I will never be the same again….
Never has a game made me cower on the spot and not want to move. Never has a game flooded my body with so much fear, anxiety and dread before to the point I start becoming VERY aware of my surroundings. You are literally cast into the darkness of the unknown when you play Outlast.
Unbeknownst to him, Miles Upshur is about to uncover the story of a lifetime. He’s an investigative journalist who takes the questionable decision to investigate Mount Massive psychiatric asylum, at night no less.
This institution is not what it appears; actually that’s a lie, it’s exactly how it appears. It had been closed for many years until a suspicious corporation re-opens it under new management. Miles thinks this could be the story to showcase his journalistic ability to the world.
I took the bold decision to play Outlast with the lights off and with my headphones plugged into the PS4 controller. Almost immediately the ambience sent chills up and down my spine. The front gate closing shut, the crunching underfoot as I ominously approached the scary looking building of death. You can’t appreciate just how much more you can become engrossed and intimidated playing it this way. But if you can handle it, then do it!
Once inside you realise that dimly lit areas are going to be prevalent in the story. Thankfully, Miles has a camcorder which becomes a crucial gameplay tool for you to survive. By filming, you get to see how long you’ve been playing for and you can also make the world somewhat visible again; for a limited time.
The camera has night vision and in order to keep a sustained light source for your camera, you need to regularly find batteries as every battery seems to have laughably woeful life span. BUT it adds to the intensity and drama of the game and boy, it really can get to you.
Your camera becomes your tool that you can’t bear to part with and it becomes a neat little narrative device in itself. The idea of filming everything to show the world is great and you also use it to film key events that happen as you progress. Anything from a fountain of blood filled with dismembered bodies (sadly this is normal for Outlast) to 3 grossly deformed men sitting around and watching a broken TV with no signal except static.
You can’t appreciate just how f#@$%*g scary that actually is. This creates an incredibly tense atmosphere with its brilliant use of music and sounds. Sharp noises, loud noises, dramatic fast-paced music etc it’s all here. Any music horror cliché you can think of, Outlast uses it. But what makes it stand out from the rest is that it immerses you in its disturbing world.
Following on from the recent rejuvenation in the survival-horror genre with popular games such as Amnesia and Slender, Outlast utilises the same gameplay formula of being unable to bestow physical violence to any entity that wants to harm you. Just like you had to run from Slender Man, you have to run from the Variants.
The Variants are genetically altered humans that the Asylum has used as test subjects with varying results of pain, suffering and graphic gore. The aim was to use nanotechnology to enhance human capabilities, but the crazy doctor and his team were remorseless in their attempts and now the asylum is overrun by crazies; MORE SO.
During the 4-6 hours long campaign you’re provided with plenty lots of scares and potential nightmares. There is some standout moments that could leave you haunted for hours and there are plenty of jump scares.
Sadly though the game really does start to lose momentum in its final third as some of the tasks you have to do become laborious and predictable; as do the scares. The objectives are usually very similar throughout in that you have to find a set amount of something, or activate a set amount of something and get from A to B. By the end it becomes very boring as you know you have to do this whilst predictably being chased by the same couple of enemies.
Early on, every character you encounter is either crazy, terrifying or both. Father Martin, a crazy priest that wants you to follow his cult? Crazy. Random 8 foot Variant that looks like a cross between the Hulk and The Thing from the Fantastic Four? Terrifying. Two naked twins that calmly and gently talk about which bits of you they want after they murder you. Very crazy and very terrifying.
But once more, my level of expectation had risen and was expecting even more indescribably horrible monsters. But it reached a point where I realised that our roster of threat is all we’re going to get which was very disappointing. When it comes to ‘genetic modification’ you can pull out an easel and start designing nasty things that do belong in nightmares. Who’s to say you couldn’t create a whole new family of horrors? So I was a bit disappointed having to encounter the same enemies throughout the game.
The graphics are very good though I must admit, having never played it on the PC I didn’t really know what to expect. But the water ripple’s nicely as you traverse a dank sewer and the textures are quite nice too.
But the environments were a snooze fest and quite unimaginative. I was actually astounded at the lack of imagination. Yes I know it’s an asylum so that means lots of rooms and corridors etc. But it was lacking something and lots of the same corridors and sewer areas just bored me. The only remotely interesting areas were the medical ward section of the game and being outside. Again though, it’s like we’ve been thrust into the solar eclipse to end all solar eclipses as it was so dark.
There is definitely incentive to revisit this most unspeakable place as you have the key events to record as I mentioned previously, which are cool as Miles records his thoughts on these events in note form. Some are definitely worth getting as his mindset does clearly worsens as time goes on. There are also documents to find which are usually logs concerning patient progress or notes left citing concerns about the work environment.
If you can conquer Outlast then why not step right up little fella and try your luck at INSANE MODE. It is aptly named as you would have to be insane to try this. Quite simple really, limited health, limited batteries, no checkpoints and no second chances; finish the game or you fail. Good luck with that!
+An ambience to die for
+Good story with collectibles to further develop it
+Horrifically tense gameplay that keeps you on edge
-Slightly dull environments
So to summarise, is Outlast worth playing? Absolutely. Whether you love horror games or flinch at the sight of a bug; you should play this game. It’s a journey that is stifled by its own lack of creativity and too much familiarity as much as anything. Enemies and objectives become as repetitive as a strain injury. But the scares and the experience are unlike any other. Just imagine you’re in a haunted house with Mike Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, it wouldn’t induce half as much terror as Friday the 13th’s Nightmare in Mount Massive Asylum would.