It’s fair to say that I’m always on the look out for a good Horror game, one that makes my spine tingle, my nerves twitch, and puts my mind on edge. Unfortunately, these requirements are very rarely met, usually leaving me with utter disappointment. Luckily, Outlast is one of the rare exceptions.
I was looking for new games to buy with my recent birthday money, opting to spend some of it on finishing my Assassin’s Creed collection, as well as giving Far Cry a go, along with finally buying Rise of the Tomb Raider. Another item on my list was Outlast Trinity, a neatly packaged deal to which you get Outlast, Outlast: Whistleblower, and Outlast II for the price of one. Hearing nothing but good things about the series I decided to finally give it a go and see if it made me shiver with fear. And it did… To the point where my entire body jolted at the random jump scares throughout.
Outlast certainly has a unique set-up which feels really well thought out in order to grant it an extremely creative gameplay aspect which you’re solely dependent on. I’m talking of which about your camcorder. This is your means of salvation throughout. It works nicely on two fronts, first of which it serves as your means of progression, i.e. you are a fuck-wit reporter trying to uncover the biggest scoop of his career. Secondly, it serves as your torch. But (and here’s the neat twist) you can only use it as a torch for a limited amount of time.
The camcorder is designed to be your tool of investigation, allowing protagonist Miles Upshur to gather up vital information on his journey around Mount Massive Asylum. And through the night-vision setting it acts as your light within the dark, but the game is cleverly crafted so that you’re constantly on edge when using this feature because the battery quickly drains. Of course, you can find new batteries to replace the dying one but, again, it won’t last long and you’ll need to find another fairly quickly.
This is where Outlast toys with your nerves as your instinct tells you to get the fuck-out of the Asylum as quickly as possible but your reliance on the camcorder means that you are forced to take your time and search every nook and cranny in search of new batteries, which often means you’re placing yourself in more danger. Also, exploration grants you further insight into exactly what the fuck is going on around you. Sure, you can just play it to survive, but I found that attempting to search for all the documents, and gaining Miles’ reaction notes, granted more immersion into the world around me, allowing for a better experience.
It’s fair to say that this game is fucked-up. And I like that. Outlast isn’t afraid to be ballsy, constantly fucking with your head as it pushes your anticipation to the limit. You’re constantly on alert for something to happen, and the composing by Samuel Laflamme helps greatly to set the tone. It adds an extra layer to the already existing terrors that visually stare you down. Trust me, when the shit hits the fan the music lets you know, sending your heart into overdrive as the adrenaline kicks-in.
For the most part Outlast has a simple set-up, to which you enter an asylum and wonder around it searching for evidence after you got a tip that something was dodgy about the institution, but things quickly go wrong when you’re plunged into a world of nightmares (quite literally by the end). You’re put through Hell and back as you confront the horrors within the walls of Mount Massive Asylum, encountering the different inhabitants and their fucked-up tales.
The sinister twist about this game is you can’t fight back. I know, shit the bed right? You have no means to defend yourself, with your one and only instinct to run and hide (or just run, which works for the most part [belting it as you scream bloody murder at the screen telling Miles to move his fucking arse like the Hounds of Hell were actually chasing you]). This creates a lot of the tension throughout. You’ll be trying to complete your task at hand in your quest to find an exit when suddenly an inmate will jump out at you and chase you relentlessly until you can manage to lose them. In these fleeting moments your heart is certainly tested.
The rest of the time you’re just freaked the fuck-out by the grotesque imagery throughout. Throughout most of the game you see very graphic violence, both the impact and the aftermath. The latter gets quite disturbing as you walk past blood splattered floors and walls, as well as the remains of the victims, which usually resulted in me seeing severed limbs accompanied with giblets. All I will say is, “Don’t fucking play this game if you have a nervous disposition!”
Luckily for me I have a high tolerance and so most of this didn’t bother me, but the atmosphere of it all still engrossed me and delivered the signals it intended. For me, it was the random jump-scares that got me the most, along with the tension of escaping the inmates whenever they showed-up. One in particular, patient Chris Walker, follows you around like fucking Nemesis himself, a massive bloke built like a brick-shit-house, accompanied with a sinister grin. And if you allow this delightful bloke to catch you he’ll systematically remove your jaw as you watch in first person.
I’m not usually a fan of the whole first person genre but it works incredibly well here, delivering the dynamic of, “You’re actually experiencing the events yourself,” making for higher tension and suspense throughout. I will admit that the first half of the game was the more intense (to which certainly gave me the most heart-attacks and shakes) with the second half becoming more an engrossing series of tasks that I couldn’t stop doing because I wanted to reach salvation from the nightmare I was being forced to endure. That, and well, it does let itself go slightly with the strange, and radical, shift in tone, destroying some of the unique nature of its structure.
Nevertheless, Outlast shined on its terrifying displays of character encounters and how their time within the asylum fucked with their brains. It’s clear from the get-go that the institution is being used for cruel, and inhumane, experiments but things become even more twisted as your journey develops (helped by the information you gather from the documents). Every person you encounter is horribly deformed, some of which have had body parts removed (made even more nasty by the fact that some of them have had their bollocks lopped off [fucking ouch!!]).
The worst encounter is during the second act of the game where you’re captured by Rick Trager, and if his features don’t make you shit your pants, then his unsettling section of the game certainly will. He even torments you after he straps you into a wheelchair by showing you the exit (to which you are unable to reach) followed by a sequence that will make most become utterly squeamish. That’s right people, we have ourselves a torture scene, in which Mr. Trager turns into the Scissorman from the Clock Tower series, pulling out some well-used torture scissors to chop off your fingers whilst your completely helpless to do anything.
After getting free he pursues you around his area (accompanied with his freaky voice and mask) but luckily not for too long because upon trying to stop you escaping in the lift he ends up entangled between the floors, bringing him to a satisfying (and grizzly) demise. Then we have Father Martin Archimbaud who is a schizophrenic religious nut-job sent mad by everything that has gone on within the asylum. It becomes quite sickening how he brainwashes others into his course, believing that they have to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in order to find peace.
Father Martin becomes both your obstacle and helper as he traps you within the asylum, whilst also providing you with the needed information to exploit the truth of the institutions sinister schemes. In the end madness takes Father Martin as he crucifies himself in front of a chanting group of followers, before setting himself ablaze.
Things become quite bizarre when it’s revealed that the insanity of the asylum has been caused by experiments to summon demons, known as The Walriders. For me (personally) this nearly ruined the game because it took away a lot of the unique factors established beforehand. Heck, we even had a terrifying section were you had your camcorder taken from you, forcing you to travel through the darkness of the asylum without the safety of your vision.
But, I will grant Outlast this, despite incorporating a supernatural element they kept the camcorder as an important gameplay element. Miles was only able to see The Walriders through the night-vision setting, but I didn’t worry about this too much as I was too busy running like fucking Hell in order to complete my tasks before being brutally murdered (again). The tragedy of everything is that the conclusion is a complete downer, making every action you made to reach salvation utterly worthless. Although, it only enhances the fact that Outlast is a very brutal game and this unfulfilling ending only reaffirms that point. That, and it was Miles’ own stupidity as an over-obsessed reporter that sealed his fate in the first place.
At the end of the day Outlast is a terrifying experience that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good scare. It’s the not the most complex Horror game out there but it’s certainly one of the most unique. Outlast is packed with plenty of tense moments to which you have to be quick on your feet, and you have to endure a lot of suspense as you search your way through the haunting corridors of Mount Massive Asylum in order to find your way out, experiencing some of the most grotesque and unsettling segments within the Horror genre.