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Outlast Review

publisher: Red Barrels
developer: Red Barrels
genre: Adventure

ESRB rating: RP

release date: Sep 04, 13
» All About Outlast on ActionTrip

Outlast is the latest offering in the 'helpless-and-alone' sub-genre of psychological horror, popularized by Frictional Games' Penumbra trilogy and the even more popular Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Outlast plays very similarly to these titles, but with a few differences that managed to improve the formula. Most notable are the absence of insanity effects that take away control from the player, and the move to a (more or less) familiar, modern-day setting.

Playing as the investigative reporter Miles Upshur, it's your job to snoop around a chillingly bleak insane asylum where absolutely no surprises await you. Not even completely fucked up ones. The premise could hardly be more cliché, but its execution is exceptional. The comparison to Amnesia: The Dark Descent is inevitable, so just to name a few differences straight away, in Outlast the pace is quicker, the labyrinth-type environments are gone and the obligatory sewer level is shorter. The sense of mystery is replaced with an in-your-face 'this shit is real' feeling that makes everything a lot scarier. I can safely say that this is the scariest game I've ever played and I think I’ve played nearly all of them (well, on the PC anyhow).

So, you're this foolish guy who waltzes into an asylum in the middle of nowhere, armed only with a notebook and a camcorder equipped with a handy night vision mode that soon becomes your best and only friend. As you may have gathered by now, your goal is to survive and you do so by hiding in the dark and running like hell when discovered. You'll also be on the lookout for batteries to keep your camcorder up and running. There are no puzzles to solve and the only thing you'll worry about is avoiding things that go bump in the night.

Making your way through the morbid asylum, you can collect various documents that are scattered here and there. These will shed some light on what happened before your arrival, and Miles will take notes of events as long as you manage to film them, which comes across as a fun gimmick during the playthrough.

The storyline serves its purpose and, as with most horror games, it acts as an excuse for all the blood and guts sprayed every which way. Despite the familiar taste of monsters chasing you down poorly lit hallways, we managed to get the pants scared off us quite a few times.

But there’s no denying that in most horror games the shit hits the fan too soon. Outlast also falls into this trap. Once the trouble starts, it never stops. There are barely any quiet moments, when things calm down and you are hurled into the mystery again. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s the mysterious occurrences that keep any horror story afloat before it sinks into the hopeless depths of clichés and supernatural explanations. It doesn’t take too long before you are submerged in these clichés like the main character breathing heavily, panting, creepy music that swells and gets louder and louder, etc.

Now, once again, these worn-out ideas are there for a purpose and they actually work for most of the experience, even though you might get a bit tired of them, because the developers might’ve overused them in most sections of the game. The well-known horror formula is, on the other hand, put to good use. For example, when you creep through the shadows and suddenly get spotted, your only hope is to run away. As soon as you start to dash, the main character panics and you can hear him panting, as the FPS camera sways from side to side. But in addition to that, you can turn the camera in the opposite direction to get a quick glimpse at whatever the hell is on your tail. This shit’ll make your blood curdle. The grainy visuals work brilliantly and there are some tremendously eerie sound effects at play. 

The only real trouble with Outlast is that it tends to trip over itself, as it drowns in its own horror-style clichés, which await almost around every corner. As much as they managed to come up with some well-timed scares that truly make you jump out of your seat, they also managed to dive headfirst into a pool of stale story-telling and worn-out themes that involve Nazis, experiments on humans that, inevitably lead to, um, crazy, inhuman Nazi zombies? Well, not exactly, but it’s something along those lines.

At any rate, Outlast is a game designed to frighten even those who deem themselves hard to scare. What we have here is a proper survival-horror game that thankfully doesn’t make the transition to the action genre like so many other horror-themed games these days.

The game is currently available on PC only, but will also make its way to PlayStation 4. 


8.5   Very Good

Survival-horror in its purest form, have the paramedics standing by just in case, oh and switch off the lights before you start playing and make sure you're alone;

The game throws one cliché too many into your face, story explanations kill off the mystery a bit too soon.


8 post(s)
Reader Comments
Un Om Bun [STAFF] Sep 13 2013, 07:04 am EDT
My new favorite horror game. Despite it's flaws, it was absolutely delicious.
Vader [STAFF] Sep 13 2013, 07:26 am EDT
Like a delicious scare in the night, when you want a snack and there's no food in the fridge.

Actually, it's scarier than that. Considerably scarier.
TitaniumFist Sep 13 2013, 07:47 am EDT
Scarier than windows?
Vader [STAFF] Sep 13 2013, 07:48 am EDT
Not that scary.
moriwenne Sep 13 2013, 08:13 am EDT
So, machine for pigs was a disappointment and in comparison this one is great? How would it compare to the first amnesia?
  Un Om Bun: It scared me more than Dark Descent. And neither sati…
Vader: Amnesia got there first to be fair.
Vader: Also, I recommend them both.
CJ_Parker Sep 13 2013, 09:24 am EDT
Steam sale... c'mon you know you want to sell for $4.99
touretul Sep 13 2013, 01:55 pm EDT
This game is not only horror. There's a psychedelic quality to it. The nutcases dialogues are fuckin' mad and you can feel the insanity taking over that place. The soundtrack is a little annoying and over the top, but it does the job.
  Un Om Bun: That harmless guy who keeps following you around is c…
Killer Klown Sep 14 2013, 03:12 pm EDT
I remember Sanitarium, back in the day. That was a freaking creepy game for it's time - which was even more impressive by the fact that it did it with an isometric camera view (Like the original Fallout/Baldurs Gate games)


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