I’ll be the first to say that I don’t particularly enjoy horror games. I don’t like being scared, and I don’t like being locked alone in an asylum filled with decapitated bodies. I think these are reasonable requests, but for some reason I was drawn to Outlast for its recent PlayStation 4 release. Walking away from the ending credits is both a breath of fresh air, but also extremely satisfying that I, as a person, survived that nightmare. Outlast is easily one of the scariest games I have ever played, and if you’re a fan of horror games, you will love every second of it.
Outlast’s greatest strength is its atmosphere. You play as Miles Upshur, a journalist who is investigating the Mount Massive Asylum. From the moment Miles steps inside, he’s greeted with a dying SWAT officer telling him to get out, and psychotic inmates who want to chase him around. You see, in Outlast, Miles cannot attack. The only defense he has against any inmate is the ability to hide and vault over small obstacles. To add to this, a majority of the asylum is dark and you’ll need to use your night vision camera to see where you’re going. All of these aspects combine to create a harrowing gameplay experience.
In a way, the gameplay is somewhat similar to something like Amnesia. You’ll spend a lot of time hiding and peeking through locker doors, watching crazed inmates search for you. You may be walking down a dark and dimly lit hallway only to have the power go out, and the cackling of a murderer getting louder. It’s moments like these where tensions are at their highest; for me, it’s a test of willpower. With the player not being able to attack, there’s a definite feeling of helplessness that isn’t usually prevalent in video games.
And the camera, don’t get me started on the camera. With probably half the asylum being without power, you’ll be relying on your night vision camera heavily. The problem is you’ll be lucky if you can use it for a few minutes without changing the battery. However, this contributes to the aforementioned helplessness and really adds to the terror when you’re being pursued in the dark.
As Miles, you’ll discover quite a few unsettling scenes. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll just say that Miles’ little adventure into the Mount Massive Asylum leaves you uncovering some very cryptic experiences. It’s quite unpredictable, and has much more thought put into it than the standard horror game. Seeing as how you play as a journalist, you also have the ability to record what you see with your camera. Recording interesting environments lets you get into the head of Miles, and read his reactions. That’s not to say you’ll grow attached to the characters or anything, but the general premise behind everything meshes together quite well.
Outlast, despite releasing on the PC last year, takes full advantage of the PS4 hardware. Outlast runs at a very smooth frame rate, and is graphically impressive. There are a lot of interesting lighting effects, and shadows actually have an effect on gameplay since there are moments where you’ll have to track the movement of inmates through their shadows. The characters, while not quite as detailed as the environment, are still frightening. For a downloadable PSN game, Outlast looks wonderful.
As any piece of horror media, sound is a crucial aspect of creating (and breaking) the tension. Outlast is, for the most part, a fairly quiet game, which makes it all the more ghastly when you hear footsteps behind you. The music that is there consists mostly of horrifying strings, slowly getting louder and louder as the pressure intensifies. There are quite a few jump scares as well, with inmates popping out from behind corners.
Outlast is not perfect, though. The AI of enemies in Outlast are especially stupid. After the first few encounters, it is easy to learn where to hide in order to avoid detection. Inmates never seem to check the spot you’re hiding in unless they physically see you enter it. Outlast also has an extremely short campaign. Realistically speaking, the average player can probably run through Outlast in around 6 or 7 hours, and that might even be generous. It is very linear, so there’s not a whole lot of exploration to be had. However, if you’re like me, you’ll need to take plenty of breaks so you don’t have a heart attack.
Despite its shortcomings, Outlast is a wonderful game for horror fans. It features a unique story, gripping gameplay, and an immersive atmosphere. If you’re a fan of horror games, you need to play Outlast, preferably in the middle of the night with surround sound. If you aren’t a fan of horror games, you can actually try Outlast for free in February with a Playstation Plus membership.
Buy, Rent, or Avoid?
Outlast is easily one of the scariest games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. If you’re a fan of horror games, you’ll definitely want to check this out. If you aren’t a fan of horror games, however, I would recommend waiting for a sale or trying it out at a friend’s house.