Review of Outlast: A Truly Scary Indie Game
By Jessica Brister On 14 May, 2014 At 10:19 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, PlayStation, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSurvival horror isn’t exactly my favorite gaming genre, but I saw that Outlast was for free on PlayStation Plus a couple of months ago.  I can’t say no to free, so I downloaded it and spent some time playing it.  Just for the record, this is the scariest game that I have ever played.  It’s so scary that I had to stop playing for awhile.  It is just downright frightening.  This type of genre is not my favorite, but Outlast was unique enough for me to buckle down and play through it.  Here is what I thought:

Outlast is a survival horror game developed and published by Red Barrels.  The game play is in first-person perspective; however, it cannot be described as a first-person shooter because there is not actual shooting.  The game came out for PC in September 2013 and was released for PlayStation 4  this February.  It uses the Unreal 3.5 Engine.  Outlast is more of an indy-game, but it has so far gotten some good reviews from critics.

The story follows journalist, Miles Upshur, a mild-mannered reporter who unfortunately doesn’t like fighting back.  Upshur has gotten a tip from a person only known as “The Whistleblower” and is going to check out some crazy things going on at Mount Massive Asylum.  At first glance, the asylum looks like it’s not even in use: there are no guards, doors are locked, and everything appears are be abandoned.  After breaking in, Miles comes to the realization that there is some really dangerous and scary things happening in the asylum.  Instead of gathering evidence, escaping becomes his main goal.

What could possibly go wrong in a creepy looking asylum, right?

What could possibly go wrong in a creepy looking asylum, right?

Overall, the story was pretty interesting, but there was something lacking in it, as if Red Barrels could have done a little more with it.  It’s a typical horror plot with some slasher elements.  The game is really, really scary.  Incredibly scary.  I found that there were times where I’d scream and throw down the controller.  Gamers looking for scary will not be disappointed.  However, I was hoping for a little bit more of a story than that I got.  Players get a lot of jump scares but not a lot of meat to the story.  The gore is pretty amped up, though.  In fact, it is a huge aspect of the game: severed heads, bodies everywhere, and pretty much anything that would remind you of a Saw movie.  Squeamish players would probably not like this game, but if this is your type of thing, you’ll probably like this game.  As a game in the horror genre, Outlast is one of the best that I’ve seen.

Outlast is in first person perspective, but this is not a game about fighting for your life like most first person games. Upshur is described as “not being a fighter,” so unless a scripted scene takes place, the player’s options are to run, hide, or die.  This was quite annoying for me at first because I can’t stand games where I can’t fight back.  I’ve always thought that if anyone is pushed far enough, he or she will find something to fight back with, even if it’s just a make-shift melee weapon.  Then again, I will say that not being able to fight back makes the game ten times scarier.  There’s nothing more frightening than running from something trying to kill you that makes your heart pound a bit harder.

Instead of fighting, the player will spend a lot of time hiding in lockers from the inmates in the asylum.

Instead of fighting, the player will spend a lot of time hiding in lockers from the inmates in the asylum.

As a journalist, Upshur gathers evidence by filming his surroundings.  The only light you get to use is from the night vision on the camera, which is very handy since many of the areas are pitch black.  Unfortunately, the night vision is hard to see out of.  This may actually make the game scarier in a way.  You also have to conserve the night vision because it will drain the battery quicker.  You can find more batteries but depending on the difficulty, they can be few and far between.  In true survival horror-style, you have to be a bit stingy with the batteries if you want to use the night vision during the really important times.

Overall, the controls are a bit stiff, and I found it kind of hard to move around the way I am accustomed to in most newer games.  When climbing ladders and scaling ledges, you can’t look down, which was quite annoying.  The game really didn’t feel as polished as other games in first-person perspective that I’ve played.  I was disappointed with this because I might have liked the game a lot better if the controls were a little more fluid.

The graphics were unfortunately the most disappointing part of the game.  Initially, I didn’t notice them as much because many of the areas are really dark.  However, after looking at bit closer, I noticed that a lot of the inmates at the asylum weren’t designed very well.  They didn’t look that great.  I’m not a video game graphics expert, but the characters looked like they were lacking a lot of detail.  If you look at them up close, there isn’t a lot of detail.  This was disappointing for a game that pretty much came out on PC and next-gen console only. Then again, I do understand that this game was a smaller project.  Besides, you probably won’t notice it that much anyhow because it’s always so dark when you play.

There's something off about the way the characters are built.

There’s something off about the way the characters are built.

Though I don’t really like the survival horror genre, the game was pretty interesting to play.  I doubt that I will be playing it again because I don’t like spending my free time feeling scared.  However, if you are looking for a game that will scare you, this is definitely the game.  Overall, most fans of the genre will enjoy it, and  I am now a little curious to see how Outlast will compare to the upcoming The Evil Within, which comes out in August.

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