Embrace the fear: it’s time to enter the terrifying world of Outlast.
An anonymous tip about inhumane experiments at a remote asylum sends the reporter Miles Upshur to investigate. It does not take long for him to discover that there is indeed something very wrong at the asylum, and there are nightmares there he could not even imagine. This is the premise of Red Barrels Inc.’s Outlast, a first-person survival horror game.
As is typical of this genre, you can’t fight the enemies that you encounter. Upshur is not a soldier, and the player’s only options are running and hiding. While navigating through the asylum, your only tool is your camcorder. It has a night vision mode, enabling the player to navigate the darker areas of the asylum. Tension is added to the gameplay experience by the fact that you have to constantly be on the lookout for additional batteries, since running out of power means that you can kiss the night vision goodbye.
The game also encourages players to explore the asylum, as a lot of background information is revealed in collectable notes hidden through the areas. Nothing too original, but well done nonetheless. The camcorder can also be used to record key events, rewarding the player with more insight into the events and Upshur’s character. That is why it is a good idea to have your camcorder out at all times. It puzzles me a little while there even is an option to turn the camcorder off. Only the night vision consumes the battery, so there really is no reason to turn the device completely off.
The atmosphere of Outlast is truly unsettling and creepy, created by a brilliant use of lighting and an intense soundtrack. There are the mandatory jump scares in the mix, but the true horror experience comes from the unsettling feeling that you have throughout the game, even when there is no direct threat present. The asylum is a place filled with all sorts of dangers, and you can never be sure what is going to happen next.
There are also some hiccups in the game. The most noticeable one is the repetitive nature of the enemy encounters. Each time it comes down to memorizing the enemy’s movement patterns, and then navigating around them. They are also not too bright, and many times I found myself being able to use the same route to lose them over and over again.
All in all, Outlast is a great, atmospheric survival horror game. It has some shortcomings when it comes to the enemy AI, but ultimately that does not ruin the experience. If you are looking for a good scare for the darkening autumn nights, Outlast will deliver. If you have the opportunity, you should also check out the DLC for the game, Whistleblower. It is a well done piece of additional content, which sheds some light to the story of the main game. But be warned, both the game and the DLC contain plenty of gore and might not be suitable for the faint of heart.
Developer: Red Barrels Inc.
Publisher: Red Barrels Inc.
Release Date: 4.9.2013
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Survival Horror
PEGI Rating: 18