cut scenes.

Heading Out screenshot in-car
expand image

Complimenting the comic book-style visuals is a well-curated and atmospheric soundtrack. An eclectic mix of jazz and rock tracks adds intensity to the chases or chilled vibes when cruising the open road.

While Heading Out pays homage to classic car chase movies like Thelma and Louise, Smokey and the Bandit, and Death Proof, Vanishing Point is the most blatant inspiration. Released in 1971, the cult classic road movie focuses on Kowalski, a driver-for-hire who delivers a muscle car on a drug-infused cross-country trip from Colorado to California in under 15 hours.

Not only is Heading Out’s hero car inspired by Kowalski’s iconic white Dodge Challenger RT (completing each story chapter unlocks more movie-inspired cars), but the random encounters, psychological themes, and Americana soundtrack evoke a similar atmosphere to Vanishing Point.

Radio hosts also react to your actions in a nod to Super Soul, the DJ in Vanishing Point who helps Kowalski by listening to police scanners, but the dialogue is often repeated. This combines to make Heading Out feel like the Vanishing Point game adaptation we never had.

Heading Out isn’t what many players will expect from watching the trailer. While it has issues and won't be for everyone, Serious Sim deserves credit for providing a unique take on the driving genre with a compelling story that effectively captures the atmosphere of a cross-country road trip.

Heading Out
Heading Out isn’t the Driver spiritual successor some may be hoping for, but the engaging story with tough moral choices, stylish visuals, and interesting RPG elements make up for it. The result is an uneven but memorable road trip adventure worth going along for the ride.
7 out of 10

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the latest racing game news and deals straight to your inbox!

This Article's Topics

Explore new topics and discover content that's right for you!

Have an opinion on this article? We'd love to hear it!