Second Opinion: Outlast
There’s many ways to scare gamers. I mean, it’s not like big developers are even trying anymore…But there’s various methods they could utilize to actually make a game scary if they wanted to. The indies know this, and they embrace it.
Resident Evil made the survival horror genre mainstream with its pop-out scares and house of shambling horrors. Silent Hill then perfected what a horror game could be with its own brand of psychological horror that relied on its writing and heavy characterization. Both of these beloved series present two distinct ways to scare players. Some people look down upon “cheap scares” of the “boo! gotcha!” nature. But when done well, they could definitely rival the lasting effect a more deeper, psychological scare could have. Especially when you mix both styles together. And that’s what Outlast does, and succeeds in.
Miles Upshur’s night at Mount Massive Asylum is anything but pleasant. He’s there to break a huge story after receiving a news tip from an insider about some crazy stuff happening within the complex’s walls. Crazy stuff involving a shady corporation with a dark past at the heart of it all. You go up against many of the asylum’s inmates, with some of the most terrifying foes I’ve faced in a game in recent memory, like the hulking patient that chases after you and calls you “piggy,” or a disturbing doctor later in the game. The story ends up greatly surprising you in the final act. Just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse or crazy, they do. And it’s this feeling that grasps players from the moment you step out of your car outside the Asylum’s gates, all the way up to the very end.
The game loves playing with your head. Sure, there are many pop out scares in this, but some of the more subtle horrors come in the form of details only your imagination can conjure. Another way the game turns the tide and plays with you is by making you believe you’re about to escape via a visible exit, only to pull you back into the nightmare. One standout moment that portrayed this happens towards the middle of the game. I truly felt terrible for Miles, and I was quite disturbed by the events of that particular scene as a whole.
To make things even more tense, there’s no way to actually physically defend yourself. You could only hide from the enemies by entering closets or hiding under beds. There’s no combat at all, just you and your camera. And the game is even scarier because of this. They could’ve gone with a gameplay system similar to Condemned, but I’m glad they didn’t. You do feel like a powerless journalist stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. And speaking of things in front of your face, the camera is a very intuitive tool to use. Having it on at all times ensures that you document certain key moments into your personal journal. And using the night-vision mode quite simply ensures your survival throughout most of the game. The only resource management you’ll have to worry about here is obtaining batteries that are scattered around the asylum. It seems a little odd for batteries to be placed in the locations you find them, but this is a video game after all.
The game does have some truly challenging segments, where you’re relentlessly being chased through tight spaces and are constantly moving between hiding spots to get where you have to go while avoiding the enemy at the same time. You could peek your head over corners to get an idea of what to expect, and you could even turn your head around while running. These mechanics do help, but it doesn’t stop the game from scaring the holy hell out of you regardless. The AI could be a little dumb at times, though. Which is good for you, of course. You’ll definitely need a breather from time to time.
Outlast is a brutal and intense horror experience that succeeds in making the player feel a constant burst of desperation and terror. The smallest of details also helps enrich this horror experience. You’ll find yourself at the edge of your seat after certain close encounters, and you’ll hear Miles breathing heavily (cat). Another nice little addition is that you could leave footprints after stepping on a bloody puddle. Then towards the final hours of the game, something happens that makes just viewing the world different and even scarier. This attention to detail spans out to the entire game’s nightmarish atmosphere, which is just incredible. Lights flicker, blood drips, and dismembered body parts decorate this slice of hell on Earth. You never know when you’ll be face to face with one of the enemies after turning around or even after turning on your camera’s night vision mode. I knew right from the beginning of the game that it would be an extremely thrilling ride, as soon as I got a full view of the asylum’s facade and saw one of the windows lighten up and someone standing there, before they turned the light back off and fled.
The game’s story is fleshed out through the aforementioned notes and scattered documents. The notes let you dig deeper into Miles as he’s experiencing all of this along with us, and the documents serve as the backdrop for the plot, giving you an insight into the corporation behind everything (spoiler: it’s not Umbrella). I encourage you to seek out all of them. It makes the asylum a character in and of itself, and you’ll definitely be unnerved by some of the stuff you’ll be reading.
Outlast is one of those rare modern survival horror games that succeeds on every level. I was originally going to play it when it hit the PC but I opted to wait for the PlayStation 4 version. It’s absolutely free on the platform for PlayStation Plus subscribers, and it’s a game I wouldn’t mind paying a full $60 for. I’m currently on my second playthrough on a higher difficulty level, and I can easily see myself replaying it many more times, even after the upcoming DLC comes out.
This second opinion pretty much fails at contrasting CJ’s glowing 10/10 review of the game , but I just had to share my love for this game with you all. I’ll also share this with you:
Yup, that’s me after having the crap scared out of me multiple times.