Game Review: Outlast (PC, 2013)

aka Run Like Hell. Or Hide. Hiding works good too.

Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)

Survival horror is making a huge comeback lately. Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender: The Arrival have brought the fear back into our gaming world and back into our dreams. Why did I mention those games in particular? Because you can’t fight back against the monsters that are after you, you can only run and/or hide, and that brings us to the latest venture into fear from Red Barrels, Outlast.

You play as Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist looking to bust a story wide open. What story you ask? That brings us to the setting of the game. Mount Massive Asylum, an old run down mental institution that was reopened by a company as a example of “Good Will”. But something fishy is happening there, and you’re going to discover what that is, or die trying. Literally, you’ll probably die trying a few times, because the place isn’t deserted, it’s full of the mentally insane…and they’ve all gotten out of their cells.

You're being watched...
You’re being watched…

The gameplay is quite simple, Explore the massive asylum, armed with only a video camera (with night vision) to explore the dark and blood soaked hallways of Mount Massive. Here in lies a problem, you need to keep feeding the camcorder batteries to be able to see. This thing sucks the life out of batteries to the point where, not even Amazon would carry this product for long. As ridiculous as that is, it actually adds a sense of tension and haste to your investigation (not to mention, you just want to get the hell out of there). You quickly discover you are not alone, and you are constantly looking out for the many inmates there to cut your head off, and have sex with your dead organs (Maybe I’ve gone too far).

Found You
Found You

You have two options when you are being chased down by the insane, you can run or you can hide. If you choose to run, there are shortcut keys that allow you to look behind you as you run. Use them carefully, because you never know who else you may run into, and some of these bastards are gigantic. If you choose to hide, you can pick to hide under beds, inside lockers, behind barrels, anywhere you might want to hide. Don’t be surprised however if they find you, and you’ll have to run like hell to survive. Hiding is one of the scariest parts of the game, you wait with baited breath as you watch the crazies enter your room, walk around, even sniff to see if they can sense you.

The visuals of this game will reach out and grab you, in some places...literally they will.
The visuals of this game will reach out and grab you, in some places…literally they will.

What Worked: Let me start off by saying, this game is absolutely gorgeous. From the blood spatter walls, to the mildew infested dank basements, this game has incredible texturing and amazing lighting effects. It creates a mood that draws you right in, and is pretty and frightening all at the same time.

Let me also add, the sound design here is top notch. Whispers around corners, footsteps through blood, the heavy and sometimes obnoxious breathing of your character, all adds to the mass tension you will feel inside the asylum.

The story is well told through a series of personal notes that your character writes and classified documents thrown about the place. The added night vision element will make you feel like you’re living the movie, [REC], and trust me, that’s a good thing. Also, if you’re looking for jump scares, this game throws them at you pretty hard.

This game is also pretty disturbing fyi.
This game is also pretty disturbing fyi.

What Didn’t Work: What’s one of the biggest problems with horror games? When you’ve gotten used to how the mechanics work, how the enemies act and the overlying theme becomes normal for you, the game is no longer frightening. This happens in Outlast unfortunately. Eventually, you stop becoming afraid of enemies, you just find them annoying at how many appear out of nowhere, and those jump scares you were loving, don’t really phase you anymore.

The character designs don’t really change much, which takes away from the creep factor. When almost every inmate looks the same, they don’t seem to be quite as horrifying anymore after awhile. There are also areas of the game that don’t make sense or suggest characters that will never appear (The Woman’s Ward is a place, but there are no female prisoners)

Also, the ending is not very satisfying, not going to say more.

Sights like these are everywhere, be ready for gore.

Final Score: 

Great gameplay mechanics, amazing environment design, fascinating story and a solid sound design make this game worth playing. If they had worked a little harder on variation for character design and relying less on jump scare moments, this would have received a GREAT, but it’s close…

Outlast gets a 7.5/10 and is available only on PC for now, eventually for PS4.

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Movie Review: You’re Next (2011)

Reviewed by: CinematiChris (Chris Filipowicz)

Coming off a summer season of largely mediocre and nearly indistinguishable films, it was about time we filmgoers got something. Telling the story of a dysfunctional wealthy family having a reunion that goes seriously FUBAR,  Adam Wingard’s recently released film YOU’RE NEXT was the nice change of pace to soothe our rough summer.

The film starts with a preliminary setup murder by the mysterious people in animal masks to show that the neighborhood the main characters are about to inhabit is not that friendly. After that, we are slowly introduced to the Davison family reuniting at their vacation house, though really,  the only important characters are Crispian and Erin, his girlfriend. They are the main characters, and pretty much the only ones with enough backstory to actually count as such. Shortly after everyone arrives, the dinner starts, and of course, bickering erupts among the siblings. This goes on for what seems like 10 straight minutes…Who hasn’t seen enough of that in films by now anyway? Certainly not adult moviegoers, evidently! Luckily, this is interrupted before it gets excrutiating by a stray crossbow bolt going through Ti West’s character’s face. I almost felt like I was getting some payback for having to see “M is For Miscarriage” in the middle of ABC’s of Death. But that’s another disgrace to be discussed another day.

