Happy Halloween everyone! One of my favorite holidays personally. Free candy, awesome costumes and marathons of horror movies and games. This entire month I’ve been playing horror games non-stop and I’m going to review the 4 games I played. I was gonna review “Alien: Isolation” this week but since the sequel was just announced so I’m gonna review 2013’s surprise hit “Outlast”.
“Outlast” was released to PC in 2013 and came out to great success both financially and critically, even getting better reviews then its competition “Amnesia”. Do to “Outlast”s success Canadian developer Red Barrels ported it to new-gen consoles bringing “Outlast” to a whole new audience and making it a mainstay series.
So what is “Outlast” about? In “Outlast” you play as Miles Upshur, a freelance photojournalist who was tipped off by a whistle blower about radical experiments being performed on the mental patients at “Mount Massive Asylum” in Colorado and the world must know what is happening. Miles arrives at the asylum and discovers abandoned SWAT cars every where. When he is finally able to break into the asylum he finds the state of the asylum in total disarray; furniture destroyed, TVs smashed and a near dead SWAT officer impaled on a pike. The officer in his dying breath tells Miles that “the variants escaped” and that he needs to get out while he can. Ignoring this warning Miles continues further and further into the asylum until he ‘descends’ into the fanatic insanity that has taken over the asylum. Miles must now discover what happened to this place all the while trying to survive the hellhole that is “Mount Massive Asylum”.
Gameplay wise “Outlast” is fairly unique. There is no combat, you cannot fight the creatures in the asylum so instead you must rely on your hiding skills. You can under beds, in lockers or in dark shadows as long as the creatures don’t sense you. I know you’re probably thinking it is kind of lame not being able to fight but honestly it actually adds to the tension in an already tense game. You are always feeling vulnerable and makes the game feel more realistic especially when compared to more modern horror games like “The Evil Within” or “Resident Evil 6” where you’re given an entire armada of weapons, “Outlast” has you stripped to the bone with nothing but a camcorder, a notebook to collect notes and pure darkness.
Speaking of darkness I have to talk about the perfect combination that is the game’s darkness and camcorder. There is little to lighting in the asylum resulting in most areas of the game being covered in pitch blackness and because of that you as the player have to rely on your camcorder’s night vision. The night vision illuminates the darkness and lets you see but at the cost of draining battery. So not only do you have to be careful when traversing the darkness but also be conservative with your batteries because you can only have so many batteries with the limit changing per whatever difficulty you are on. Using the camcorder is also used to create some really good scares because the camcorder only has a certain field of range you can only see so far. Like walking down a creaky hallway to only see to small white dots look at you and then blink and then run away, it gives you goosebumps. Or when you’re halfway through the game and you’re walking through a maze of pitch black corridors until you find the door you need to progress but then when you open it you see two naked men holding paddles coming after you to kill you, you can’t help but scream! It’s that perfect mix of the game’s environment, game play and characters that Red Barrel has successfully put together that create an amazing surreal and terrifying atmosphere that you hate and love at the same time, it’s almost sadistic.
The biggest complaints I’ve heard about this game are that it’s not scary and that it doesn’t have much bang for its buck. Now not everybody falls for jump scares, which is understandable, not many people like them but it is what’s beyond the scares is where “Outlast”s real horror lies. The entire time you are playing you are discovering more about the genetic experiments happening at “Mount Massive Asylum” as well as learning about the insane religious cult that grew from the experiment. Each of these factions are like extreme social commentary of what people do in real life. Scientists going beyond natural limits to produce the next step in genetic evolution and religious zealots sacrificing free will in order to ascend to their “gods”. It’s those thoughts and ideas that “Outlast” shows that are truly horrifying. It’s one of the greatest assets of “Outlast” that I love but if that that doesn’t mess with your brain well enough there is always the insane doctor trying to cut you up into pieces.
The second flaw I find to be quite persistent with “Outlast” is its asking price. The game right now on Xbox One and Playstation 4 is $19.99 plus tax American. the game itself is really only 2-3 hours depending on how you play but still is kinda short especially for such a steep asking price. “Outlast” does have a bit of replay ability with the entire collecting notes and documents thing but it really depends on how you structure your price to game play ratio. I’ve personally played through it 4 times now and I think I might do it a fifth only because I want to beat it on it’s hardest difficulty. “Outlast” also has story DLC that is set as a prequel which I also own and really enjoyed but that also has a steep price tag. In reality though Red Barrels is an independent developer, they don’t have the big budgets or marketing campaigns like AAA games do. They’ve gotten pretty far all by themselves and you have to commemorate all their hard work. The game looks and runs really good and I’ve already said it enough that the story is amazing. If you are interested in checking out ‘Outlast” you should just pick up the “Bundle of Terror” pack that they’ve started selling. You get both the main game and its DLC at a small discounted price (If you actually own an Xbox one you can get it now for $14.50 plus tax American on the Xbox Live Store) which is definitely worth it. “Outlast” has become very popular in the game streaming community with people all over the world doing speed runs of the game where you try beating the game as fast as you can. The fastest I’ve seen the main game be beat was in 55 minutes, very impressive really.
In conclusion you should definitely pick this game up and its DLC in that awesome bundle because you will be scared. Although it is short it is a terrifying first person survival horror game that reinvents and reinvigorates the survival horror genre. With a grade A story and innovative game play I give “Outlast” a 9 out of 10. “Outlast” is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.