Survival video game set in a spooky universe with a first-person perspective
Windows 8 / Windows 7 / Windows Vista / Windows XP
Outlast is a first person survival-horror game that sends players on a grisly tour through an asylum overrun by its deranged patients through the avatar of Miles Upshur, investigative journalist.
Outlast sets itself apart from most modern horror games by giving players no tools to defend themselves. Armed only with a camcorder and night-vision, the player must run and hide while coping with the asylum’s homicidal denizens and oppressive environment. There is no shortage of scares, and Outlast delivers them beautifully. The asylum is one of the best-looking game environments to date, covered in gore as it is.
At the game’s best, Outlast’s dedication to horror above all other elements is its most valuable feature. Minutes into the game, the atmospheric tension is already overbearing, and running for your life never loses its terror. As an audiovisual experience, the game is top notch, but it loses some of its impact when it tries to set goals for scavenging and exploration, which happens frequently. While Outlast could be commended for not holding the player’s hand, forcing players to memorize bits of the labyrinthine asylum’s level design, more often this means reloading save files death after death until the threats of the game feel redundant. If terror lies in the unknown, Outlast struggles to maintain its terror after a few hours, relying on sudden shocks in between these segments to pick the pace back up.
To counteract any potential and indeed probable desensitization on the part of the player, Upshur’s own fears and anxieties easily transfer through the screen. Every action is seen. Doors and objects are not interacted with by an invisible hand. Instead, every action is visible, adding a distinctly authentic physical presence to the game that makes a huge difference in the narrative. Adding to this, Miles keeps a journal of the things he sees, giving depth and insight to the character and his own declining sanity. If Miles was not an effective character, his shortcomings in a stealth game might have been frustrating. He is certainly no expert, as players can scarcely hear enemy movement over the sound of his own panicked breath when hiding, which gives no assurance of safety when he chooses to peek his head back out. This does wonders for keeping the adrenaline going, even when the player has achieved the closest thing to safety they can, and that fear and adrenaline is what makes Outlast shine.
Outlast is not, as publisher Red Barrels boasted it to be, the scariest game ever created, but it lives up to the boldness of that claim. From start to finish, it is a unique and disturbing experience in a gorgeous shell with a powerful atmosphere and a wealth of horrors. What it lacks in fluid progression, it makes up for in adrenaline pumping scares.