Of course, this is were it seriously hits the fan. The family panics and finds out they are being hunted by 3 men in animal masks. Needless to say, people die, a surprising hero rises and thrills ensue…

 

What Worked: 

The film has a very dark and effective sense of humor. If you’re a gorehound, you may see some of these jokes coming, but likely you’ll still appreciate them nonetheless.  On a side-note, the film seems pretty well researched, with one of the characters making pretty much every “right” move for the scenario. Normally home invasion films have a hero who gets by on sheer luck and happenstance, but Sharni Vinson’s Erin kicks some serious ass, and that’s because she’s a completely capable woman. She doesn’t need a male protector figure or luck, she’s got the knowledge and skill to do what’s necessary to get out of the situation alive.

Also, the soundtrack and score kicked ass. The score brought a nice grindhouse vibe to the whole affair, while the use of this song was really effective in both hiding the killer’s intent and contradicting the mood. Definitely something I’d buy if they released it on iTunes… Subtle hint, Lionsgate and Icon!

What Didn’t:

The script and some of the actors were re-hee-hee-ally bad. While in some parts it created a nice grindhouse feel, other times, especially in the first act, it really made me tempted to leave the theater. Luckily I didn’t, and you all can get this review.

Final Score: 

Okay

In the end, I’d give the film a 6 out of 10. Probably worth a rental or checking out if/when it’s on Netflix.

Movie Review: Riddick (2013)

Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)

We live in a world of movies that are remade, rehashed, or are made into many needless sequels. There is also now a growing trend of movie series that seemed to have died out, coming back after many years. Riddick, is one of those movies. With Vin Diesel backing the project with his own money, one of sci-fi’s most beloved action heroes returns to the screen, but how did it work out?

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Riddick, starts on a good note. It establishes what previously happened in the previous film and how he ended up on the planet we see him on this time around. Pretty standard set up but a good refresher course in the history of our protagonist. In an effort to keep from spoiling the film, I’ll keep major details, of course, secret. What you can know though, is that the first act of the film could be almost compared to, I Am Legend, this sequence of Riddick showcases him attempting to survive the harsh landscape, finding food, water, and even a canine companion. We get acclimated to his new temporary home, and most of the audience will fall in love with the pup.

Then, we hit our second act, and the bounty hunters come along and start to cheese up the place. We have our two rag tag crews competing to capture Riddick, one crew wants the money, the other, wants something else entirely from him. It’s a colorful cast of different personalities with different sets of awfully (mostly funny) written dialogue. The problem with these characters and how they are presented, is that you never really care about any of them, I immediately wanted Riddick to come in and murder them all, mainly because the acting talents are pretty low this time around.

You’ll know when Act 3 kicks into gear, when you recognize the scenario from Pitch Black. It’s time to leave the planet and not get killed by the vicious inhabitants of the planet. I don’t think I really need to explain much more than that here, it’s fairly simple and also a rather short portion of the movie, which perplexes me, because this should have been the movie’s bread and butter, and it spreads the excitement rather thin. (Now I want toast)

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What Worked: Say what you want about Vin Diesel’s acting talent, but when it comes to Riddick, you can tell he’s very passionate about being in character. There’s a reason this film is named after him, because you could care less about the mercenaries, you’re watching this for him and he’s pretty spot on for most of the film.

The Special Effect work is also worth noting to be pretty well done (more or less the first two acts I would say are well done), models are crisp, the matting on the landscape green screen is pretty sharp, and the CGI animals are designed quite well.

The Make up Effects and gore are also put together well, the best gag of the movie being “Head in the Box.” That’s all I will say, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

ImageWhat Didn’t Work: The Third Act (In this reviewer’s opinion) falls flat on it’s face. It moves too fast, the visual effects get lazy and shoddy (look at the hover bikes especially) and the script for the film becomes almost unbearable for me to listen to, the one liners are no longer silly in a good way, the action scenes are not as exciting anymore, I stifled many a yawn finishing this film (And I’m not saying that to sound like a snob, I’m noting this as I got bored, and that’s a hard feat to accomplish when I watch movies)

For those of you who first heard what I had to say, may have thought I was too harsh on poor ol’ Riddick, and maybe I was. The first and most of the second act were passable, I was entertained, and I could ignore the shoddy acting because it was cheesy, but in mostly a good way. To be fair, I had perhaps too high of expectations and that’s why it didn’t excite me as much, when you see the film, maybe lower expectations and you’ll have a better time than I did.

Final Score:

 mediocreWhile it’s nice to see such passion from Vin Diesel, bringing back a much beloved character to the big screen, overall the film lacks excitement, a passable script, and the attentions to detail that could have made this sci-fi romp a lot more enjoyable, instead of just plain cheesy. 5 out of 10.

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