Outlast – PC
The Game that Ruined My Sleeping Pattern
Developer: Red Barrels Studio
Publisher: Red Barrels Studio
Release Date: September 4th, 2013
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 8.5 / 10
Reviewed by THEbipolarBear
Do you prefer to enjoy gameplay? When you play a game, would you like to feel comfortable and at home with the game’s bland setting, simple plot, and the ever-lovable static characters? As you pick up the controller, do you smile as you immerse yourself into your warm gaming world? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, Outlast is NOT for you.
Every heart-pounding second in the Outlast world makes you want to cuddle up in your mom and dad’s bed for the night, never to see the dreaded Walker or any other horrible atrocity that inhabits the game ever again. Nevermore is any situation safe after experiencing just the first few areas, and suddenly, making the descent to the basement to grab a soda makes your heart pound and your head swim, much like Daniel’s behavior in Amnesia: the Dark Descent. As soon as your fingertips reach your controller, they’re already dripping with sweat in anticipation of getting chased into a dark corner then beaten into a pulp by two brothers that own no clothes. If you yearn for this awful, lasting experience, Outlast is, in fact, for you… you sadistic gamer.
The story of Outlast is adequate but predictable. You, the protagonist, are a nobody reporter trying to make a name for yourself when a whistleblower (thus, the name of the DLC: Whistleblower) informs you of Mount Massive Asylum and the horrific events taking place there. Most of this much-needed backstory is expressed to you from a classified folder that your character picks up in the intro of the game, along with many more details. These folders and documents are strewn throughout the game for you to find and read at your own discretion. However, I wouldn’t recommend standing around for too long – there’s usually some terrible monster on your back. The story progresses from there, fairly predictably: you get locked inside the asylum, there’s a small glimmer of hope, then it’s crushed as you’re flung even farther into the madness. All of this is, of course, as usual. And although it may be foreseen, nothing is able to let you un-see any of the jump-scares or mistreated inhabitants.
Before I go into the game’s highlights, I feel the obligation to warn anyone who is reading this review to consider the following. As a horror game fanatic, I have a lot of experience throwing my controller in fear of my TV screen.Therefore, I have concluded that any horror game is focused around at least one of these aspects: atmosphere, such as screeching violins or pounding bass drums to build paranoia (looking at you, Slender), jump-scares, such as opening a door to face a sneering clown or an apparition of a blood-soaked little girl, and story, such as the horrible realization that the demon wasn’t attached to the house, it was attached to you. All of these examples have come from either a video game, horror movie, or, most likely, both. My point being, Outlast is one of the few that captures all aspects beautifully. While it may not build your paranoia the most, hiding in a flimsy locker while the one next door is smashed to pieces will get your palms sweaty. While not every jump-scare will have you falling out of your seat, turning on your night-vision camera to reveal a wildly grinning pursuer will make you jump. And while the ending is not jaw-dropping, the bits of information about the monsters within the asylum will surely raise a few goosebumps. In conclusion, this is why Outlast is such a successful horror game.
Outlast uses its music to build upon the already uncomfortable environment. Walking through a pitch-black sewer with nearly inaudible muttering? Bad enough. Adding uneasy chords and thin strings that augments the atmosphere to the levels of Amnesia’s water monster? Disturbing. Suddenly hearing quicker music with an impossible amount of intensity commanding you to run and hide even though it’s already too late? Downright maniacal. The presence of the video camera and the well-done voice acting of heavy broken breathing is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999), a truly great work of atmospheric horror. For example, picture this: as you’re hiding, the darkness settles in around you. Your grip on the video camera causes your knuckles to become white, much like your ashen face. Curiosity gets the better of you and your night-vision clicks on. Foreboding dialogue and trilling violins tell you that you made the wrong choice. The terror of your bad decision will stick with you throughout the rest of your gameplay, and will make you rethink every decision from then on.
From the early jump-scares to the final ones, every jump-scare is perfectly timed and flawlessly paired with an equally terrifying noise. The best (or worst) aspect of these jump-scares is the lack of room you have to run. Sure, you can run into a room and slam the door behind you, but that only leads your chaser to your location. And, if you’re anything like me, the controller is on the floor while you’re cowering in fear. Outlast doesn’t use the Unity engine, so a well-dressed, faceless monster with no movement animation won’t appear around the next corner. Instead, a horribly deformed face will greet you at the window. I don’t know which jump-scare floors you more, but as for me, it’s definitely the latter.
Lastly, the story of Outlast is acceptable – entertaining at best. This isn’t for the reason of lacking depth; there’s still a very involved story your character discovers. It’s simply because it’s been done before. Horror games and movies centered around asylums are EXPECTED to have a gruesome truth behind them. From A Clockwork Orange to Shutter Island, this game fits into the psychotic-inmates list TOO well. This is simply the only major area of Outlast lacking exceptional material.
All things considered, the gameplay is honestly where Outlast outshines its competition. For instance, you have a body! A real, rendered body that you can look down at during any moment of the game! Even still, it’s particularly easy to see after it’s been ripped from your head! Furthermore, besides slamming every single door shut (there’s no way to softly close a door), the mechanics are tastefully done. Your hand on the doorpost as you peek around the corner, your quick glance over your shoulder as you sprint to the next hiding spot, and your head bobbing from being smacked by a monster with a lisp all add to the complete immersive experience of a fantastically disgusting and absolutely disturbing game.
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