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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.