Release Date: 2013/2014
Developer(s): Red Barrels
Publisher(s): Red Barrels
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One and Linux OS X
I knew nothing of about this game when I heard about it from a friend. In fact, the only reason I bought the game was because the aforementioned friend was too scared to play it alone. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a co-op game. Rather, V and I would play while in a chat party so that he could talk to me and thus would not have to play alone. It was an hilarious set up that involved several high-pitched girly screams that did not come from me.
You play as Miles Upshur, an investigative reported who has received an anonymous tip that there are dirty dealings and underhanded tactics being employed at Mount Massive Psychiatric Asylum, including the inhumane treatment of patients. You decided to investigate, as any sane person would.
I don’t want to give anyway too much of the plot but needless to say, if you have watched any found footage film, you have a good idea of how this goes. As Miles is taken deeper into the investigation, and the asylum, secrets are revealed and it quickly becomes apparent that all in not as it seems. Though the asylum is dilapidated and the remaining patients murderous, there is also something dark and seemingly supernatural hunting you, later revealed as the Walrider.
This is a wonderfully creative first person narrative overlaid with the found footage genre. Outlast is a pure survival game. You have not weapons and there is no crafting system, as exists in Alien Isolation and other games in this genre. All you have at your disposal is your trusty digital camera (with night vision functionality), the documents you find as you investigate the asylum, Miles’ hastily scribbled notes and your wits. The only item the player has to scavenge is batteries. These can be found in all manner of places and are absolutely necessary for when the area is pitch black and you have to rely on the night vision of your camera to see.
The camera does not have to be used continuously but notes will only be recorded (which furnish the player with additional insight) when the camera is recording. Notes and documents are vital to the plot development. There are a few cut scenes but not too many and the ones that do exists are not laborious to endure.
Having absolutely no clue what the story was about or what the objectives were for this game, and having downloaded it on a whim, I was tremendously surprised and thoroughly enjoyed every second of Outlast. The survival genre is a well established one but I had not yet played a found footage survival game. As a big horror movie fan, it was exciting to be the one controlling the story. I was impressed by the maneuverability of the character and the smoothness of control. It was light and nimble, which is exactly what you want when you’re running from a 400 pound deranged PSTD sufferer with military training. Something that I particularly liked was that the character seemed move slightly faster and with more ease when you were not using the camera. This is a minor detail but for me, the details can often make or break a game and the gamer’s immersion.
The plot is not a particularly sophisticated one but was revealed creatively, which keeps the player guessing and wondering what was really happening at Mount Massive. It can be as fast-paced as you choose for it be. Some people may want to do a speed run while others are completionists and want to take their time and play a cautiously as possible. I took my time, mostly because I wasn’t sure of what was going to happen next and the night vision, initially, put me on edge.
The camera/night vision aspect definitely sets this game apart from other survival games. I thought that it would be gimmicky and a waste of time but in fact, I became increasing more reliant on the night vision, and by extension the camera, as I continued to play. My reliance was not simply for the ability to see in the dark. Psychologically, viewing the world through the camera made it easier to cope with what I was walking into. At one point, my husband was watching me play and told me to put the camera down to conserve the battery. I point blank refused, like a child, because “then I’d be ‘seeing’ the monsters”, not observing them.
This is not a particularly long game. It took me, at most, 8 hours of uninterrupted game play to finish (not including the DLC). Having said that, it was well paced and never felt like it was dragging on. I didn’t once feel bored or uninterested. One of the many great things about this game is that it constantly kept me on my toes. Just when you started to get comfortable with your surroundings in the asylum, the game takes you outside where you’re fully exposed and the darkness surrounds you. The second I was comfortable with the eeriness of the night vision, my camera ends up falling two floors and winds up cracked, adding a new and eerie ambiance to the visuals. And, of course, just when I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking that the Walrider had forgotten about me, a door would close in my face or a TV would suddenly switch on.
A truly eerie aspect of this game was the variety of sounds and music used to fully immerse the player. The character’s breathing would put me on edge even if everything around me was calm, the sudden flare of menacing music got my adrenaline pumping and thunder and lightening ensured that I was always paying attention. I found myself telling empty corridors and eviscerated bodies to “fuck off” a lot while I played this.
I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone, even just for a fun weekend and a bit of a laugh. It would be time well spent!
My Rating: 4.5/5
Outlast and its DLC are available for download via Steam, PSN Store or the Xbox Games Store
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