Outlasted

Happy Weekend TAY and a Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all the moms out there, especially to my wonderful wife who is an amazing mother.

Last week saw my TV tweaking come to an end. I think I’m in a good place with the settings and while I still have to tweak out some individual consoles, I’m finally able to watch and play.

I finished Ryse off last week and it was...ok. For a launch title on a new console, it was maybe better than average, but I don’t think anyone’s life will be diminished for never having played it. It is fun and competent, but it isn’t doing anything nearly as well as many other similar games. At least the story was fun.

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Having conquered Ryse, I was eager for something new and something to test out my TV calibration. With all the current press for Outlast 2 and having recently heard the love from Eden-373 about the original Outlast, I decided to finally take the plunge into the first game. Nothing better than a game that has you roaming around in the dark to see if your TV’s black levels are set correctly.

I love horror games and I live for games that make me tense, so right out of the gate I knew Outlast was something I would enjoy. It didn’t disappoint (until the end; more on that in a bit) but it is far from a perfect game.

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Outlast is one of those “hide-and-seek” horror games where there is no combat and the player is tasked with avoiding the enemies. This isn’t my favourite game design since this takes away from the terror. Outlast is basically boiled down to a trial and error approach and since you don’t have to fight, you know there is always a “perfect” solution or pathway through a scenario. The player isn’t responsible for much in the way of interaction with the enemies and you can’t have those messy (yet glorious) moments when you take down an enemy with your last weapon or bullet. This doesn’t mean that Outlast isn’t fun, but the core gameplay is also found in Alien: Isolation. Alien: Isolation is the best horror game I’ve ever played *because* of the inclusion of combat and the player’s ability to screw it all up. It can’t truly be scary unless it is all up to you.

I had a blast with Outlast even with the shortcomings. It is at times cheesy and too easy (I played on Nightmare difficulty with no troubles at all). It is the atmosphere that is the glue that holds the sometimes questionable design decisions together. Yes, the rundown psychiatric hospital is overdone and yes, the game borrows heavily from elements of other games, but the overall experience is better than the sum of its parts. The game is short and doesn’t wear out its welcome; though had it been much longer it might have turned into a bit of a drag. I also liked the story and the sense of “WTF” that the game provided...that is until the end.

(*minor spoilers for the end content of Outlast, skip the next 3 paragraphs to avoid*)

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I don’t know what the hell was with the end of Outlast. Eden-373 remarked to me about being disappointed with the end but refrained from any further detail to avoid spoilers. I see now what was the cause of that disappointment.

Most of the story of Outlast was well done and was bizarre and confusing enough to add to the player’s sense of unease and dread. This is how the best horror should work; give the audience enough information to make the story coherent but leave enough of the meat of that story unknown so the audience can make up their own conclusions/theories. Outlast was going along just dandy until it decided it needed to explain everything in a rush at the end.

Outlast almost changes genres in the last chapter and it went from a Silent Hill-like vibe to a decidedly F.E.A.R.-like feel. That’s doing somewhat of a disservice to F.E.A.R which is a brilliant horror shooter with a great story and presentation. I probably should say that the end of Outlast feels like a rip-off of F.E.A.R. without any of the good bits of F.E.A.R.

(*end spoiler*)

I enjoyed Outlast overall (ending aside), but what it does more than anything is make me want to play Outlast 2. There are definitely issues with the first game (don’t get me started about not being able to turn off the music) but there is a heart to the game and an understanding of terror and horror that shows a lot of potential. Hopefully, the second game recognizes the missteps of the original.

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I get to start yet another new game this weekend, but I’m not actually sure what that will be. My family is hoping to go see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 over the next couple of days, but I haven’t checked seating availability in the theater yet. Regardless of what we end up doing, I am eager for a relaxing weekend.

So, what are you playing this weekend?