Written by Logan Sharp
I am not the kind of guy who seeks out horror films. The only time I will actually sit down and watch one is when I’m with friends but even then, I scream like a small child when the scary stuff happens. Which is why it makes absolutely no sense why I’m drawn to a game like Outlast, the intense horror game by Red Barrels. A horror game that puts you in one of the scariest places on the planet: an insane asylum. Does it Outlast the scare tactics long enough to be a fun and entertaining game?
At the beginning of Outlast, you play as Miles Upshur, an investigative reporter who received a tip about strange happenings at Mount Massive Asylum. Doing what any non-rational person would do, you set out to investigate and get to the bottom of what is happening. While going through the tutorial (though it does not feel like one), you see how the lighting works in the game. As great as the game looks, this is also when you realize that the shadows are eerily dark. You’re equipped with a camera with a night-vision mode to allow for seeing in the dark.
In Outlast, there are only three options when confronting the criminally insane:
This helps to build the suspense as you begin creeping slowly around every corner, never knowing what lies just ahead. With no weapons to use, you’re left completely helpless. It’s an interesting dynamic switch from games like Call of Duty, where you feel like Chuck Norris. In this game, you’re just an average Joe: no weapons, no karate moves, nothing.
The game uses this well, as you’ll find yourself tensed up as you venture through the asylum. There are platforming elements that are just means of setting up jump-scares but work surprisingly well. What little puzzles there are in-game go from easy to terrifyingly difficult at times. There’s one moment in the sewers where I have to restore power while being hunted by a beast of a man who is obsessed with calling me “little pig”. The gameplay, overall, is intense, terrifying and fun all at the same time.
Which leads me to the controls of the game: fantastic! As with any first-person game these days, leaning out from cover is becoming a heavy influence and is in this game. There were many times I heard someone (I played this game using a surround-sound headset) but could not see them. As I sheepishly pressed against the wall and peered around the corner, I sighed with relief to see nothing there or screamed, near throwing my controller, as someone was mere inches from my face.
Controls felt responsive in other situations and if I died, or slipped up, it was my own fault. What I thought would have added a nice touch was instead of pressing a button to bring up the camera, why not have the player hold that button down? This, I think, would build more tension, especially if my finger began to grow tired of pressing the trigger down to keep the camera up. Perhaps that was in the settings but I did not come across it.
The story in Outlast is surprisingly short and predictable at points. As stated before, you play as Miles Upshur, tracking down a tip you had received, thus leading you to the asylum. From there, you run into this “prophet” who keeps hinting at something he wants you to witness. Through documents and random video feeds, you learn there is more going on at the asylum than giving patients Jell-O. While playing, you learn of this mysterious power lurking beneath the asylum, which at first is led to believe they are ghosts. In an effort not to spoil anything, I will say the story reminded me a lot of the Mass Effect 2 mission where you track down a “rogue AI”. If you’ve played that, you pretty much know the story to Outlast.
Except the ending. The ending was insane, escalated quickly and left wanting the next game to be out.
Outlast is a terrifying game that should not be played alone, in the dark and should definitely not be played with a surround-sound headset. If you enjoy sleepless nights, then do the aforementioned. It’s a game that is entertaining and offers some great scares. However, the game gets very morbid and disgusting in parts. From landing on a pile of bloody, mutilated corpses to coming face-to-face with people who have had horrid mutations done to them, the game is not for the weak stomach, or the young Christian. Also, avoid the twin characters.
My major complaints with the game come from my conservative Christian background. I had a hard time stomaching the more morbid parts of the game and some of the very intense things that the inmates mumbled. It’s what you’d expect from a game set in a criminally insane asylum but it was a little too morbid for me.
Overall, Outlast is a fun thrill of a ride, if you’re into the horror genre. While I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good scare, but if you’re under 17, talk with your parents first before playing.
I give Outlast a 7.5 out of 10.
Outlast is available on PC and Playstation 4.