Outlast is probably one of the most popular horror indie games that we have today, it won the best PC game, best horror game and best indie game in 2013 and still to this day entertains everyone three years on. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels, an indie company founded by people who are veterans within the game industry, they helped develop games such as Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted. That does give them a head start amongst other indie companies but still nevertheless they formed an indie horror game and it became a horror game to remember. Outlast has a narrative story that compels you and simultaneously terrifies you. You play as a journalist (something relatable for me in a game now) called Miles Upshur, who does what no other journalist will do and that is investigate Mount Massive Asylum. Armed with a camera and a notepad you journey into the asylum to uncover its dark secret, nothing will prepare you for the horrors you will witness.
Outlast for me has a playstyle unlike any other horror game, it makes the game feel personal and has you dreading going around the corners in fear of what will be lurking there. The plot for this game is as insane as the patients, it starts off as a typical horror game set in an asylum, some weird stuff goes on during your entry. After about half an hour of playing the game, and coming across some even weirder stuff than before, you begin to realise that this is no ordinary asylum. Maniac priests, supernatural forces and even more bizarre unexplainable horrors are in Outlast, nothing is like a typical horror game and after this game I can promise you one thing. You will never see silk the same way again. Going back to the plot of the game, it really brings out true fear from the player, it has twists everywhere and gore in every crevice. All I can really say about the plot is what I said before, you are going to investigate Mount Massive Asylum and everything goes downhill once you crawl through that hole in the wall. If I could tell you more about the story I would but I find it impossible to explain it any further without ruining any essential parts to the ending.
For me horror games can either take one of three directions; gore, psychological, or suspense. Games like The Evil Within combine gore and psychological fear, while other horrors carry a suspense feeling like P.T which usually makes people scream like a little girl once the jump scares occur (speaking from experience). But Outlast combines all three, to be fair there is less psychological effects until you get towards the end of the game. Red Barrels did a great job of combing the jump scares with the most stomach churning gore possible. Also jump scares aren’t constant in this game, which is amazing. As someone who loves horror I hate how most games just go for the jump scares and it does get tiring to play with something popping up every couple of minutes. All the jump scares in Outlast are usually timed well apart from each other, so you don’t get bored but also so it keeps reminding you that it is a horror game not just any ordinary survival game. Another great feature is that some of the jump scares are caused by you, how does this work? Well when an enemy is chasing you or if you run into an enemy they can grab you but if you’re not aware of the enemy being there then it does get your heart racing, especially when you’re in the pitch black with no batteries for your camera. Gore in this game is taken to a whole new level of disgusting, which is perfect. Yes I am one of those horror lovers, I crave the jump scares (but not too many as they get boring) and I love the gore.
Congratulations to Red Barrels to be the only game apart from P.T to make my stomach churn, the gore like I said takes disgusting to a whole new level. To police officers being impaled on spikes all the way to deformed bodies who are chasing you. I mean there is even a scene of necrophilia, which after this game being released for three years, it still disturbs me to this day. Red Barrels didn’t hold back with the gore, endless sights of blood along the walls and limbs scattered in the most unusual places, this game isn’t for the light-hearted or for people with a weak stomach.
Outlast is also terrifying because there is no combat system within the game, making this a true survival game. All you can do is hide away from these crazed patients, in the lockers, under the beds, behind objects, but remember nowhere is truly safe. Why is nowhere truly safe? Because they will check under beds, inside lockers and when you’re hiding behind the objects they might see you! I suppose this is what also creates the fear factor of the game, the fact that unlike games such as Resident Evil, you can’t fight back. You have to rely on your escaping skills once someone sees you and when someone sees you I can guarantee you will feel your heart in your mouth. I would advise when playing Outlast that you don’t rush into any room for the first time, you never know who or what is in the room. For me the non-combat system adds to the realism, you play as a journalist not an ex-SAS soldier with incredible combat skills. I feel if there was a combat system added it would have ruined the whole game for many reasons such as realism, also being armed with a gun makes anything less scary. Even though there is one scene which includes combat, but it is self defence and it portrays what any normal person would do in the situation.
Moving on from combat, we are going to dwell into the character, not his back story, nor are we going to talk about him personally. But I want to talk about how throughout Outlast, the fact you are a journalist is always made apparent. The camera you have been given, isn’t just for seeing in the dark, you actually can record events and when the events are recorded your character jots down notes on what you have seen, taken from the point of view from the character. And I love them! They don’t make the character out to be a posh person, he acts like a normal person, he swears and when you read the notes you can imagine the terror he is experiencing. Making our play time more realistic for the game, and also making us connect with the character even more than we already have done. Also, with the camera you have to collect batteries that are scattered around the asylum (convenient, isn’t it?), these batteries are used for the night vision on the camera, even though they do drain quickly, and they vary on the amount you can carry depending on the difficulty you are playing on. The camera has a great feature as well, how long it has been used for. Why is this a great feature? Because you use the camera 99.9% of the time during the game, this timer can actually be used as an amount of time played, which is useful when doing speed runs of the game.
However, with every great game there comes its bad points such as the lighting in the game, which makes the game seem completely unrealistic because there will be light in a room but where the light should reach it would be pitch black. I understand that they want to make the scenery seem dark and creepy but it really just appears at some points to be unrealistic and it does take away from the greatness of the game. Also, another bad point about Outlast is the fact that it becomes very predictable when the enemy will start to hunt you. Now I am going to explain this and it is sort of a spoiler to the game if you haven’t played it before so please take caution reading this. When you perform certain actions for example, turning a valve or pressing a button. The enemy will always come into that room about 30 seconds – 60 seconds after the action. Why this length of time? Because it gives you time to hide or run. It is something I noticed during my first play through and I feel like it did ruin some of the experience for me, as I’m sure it has for other people out there.
Overall, Outlast is a fantastic horror game which truly gives you the feeling of terror and fear. It has a story just as twisted as the patients from the asylum and an ending that is just as confusing as the events you’ll encounter in the game. Red Barrels truly outdid themselves with Outlast, apart from a couple of the problems I had mentioned, they created my favourite indie horror of all time and the anticipation for the second game is killing me. Remember if you are going to play Outlast wear brown pants (if you get the reference, you deserve a cookie). Make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming review on the DLC for Outlast, called ‘Whistleblower’.