After finishing Outlast, I can honestly say I have never played a game, watched a movie or television show, or read a book that has scared me as much as it has.
For all of you who don't know, Outlast is a survival horror game from Red Barrels, a relatively new studio that packs some serious talent. It was founded by developers who had previously worked on series such as Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell and Uncharted. That said, Outlast is not like any of them.
You play Miles Upshur, a journalist who receives some information on a mental asylum located in the middle of nowhere. After gaining entry to the asylum, he suddenly realises that everything is not what it seems to be, and pretty soon he becomes a target for the asylum's many insane residents.
Survival Horror At Its Best
Now I don't mean to brag, but I'm not scared easily, but as soon as I began Outlast, all of my masculinity went out the window. For a game that is only 4 or so hours long, it provided me with more scares than the entire Resident Evil series altogether. Once the first scare starts, they just keep coming and coming. Outlast isn't a game that relies completely on jump scares, but it also uses your sense of hopelessness as a clever way of keeping you constantly scared. You are useless against the inmates, you can't fight back and you have to rely on getting away and hiding in places such as lockers, under beds or even in shadows to ensure your survival. Thankfully they can't see in the dark, but that doesn't mean you'll feel safe in the shadows...
If I had to take a wild guess at what a mental asylum is like, I'd say Red Barrels have done a pretty good job at creating one. Again, if I had to take a stab at what an overrun mental asylum is like, Red Barrels have pretty much nailed it. From the moment you enter the asylum's grounds, there is sense of dread and urgency that carries on throughout the game. When I was playing, I had a constant sense of that not only was my character being watched, but I too was being watched, the prying eyes were waiting for me to make a fault and then use my own mistakes as the reason for my characters death. One wrong turn and it is almost certain game over.
A bit of advice, to get the full experience, I highly recommend playing this at night, in a dark room and with headphones on. That is how this game is meant to be played.
Innovative Use Of A Video Camera
The only tool that Miles has at his disposal is a video camera, which he can use to record events, or more importantly, to use to navigate the pitch black corridors. The video camera coincidentally has a very nice night vision setting. On the downside using the night vision reduces the camera's battery, which can be replaced with batteries which are also coincidentally dotted throughout the asylum.
When playing Outlast, the camera became my best friend, I even gave it a name. Kevin. Kevin saved my life many, many times.
Not The Best Looking Game
If I'm being honest, graphics don't really mean that much to me, but even though it's a PS4 game, it could easily pass for a early PS3 game. The hospital itself looks good, but I honestly couldn't give a full description of it, as I never spent more than 30 seconds in the same area, except when hiding, but even then I was in the shadows, so all I seen was a whole lot of black. The character models are a bit disappointing, they look good in stills, but their movement was very jaggy and were all quite unappealing to look at, but not for the right reasons.
Soundtrack Is Only Good When It Matters
The majority of the soundtrack is forgettable, it only picks up in the most dire of situations, but when it does, it adds a whole other level to the atmosphere. It's got the obvious sounds, slashing violins, deep basslines and heavy drumming. It's got all the sound a horror game needs, an example is when you're approaching a scare scene, there will be a shrieking violin picking up in volume and then quickly dying down once you've witnessed whatever scare there was.
If I'm being honest though, I think the game would be much better without a soundtrack, the atmosphere would be near perfect if the only sounds I could hear were ones coming from my character or from the residents of the asylum. Oh, and the little girly squeals I'd make.
Generic Horror Plot
The plot isn't anything special, most people who have play a horror game before will be almost instantly familiar with the story. There's only so much you can do with a mental asylum, and Outlast used it all. It even comes with a generic plot twist! It truly is a horror game! I kept trying to get into what was going on inside the asylum, and why it was overrun, but when it got to the big plot twist, I hardly cared anymore, but you could say that was because I just wanted Miles to live. I just wanted him to escape and maybe go on a cruise or something.
Outlast is the best survival horror game since the original Dead Space, but only if you don't mind a boring story. If you just want to be scared, get this game. Heck, even if you need a good story in you horror games, get this game. You may enjoy it. I was just hoping for something more substantial. It is the quintessential survival horror game. It's cheap, it's even free on PS Plus at the moment, it's fun and it's a non-stop barrage of scares.