So, here we are again with another month, another free exclusive game for Playstation Plus subscribers – and boy this is something that will leave a lasting impression. The reason for this is simple: the style and direction of Outlast is so cinematic, that this game wants you to play it like you would sit and watch any truly terrifying movie – at night, curtains drawn, lights off and new underwear at the ready.
Outlast sets the tone straight away with a small text introduction into an ominous investigation regarding a corporation which performed bizarre experiments at an insane institution. It’s your duty to uncover the truth, armed only with your camcorder to document your findings as you go.
The game opens with you driving up to the institution in a classic remote and isolated location in which you could liken to that of great Horror/Thriller films such as Shutter Island. As you step out of your car at the gates, the atmosphere created for the game instantly becomes apparent. You are alone.
Playing this game is nothing but a joy – if you are a survival horror genre fan. When the game explains that you are not a fighter, they couldn’t be any closer to the truth. There is not a single weapon to pick up, nor a single action that you can take, that is in anyway a means of offensive action against those that go bump in the dark.
As you progress through the labyrinth of the asylum, you will be drawn into the great design of its blood spattered corridors and the eeriness of the disarray throughout the facility.
The game is mostly silent, save for a few creaks, bangs and other atmospheric noises – which will keep you checking over your shoulder to make sure nothing is following you. The game is mostly absent of a soundtrack, except for the times a violent inmate makes an attempt on your life. At this stage the game roars into a rousing soundtrack of fast paced, adrenaline-charged violins and deep stringed instruments, reminiscent of classic horror films; Friday the 13th or Halloween. Your cue to run and hide.
Although there is no real penalty for death, as is the case in most games today, your survival instinct takes over whenever you trigger the sounds of a pursuer. You’ll literally find yourself panicking as you run down corridors and through rooms to find hiding spots under beds or in lockers. You’re then left to watch through your camcorder, aided by the night vision, to see if your would-be killer has left. The games clever use of nervous and heavy breathing from your character will keep you on edge as the search for your character continues. Only letting out a sigh of relief when you realise that you have given him the slip as he leaves the room. You’ll feel your stomach turn as he stands, teasing you next to the bed under which you hide, or looking into the locker in which you pray for safety.
The camcorder is an integral part of the game, not only for your investigation pursuits, but to help you find your way through the darkness filled rooms you inevitably come across. These areas simply cannot be navigated without the use of the camera’s Night Vision. You will find yourself playing the game through the vision of the camcorder which is no different to that of the normal first person vision’ except for the usual camera tracking lines and battery meter. You will want to keep an eye on these meters, especially while using the camera’s Night Vision mode. This mode quickly depletes your battery and causes you to do a quick “reload” as you run out, allowing you to continue traversing through the darkness. Batteries are found throughout the game but feel few and far between, meaning you will want to be sparing with, not only the Night Vision, but also the camera in general. You have to use it wisely, which adds to the horror and desperation to survive.
The issue with games in this genre is that they often suffer from the same ailment.That which was once scary, eventually becomes repetitive and boring. The fear of danger usually disappears as you become used to the environment. Although, I can honestly say, that I have not stopped fearing for my life while playing Outlast. I have become wiser as the game has continued and I have found myself not as scared to take the chance that I can out run my pursuers or find somewhere to hide. This, however, also concretes over any real chance of getting the thrill that you get when you play Outlast for the first time. It is unlikely you will return to the game other than to show friends who have not played it yet.
Red Barrel has managed to carve out an excellent, but terrifying, world filled with all of the essential ingredients from every atmospheric horror game and film that you can think of. Although the world of the asylum is impressive and great in its detail, character design is somewhat drab and boring when up close and personal. Though suffering this is very rare due to the nature of the game – ideally, you won’t spend long being up close or personal.
Overall, Outlast is an excellent entry into a genre which, over recent years, has become either forgotten or had developers move towards a more action oriented game.
The downsides of its graphical pursuits are only a minor gripe in an otherwise truly terrifying game. It will make you genuinely jump in your seat and your heart race – not only in it’s first twenty minutes of gameplay, but throughout the duration of the terrifying spiral in to insanity.
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