I’m making my way slowly down this barely lit hallway, I can hear noises, almost like footsteps and heavy breathing everywhere around me, and yet I push on, curious to know what comes next. When I finally find out what is awaiting me in the dark, I scream and jump like a little girl watching Chucky. This is the basis of Outlast, this is the horror you will feel not every few minutes, no, constantly, your heart will be racing, and your adrenaline will be through the roof.
Outlast may be full of jump scares when it comes to the nasty abominations roaming the halls of the, nearly, abandoned asylum, but the terror is constantly there. Lurking in the background like some evil backseat driver, always pushing you on whether you want to try and block them out or not, is the deranged patrons of the asylum. Whilst the campaign only takes between 4 and 5 hours to complete, that feeling of total dread is what will keep you returning for more.
The player is cast into the shoes of an investigate journalist who has received an anonymous tip of nefarious doings in the asylum. So, like any journalist searching for his next paycheck you head off to do a little snooping. What starts as a simple job of hunting for clues quickly turns into a not so simple run for your life before you die experience. And run you will, there is no combat here, you are not a trained Special Forces operative. Instead your only means of survival is to run and hide where the monsters cannot find you, hopefully. The developers did a good job of giving you ample hiding places on some occasion, there are quite few old beds lying around to climb under or empty lockers to jump in and peer through the slots in the doors. On other occasion running around can be your only option as a hiding place is unavailable or just out of sight. This running can be just as dangerous as you may run away from one terrible foe and right into the arms of another. But the story is not the reason you are here, it becomes the furthest thing from your mind when you come face to face with your death on all too many occasions.
The darkness can be your friend when you are hiding, the enemies cannot see just like you. But unlike you they do not have a camera equipped with a night vision mode to find your way around the dark. In order to power your camera you will need to hunt down batteries, scattered throughout the world in pretty good numbers. The night vision mode does a good job of lending an eerie tone to the entire game as everything is cast in a dull green light, but you cannot see very far ahead of you. You can sweep a room with your night vision and only see a few feet in front of you, while in the far corner something could be lurking, waiting for the moment when you get too close or they hear you.
The downside to hunting these batteries is there are so many of them throughout the world. You will always have some spares on your person at all times so the fear of running out and being stranded in the dark, even more so, is not present. Along with the batteries there are hidden files you need to find, giving you clues as to what really happened here and why everyone has gone so incredibly insane.
I have heard some people complain of the build up being too long, waiting for that monster to jump out at you. Personally I think the build up is a requirement for any horror title, whether it be a game, movie, or a book. Those moments leading up to your first or even final encounter are stressful, nerve-wracking, and downright gut wrenching. The build up to escape is constantly there, you are teased with numerous paths of escape throughout the game, every time you think you’re going to get close, guess again. There is always something preventing you from making it out alive, which is beautiful.
Red Barrels did a terrific job with the controls for Outlast. Everything feels fluid and believable, even the slight parkour your character can perform over desks while sprinting. Never did I run into an issue where I was unable to do something I needed to because of unresponsive controls.
Graphically Red Barrels, again, did a terrific job. Everything is dark and dreary, but very well detailed. Lightning is set perfectly to amplify that fear you will experience and the blood spatters pooling throughout the halls help set the tone even more so. The only gripe I have is the re-used character models, more than once I ran into an NPC that I could have sworn I already did back down the hall, perhaps I did, but I don’t think so.
The downside to Outlast has to be the difficulty of it, with the numerous batteries scattered about and monsters being able to hit you up to four times before you die, it can come across as too easy. With a harder difficulty mode the scares would be increased due to the fear of dying and the overall game would more than likely benefit. At the moment your fear is from encountering the monsters not from being killed by them as you can stop and take a couple hits before sprinting away to safety under the bed.
Overall Outlast is the type of horror you are afraid to play alone at night with your headset on and the lights off, and yet you keep returning to it. The racing heart and constant fear is an addiction that Outlast captures perfectly. I may not sleep well at night but I will keep running through those asylum halls and I eagerly await the PlayStation 4 release to experience the terror on a big screen. Buy this game, play it in the dark, scream and play it again, it is more than worth the price of admission.