Gaming on a Budget: Outlast

I’m kicking off October by playing one of the games that has perhaps left me more scared than any other game has so far. That game is Outlast, a first person survival horror game developed by Red Barrels for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. If you really want a game to immerse and scare you for less than $20, this is a really good one to do so with.

The premise of Outlast is pretty simple: you play Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist that has received a tip about some strange goings-on at Mount Massive Asylum. Once you get in however, getting out as fast as possible becomes the goal as you run and hide from the inmates that are running the asylum while you slowly uncover just what kind of malpractices have been going on.

First and foremost, I want to let it be known that I am only doing horror games to fit the season and I am a huge coward. I get scared pretty easily, and asylums in general make me uncomfortable. However, the gameplay in this is pretty solid overall. It fits that, because you’re a journalist, you have no fighting capabilities. You rely on your camera, which allows you to keep a better eye on the crazies that are stalking you throughout the asylum, and it is crucial for navigation as well by turning on its night vision mode, which drains the batteries but allows you to see clearly in the dark. Spare batteries can be found if you look hard enough, usually off the beaten and clear path, and are a huge relief when you are down to only one left.

A lot of this game centers on you navigating areas of the asylum while one of the inmates stalks you. When spotted, all you can do is run, slam doors behind you to slow them down, and hide while trying to find parts to a puzzle, such as having to turn off a couple of valves in order to lower the water level so you can crawl through the sewers about half way through the game. While this does make it a struggle while you are trying to find the object and certainly keeps it tense, it does tend to get a bit repetitive and it left me wondering why it was necessary in every major area. Each floor that you run through is rather large, and because there is no clear way other than signs on walls to tell which way you’re going it is pretty easy to get lost, which can be both a positive and negative because while it can be frustrating, it really adds to the tension when you have an inmate on your heels.

This is a great looking game as well, especially for an indie title. Utilizing the Unreal engine, everything almost comes to life. The asylum looks like a decent place at first, but slowly reveals how broken down it is in some places and just downright creepy in others. There is a lot of blood and gore, so be prepared to see a lot of graphic material in this game and I couldn’t recommend it to younger players.

The sound in Outlast is phenomenal as well, and really adds to the overall experience. Try playing this game at night with all of the lights off and volume turned up and it will really add to the experience as well. I could never really tell where something was coming from and it left me feeling like the game just wouldn’t let go no matter what. Accompanied with the sprinkled in jump scares, and you’ll be more than likely left feeling uncomfortable and always anticipating when something or someone else will be coming after you.

The story really relies on you finding scattered classified documents throughout the game as well. By itself, it’s functional but without looking you won’t be able to tell what is going on and understand what the last creature you face is. Without spoiling anything, the buildup of Outlast is great, but the last half hour or so is pretty weak in comparison to the opening acts and left me a little disappointed overall.

This game does have a few glaring issues though. For example, while the chase sequences are great, they can be a bit easy to exploit. I had a few instances where I would only get chased up to a certain point, then the guy would simply stop, stand there for a few seconds, and reset. Sure, I was able to get the game done quicker and safer, but once I found that sweet spot it was simply too easy to resist doing it over and over again if he started chasing me. It’s also a pretty short game as well, clocking in at maybe five to six hours at the absolute maximum. On a second play through I beat it in a little over four. Character designs get a little repetitive as well, and there is one character that is somehow able to follow you to different parts of the asylum with no explanation whatsoever, despite the fact that you had a lot of accidents to get there in the first place.

Overall, this is a game that scared me senseless so many times that I had to take a few breaks. While it can be exploited at times and is pretty short overall, it’s a very solid horror experience and one that I would highly recommend to anybody that is looking for a scare.

Verdict: 8.5/10


Featured image courtesy of Red Barrels

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