Outlast’s title is suggestive that you should come back to the game, and try to beat your previous play session. And that is quite a lot to ask of you, as you’ll be frequently wanting to stop, not sure of what’s behind the next door. Red Barrels, a new developer comprised of a “super group” of developers from Ubisoft, EA, THQ, and Microsoft have made one of the most visceral, immersive, and genuinely terrifying games that does everything it can to ensure you are never comfortable standing in one place for too long.
You’re journalist Miles Upshur, driving up to the Mount Massive Asylum deep in the Colorado mountains, at sunset. Sent to investigate the strange goings on rumored to be happening. The front gate security is all but abandoned, seems inviting, right? You would totally just go inside when the front doors don’t even open? Miles does, he finds a way in through scaffolding, and quickly discovers that he should have turned right around at the first sign of trouble.
Armed with only a camcorder with night vision, this budding journalist and his athletic ability are the only things that help him get through the horrors that await him. The movement is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge as I could clear waist-high barriers and leap broken staircases with ease. Little details like allowing me to look down and see my feet, watch my hands touch the walls as I got close to them and peek around corners. Animations are fluid and realistic, even how you can open doors slowly or swing them wide open based on a button press. One such scenario had me running down hallways busting open doors, slamming them shut and pushing heavy propane lockers as several mentally unstable patients chased me.
During your investigation, you can use your camera to record events, and these events get captured in a journal to refer to. If you go out of your way to explore, you’ll come across documents that give backstory to the asylum and its inhabitants. As you make your way through this twisted carnival of horrors, you’ll be having to use the camcorder’s night vision to see in the dark. Be warned, the juice doesn’t last long and you’ll have to find batteries scattered throughout the asylum to continue. Running the camera doesn’t draw battery life thankfully, and the ability to zoom and spy on things ahead of you.
Not surprisingly, the asylum houses many unstable patients, most of which willing to rip you limb from limb. With no way to defend yourself from one of these hulking creatures of misfortune, your choices are to run or die. While running, you can press Q or E to look over your shoulder, you know, just to make sure the bone chilling sound footsteps are indeed following you very closely.
Most often you can run, break line of sight, and hide in a locker or under a bed. They’ll do a simple investigation, sweep the area, and then return to their patrol. While systematic, you’re too paralyzed by fear to notice. Make a mistake and hide while they’re watching, and they will find you, and pull you out from where you are and toss you aside, giving you a chance to escape like it’s a game. Stay too close or get cornered, and you’ll be bludgeoned to death or ripped head from body as you watch your final moments bleeding out.
In typical horror movie fashion, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. You’ll be halted in progression by collapsing stairways, elevators that stop working, or the power being shut down. The worst offenders in Outlast is the way that they make you fetch items or open valves, over and over again. They’re simply not fun.
Outlast is by way of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses wherein truly horrifying enemies have an insatiable appetite for blood, gruesome visuals of mutilated faces, decapitated bodies, and grotesque dismemberment is found everywhere you look.
The varied locations each have a distinct look of decay and disrepair. One location you visit is titled the “Female Ward”, but not a single person roaming the halls there is a female, or anywhere in the game. Unreal Engine 3 sings, running at a smooth 60fps without texture pop-in and while disgusting, absolutely beautiful, crisp visuals.
The music does a great job of amplifying an already tense moment to questioning whether a change of pants is required. The creepy music doesn’t exist just because, but rather it informs the player. In clever subtlety, it tells you whether you’re being pursued or fades away to say that you’re in the clear.
Outlast is a contender for the title “Scariest Game Ever”. When reduced to having to use your camcorder’s night vision which has terrible view distance and narrow scope presents a new type of claustrophobia. The story holds together until the final moments where greatness could be, but falls flat. There are genuine moments of horror that isn’t all monster closets and jump scares, a unique fear that keeps you coming back for more, like a glutton for punishment over the course of five hours or so. Pay no mind to the time invested, the scares per dollar is unmatched.
A Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes