Okay, so first off let me say I am new to horror games, I mean I played the original Resident Evil games but beyond that I’ve had no real experience with them. Well I recently upgraded my PC and was looking for something different and a friend recommended Outlast. I knew next to nothing about it and went in blind.
The game opens with reporter Miles Upshur driving up to Mount Massive; a privately owned psychiatric hospital, were apparently “terrible things happen”. Just looking at the place after arriving, I would put money on it! So I take control, the game has only started, I haven’t even entered the grounds yet and I was literally scared by my own shadow, off to a great start. As I approach the “Adams family’s summer house” the music becomes increasingly more unnerving, (I think I know why I don’t play these games) it’s very well timed and not overdone, just enough to make you uneasy.
The further I progressed in the game, the more I noticed that the atmospheric nature of the game seems to be allowing for a slow build up. There are subtle scares such as doors closing and lights flicking, all leading you to believe that something is going to jump out, but nothing does, at least not for a while. Although I am left wondering about the protagonist, the only way forward is covered in blood, crawling through a vent in the dark. If it were me, I’d say “balls to that” and head to the pub, but alas we’re stuck here.
My first interaction with another character left me screaming and my character plummeting out a glass window and now the objective is to leave, that’s one I can get behind 100%. So you dust yourself off and it’s off to find a key card to get the hell out of dodge.
I don’t wish to go any further into the story in case you’d like to play it for yourselves, so I’ll move onto the gameplay. You are incapable of combat except in scripted scenes where you must shake off enemies who have grabbed you, which I found added a sense of helplessness to the experience which just added to the unease I was already feeling. You can conceal yourself in lockers or under beds and let me tell you there’s nothing more terrifying than when you’re huddled in a locker, sucking your thumbing and crying (maybe that’s just me) and an enemy is inches from you and you’re waiting for him to grab and kill you. I must say it encouraged me to proceed with even more caution.
You navigate the environment by vaulting over low obstacles, crawling, squeezing through narrow gaps and using your camcorder to see further ahead. The camcorder is your only means of seeing in the dark, you have to use the night vision function that requires regular battery changes to keep using it, which means using it conservatively and also requires you to venture further in order to find batteries.
The name of the game is survival, this isn’t Johnny Testosterone’s sawn off shotgun adventure were you mow down wave after wave of enemies, you are a lone man with nothing more than a video camera, a note pad and the desire to survive.
Everything I have described creates an oppressive atmosphere, which has been put in place to make the player feel fear, which has been accomplished beautifully. From the subtle noises, flickering lights or the doors slamming right to the unsettling music, it all makes you feel like you are on your own to face this unknowable evil.
As I have already said I don’t play horror games regularly so I am hardly an authority but I enjoyed Outlast. It has definitely opened me up to the horror genre, so take this review for what it is, the opinion of a man sitting in a pool of fear (or maybe that’s urine).