Outlast was developed back in 2013 by Red Barrels. When it came out it was all the rage for horror lets players at the time and received an impressive amount of praise. It’s a game that’s held up against the test of time fairly well. Despite it being a few years old, it still looks decent, making it a game that can be replayed a few times as the years go by. So if you’re the type of person that likes to invite your friends over and torture them by playing scary games, then this one is a pretty good choice.
I replayed it myself for this review, and I more or less was still interested and enjoyed my time with it.
It’s pretty straightforward. You’re a reporter intent on discovering the perverted happenings within an old asylum. You go to the location, break in (always a good idea), and end up having to find your way back out of the hell hole into which you so willingly crawled. You discover that the inpatients within the asylum have not only been abused and mutilated but have also escaped and wreaked havoc on the whole hospital staff.
You’re equipped with nothing but a night vision camera and this one object is the key to making this game so uniquely terrifying. As you play, you must avoid the various naked crazy men–yes I said naked. You must use your hide and seek skills along with your night vision camera to weasel around the inpatients who want to hurt you. This alone gives the game producers a million different little ways to mess with you as you play. Imagine standing at the mouth of a long hallway, staring down into the blackness and seeing nothing; then you lift your camera and see someone standing there, glowing eyes fixed on you.
The game runs pretty smoothly. The controls are fluid, and it’s easy to navigate throughout the maps as you play. Even encountering the enemies is–as odd as it sounds– not very burdensome. If you run into an enemy he’ll hit you, and you’ll take damage, but you can usually get away and hide. If anything, I would say that this is the only downfall that Outlast has. It makes encountering some enemies not as terrifying because you know you can get away. It can take the thrill out of the chase, but the game tries to stay on top of revving up your pulse in a way that I applaud.
Another successful mechanism Red Barrels applied that gets your pulse going during intense scenes is the simple fact that your character breaths heavy when he’s under any stress. If he sees something scary, he’ll start to breath faster; if he’s been chased off or an enemy is near, you can hear him try to calm his breath (and fail miserably), and that in return makes the game stressful. Additionally, the enemies will pause as if they’ve heard you and look for the source of the breathing. I tend to stay calm and focused on spooky games when I play, but I noticed time and time again that my character’s erratic breathing caused my pulse to spike and give me more of a stress rush than I wanted.
Outlast has never been a game that I could just sit down and play all the way through. It’s been a game that I can only tolerate playing maybe 2 or 3 hours at a time before needing a break from the stress. And that’s what makes it an effective horror game!