Review: Outlast

Outlast is a recently released survival horror game, where you assume the role of Miles Upshur,  a freelance journalist investigating a mysterious project at Mount Massive Asylum…..

 

Outlast- Official Trailer

Courtesy of Red Barrels Games

How Scary is Outlast? [

Odin Plays: Outlast.

Strong Subtitled language, Probably NSFW

I recorded my very first playthrough with audio, however  the recorded audio was pretty much inaudible so I present this instead: My words…… in subtitles!

The screen fades in. You are driving. It is night time, and you are following a strange lead. You are Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist investigating the Mount Massive Asylum, based on info provided my an anonymous source. What dangers lurk within this place? What mysteries are there to be uncovered? Will you get out alive? Its all terribly clichéd, the whole bit of it, but honestly it is good fun. The story resembles that of every horror game ever, hero explores, gets trapped, must escape etc., but something about this game is different. I can’t place my finger on exactly what it is, but there IS something. Ah, yes. The gameplay.Preface note:  I am a pansy. I hate scary movies. I hate jump scares. I know, I know, Why the hell did I buy this game? Well…. it was on sale you see and…… Point is, I survived it. With dry pants at that. Oddly enough, I lose my stuff with some scary movies but this? Well, I was pretty calm throughout it. Yes there were parts that scared the %$#! out of me and made it so I couldn’t venture though my house in the dark, but really it wasn’t that bad. In fact, I liked it. I really liked it. I almost could not put it down. Well not purposely I might add, I did nearly drop my laptop a time or two. Then I switched to my TV and things got better (Or was it worse?) Cool trick kids, 20′ HDMI cables and Headset cable extenders and a nice comfy couch in a dark room, who needs energy drinks or coffee? I was awake for days. But here we go, Odin’s thoughts on Outlast : *Dun dun dunnnnnnn!*

This game is built around realism. As difficult as this is to believe, this game tries to be as realistic as it can. From the movement, the audio, the AI, the lack of ability, everything is aimed to be more of a simulation than anything. There is no map, no guidance. You are your own GPS and you must be keen and directionally efficient if you wish to make it through this game. You are also a journalist, not a prize fighter. you are assumed to not know how to fight. The entirety of the game is without fighting or shooting which is what makes this game, and others like it, a unique branch in survival horror. You are equipped with a camcorder and a few batteries. Your batteries are used to power a night vision function on your camera which is essential to the game. Hence finding batteries is a very important component of the story. But the odd thing is, there is no real objective system.

 

Nightvision is an integral part of Outlast

Nightvision is an integral part of Outlast

 

Unlike objective guided games like Bioshock or Resident Evil where you are told you need to find items, this has none. You are simply told batteries power the camera and to find them along the way. Leaving it a truly unguided search that leaves the player scrounging for batteries blindly throughout the game. There is a type of “main objective system” in this game, but it is incredibly vague and is only a quick string of words. You are told what to do but left on your own cognitive abilities to find out where to go or how to complete your task. There are no hints, and admittedly I spent the first 45 minutes of the game just wandering around waiting to die of a heart attack.

Much like in the video supplied by IGN, There are quite a few jump scares in the first 30 minutes of the game. This tactic is used to disorientate the player and give them a sense of fear early on. It is meant to force the player to carefully open doors and peek around corners and instills the fear of surprises. These jump scares are highlighted by the sharp, sudden, jerks in audio. If anything the audio is the scary part. This aim at realism is enormously apparent early on, when you first reach the gates of the asylum you are presented with a tutorial. But not a stand alone tutorial, but an interactive introduction to the asylum. You must navigate and find a way into the asylum all while getting a feel for the controls. I find this to be an amazing part of the game. When you play through that first five minutes, you get sucked in. There is rain, and lightning, and ambient sounds of wind, leaves, scratches and scraping, the audio in this game is outright glorious and horrifying.

There are points in the game where the audio is the number one fear-inducer, you will inevitably be spotted and have to run and then hide.   But where to hide? Under the bed? In the locker? Behind the shelf in the dark hallway? Yes. So you sit, and wait. Listening intently. You hear your breathing, sharp, fragmented breathing. Gasping for air but holding it in to remain silent. Then you hear the blood rushing to your ears, gushing and rushing, echoing your heartbeats as you pray for your life. Then you go cold. And you hear the inevitable. Thump. Thump. Thump. Footsteps right outside the door. Then nothing. You listen closer. Nothing. Closer still. Bang! The door flies open and the baddie appears. He walks inside and stops. Listening. Smelling the air. Looking around. And then he turns his gaze toward the bed. Slowly he walks over. And searches underneath it. Nothing there. He gets up. Walks toward the locker. Thump. Thump. Thump. Yanks the door open. Nothing there either. He turns. Eyes fixed on the dark. Slowly he walks forward. Thump. Thump. Thump. He is growing closer to where you lay. Your heart races, your breathing stops. You are dead. This is it. Prepare for death. Thump. Thump. Thump. He leaves.

 

Lockers are one of the several hiding places available throughout the game

Lockers are one of the several hiding places available throughout the game

 

The majority of the game is just this. Evasion and tension. You are hiding, running, evading, and dying. There are several points in the game where you will die. Not because its part of the story, but because of the clunky controls and the lack of direction. And with each and every death, the game becomes less scary, less tense, and just more frustrating. The game its self is a unique type of horror game, it builds on the players fears and audio deception. Yes there are jump scares but very few later on. The main source of fear, is darkness and mystery supported by audio. Much like the scenario in the above paragraph, the game keeps you guessing because you never know what is around the next corner. Everything is a mystery with this game, until the later half. Roughly halfway though the game you start to fully unravel why these “mutants” are so. You are told in the beginning about genetic modification but it isn’t until the later half of the game that you truly understand what is happening. The story is over all sort of clichéd, but during the later scenes it really picks up and provides some very unexpected twists.

 

Outlast Prison

 

Over and all I have one main complaint about this game. After a prolonged period of time where you find yourself dying, getting lost or running out of batteries, the game becomes increasingly frustrating. You may find yourself replaying a chase scene or an evasion scene only to get caught and killed multiple times. Eventually this wears down the scare factor and it become repetitive and a bit on the boring side. This can drive some people to start sprinting through the game and miss out on the creativeness of it all. The only suggestion I could make would be a navigation system, but that would defeat the whole purpose of the game. So really it is a catch 22.

Editors note: For a truly horrific playthrough, I do recommend playing with headphones and in the dark. Be warned as this is not for the faint of heart. I personally own a pair of Steelseries 5HV3 headphones and coupled with Dolby home Theater, Boy was it tense. The ability to hear the creaks in the wood and the clatter of doors and movement really made this game more intense. I could only imagine what it’d be like with 7.1 and living in Alaska….

8

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Odin

Gamer. Techie. Dog lover. Resides in The Golden State.