I would like to say that Outlast is a rainbow coloured, happy clappy game that will have you giggling like a school girl every time you play it. I’d like to say that. But the fact is that this would be so far from the truth. How far? Think of the distance between the earth and the sun. Yes, that far. Instead Outcast is a dark, terrifying adventure that will (quite literally) have you jumping in your seat and sneaking furtive glances at the shadows in the corner of your room.
This is the horror game that Resident Evil and Silent Hill used to be. I must admit that I made a few basic mistakes when playing this game. And as your tireless reviewer (or whipping boy) I must caution you to not make the same foolhardy errors. Error No. 1: I played the game in the dark. Error No2: I played the game when there was no-one else in the room. Error No 3: I played Outlast wearing a pair of clean white pants.
For anyone who has yet to savour the nerve wrenching, yet excruciatingly sublime, terror of Outlast, here’s a quick rundown. Outlast is the brainchild of Red Barrels, a development company created by programmers who cut their teeth on heavy hitters such as Uncharted, Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia. The game is a first person adventure which casts you in the role of freelance investigative journalist Miles Upshur who has given himself the assignment from hell. Literally.
As the game begins our protagonist #receives an anonymous tip from a source identified only as a whistleblower. The contact claims that Inhumane experiments are being committed at Mount Massive Asylum, a remote psychiatric hospital set deep in the mountains of Lake County, Colorado.
Your task? To investigate the mysterious goings on at the abandoned lunatic asylum. The twist? Well, unlike previous games in this genre, you have no weapons. Nothing. Not even a wooden stick to beat back the encroaching shadows. There is no fighting, no punching, no kicking, not even a head-butt here and there. Your only weapon in Outlast is your wits. Oh, and your ability to scamper to a hiding place while Hells own rejects are shambling through the darkened rooms and corridors searching for you. The one tool you carry around with is a camcorder that will help illuminate darkened areas of the asylum. But often the camcorder will help you see things that you will regret seeing.
I must admit the first time I opened a door and headless corpse dropped from the ceiling I immediately regretted making mistake No.3. And it’s worth mentioning that Outlast encourages you to be sparing in the use of your camcorder. Its batteries last about as long as the batteries that you get from Poundland. And, although batteries can be found in the asylum, you definitely do not want to be rummaging around looking for them. In the dark. By yourself. By cleverly denying the gamer the use of any type of weapon, Outlast leaves you with a sense of helplessness that is so tangible that you can almost touch it.
The further you delve into the asylum and the more notes you find and read, the more you start to worry about your own sanity. And the more you crave the comfort of a .45 or pump action shotgun. So is this the perfect horror game. Very close. A couple of minus points Outlast has to live with is that there are few decisions to be made and not many tough bosses to beat. Most of the really bad guys can be beaten by simply running as fast as you can and finding a closet to hide into. And once you’ve completed the game there is little incentive to reboot it for another shot. But, saying that, once you’ve completed Outlast, your first thought will be to pour yourself a stiff drink and make sure every light in the house is on. I loved every minute of Outlast and you will too.
As I write this, I’m keeping one eye on my pc monitor and the other on a shadow just outside the periphery of my vision. Did you see that movement? No? Well, maybe it was nothing. Maybe I could use a change of pants…
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