|Dev: Red Barrels|
|Pub: Red Barrels|
|Release: February 4, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language|
by Joshua Bruce
Somebody call the Surgeon General, I think Outlast needs his official warning label. “This game may cause heart attack, palpatations, stroke, uncontrollable crying, and possible loss of bowel control. Play at your own risk.” Yes, it’s that scary. Not because of the insane gore and graphic depictions of human decay (which are most certainly present), but because Outlast masterfully preys on primal fears that we all possess as human beings. Our hard-wired fears of darkness, the unknown, being chased and feeling trapped to name a few things Outlast uses to scare the pants off of you.
This approach to the horror genre is fresh and breathes new life into the corpse of horror gaming. As freelance journalist Miles Upshur, you find yourself in the middle of a corporate-owned insane asylum, following an anonymous tip from a former employee that witnessed unspeakable horrors within its walls. But nothing can prepare you for what you find. From the first moments of the game, you are treated to nail-biting sequences that set the tone perfectly for the scarefest to follow. Sure, here and there Outlast employs some cheap scare tactics that will only work on you once, but they work so well it is worth it, at least for the first time. You will see them coming from a mile away in subsequent playthroughs, but it leads you to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into carving the experience. It’s kind of like watching your favorite scary movie, you know what’s going to happen, but you watch it anyway because you love it. You may find yourself introducing others to Outlast (as I did), just for the sheer joy of watching them play the game for the first time. It’s both hilarious and immensely gratifying.
Though the “cheap scares” may wear off, one thing never does--being chased. You never know where they’re coming from. It’s dark and all you’ve got is your trusty camera. This game mechanic functions so incredibly well it’s hard to describe. The disorientation you feel as you run from a literal monster in the dark, bumping into walls, desperately looking for an exit, all through the night vision lens of your camcorder, just works – every time. You can’t fight, so running and hiding are your only weapons. You may escape an assailant and think you are safe under a bed, or in a locker, only to have them find you and bust down the door. These make for some terrifying sequences as you watch from the relative safety of your hiding spot, wondering if they will find you. And if they do find you, you better run, because your carefully selected hiding spot doesn’t mean a damn thing to them. They are out for blood--your blood.
However, there are a few things that didn’t seem to fit into the overall mold of the game. For instance, it would seem obvious that any attacker would be able to spot you from a mile away from the lights on your camera, especially one with a screen showing you a night vision image. Also, what kind of person doesn’t have a cell phone, especially in this day and age? I mean, this guy is a journalist, so you would think that his phone would be surgically implanted to his hand or something, but oddly it is completely absent. If it were me, the second I got inside that place and looked at the state of it I would be on the phone (which I would not forget) with my editor--“Hey, listen. Umm, this place is messed up man and I don’t wanna die today, so you’re gonna have to find somebody else to do this story…” And with that I would disappear like a fart in the wind. But, maybe that’s just me.
Other than those minor complaints, the game functions remarkably well. The control scheme is simple enough, following most FPS conventions. The camera and night vision functions are set to a toggle, so they are either switched on and off during play when you need them. Though, you do have to manage your battery life and scavenge for more batteries to keep your camera active, so be careful not to use it in places it isn’t needed.