Outlast is one of the most terrifying survival horror games in recent years, for its realistic presentation and elements of snuff films.
|Console||PC/Mac/Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Release Year||2013 – 2015|
|Purchase (PC/Mac/Linux)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Whistleblower DLC)||Purchase from Steam.|
If you were ever afraid of psychiatric institutions at any point… then Outlast won’t change your mind. In fact, it will make you scared shitless. It’s one of those games that truly dives into the NOPE! territory.
Outlast has the reputation of being one of the scariest games released in recent years, and for good reason. It’s hideous. It’s cruel. It’s bloodthirsty. And it’s just so fucking hardcore.
So, let’s see what kind of shitstorm we’re in for!
Flying into the Cuckoo’s Nest
The game starts with you, taking the role of an investigative reporter named Miles Upshur, driving to Mount Massive Asylum—gee, very subtle name, guys. Immediately, the atmosphere takes you in. You know you’re in for a trip through Hell with a place that looks like this.
But fuck common sense! You need to get your big scoop and you have your trusty camcorder to capture every single horrifying moment!
Yep, a camcorder. So basically, you’re also partaking in the “found footage” subgenre of horror. Just like The Blair Witch Project.
If you have ever played Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the gameplay is somewhat similar. This is one of those horror games where you cannot fight back against the enemy and that your only choice is to run and hide. Your main objective is to progress as far as possible by solving puzzles and avoiding the hideous patients known as the Variants. Most of the puzzles are easy to solve though, such as pulling levers and finding hidden keys to open a certain door. As long as you keep exploring your environment, you’ll never feel truly lost.
You need to pull out your camcorder often in order to get as much as you can from the game’s story. You also need to use its night vision function to get through dark places, which will quickly drain its battery. So of course, you need to save up as many batteries as possible to get through the longer dark areas.
Wow… that looks excruciatingly painful…
But of course, this wouldn’t be a horror game without some creepy shit coming right at you.
The Variants were simply patients of Mount Massive Asylum, after going through an experiment that mutates them into hideous vaguely human monsters with a slowly decaying mind. While some are harmless after going through agony, others are violent and murderous. Seeing these guys patrolling poorly lit hallways while your camera’s night vision is on is an experience that will guarantee you shitting your pants.
The Neverending Horrors of Mount Massive Asylum
Because you have no means to defend yourself, you can only run and hide. While you can shut doors behind you to slow down your pursuers, it won’t be long before they will break in.
The best way to break off a pursuit is to find a hiding place, like a locker or a bed. Even if they make pretty flimsy hiding places, the odds are against you.
Nope! I was never here!
But for those who have seen Outlast before, there is a particular character that is like the unofficial mascot for the game. An anti-hero who relentlessly pursues his prey and murders them, Mortal Kombat style, with a psychotic grin. Everyone, meet former security officer and possible missing link Chris Walker.
Now THAT is a smile only a mother could love.
While there are quite a few notable villains in Outlast, Chris Walker stands out as this badass gorilla of a man who will check every nook and cranny for any remaining survivors to murder. Surprisingly, his reasons for doing so are almost sane. You always know he’s close by when you hear his trademark rattling chains. The moment he locks eyes with you while you’re scared shitless inside a locker is the moment where you have to RUN! RUN! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE BEFORE HE GUTS YOU LIKE A LITTLE PIGGY! JUST RU-U-U-U-N!!!
But that’s definitely not all. Outlast is probably what you would get if you turned a found footage snuff film into a video game. This becomes more painfully clear once you meet Richard Trager.
And I’m dead serious. Outlast is one of the most graphic horror games I ever played. The amount of realism, from the detailed decrepit environments and the leathery skin texture of your enemies, makes it a genuinely terrifying experience. The sound design is also quite strong, giving off the right intense sounds and music cues as you approach the next dangerous area.
Of course, the game does rely heavily on jumpscares and cinematics that tone down the realism slightly. Slightly. You can tell some of the scares feel too deliberate and planned out rather than being something that can naturally occur. Not a big detractor, but definitely something to consider.
The story is alright, though you can easily lose a lot of context if you didn’t find the documents scattered throughout the game. You also need to pull out your camcorder every now and then, then capture a scene for Miles Upshur to write a journey entry about. And through his journal entries, you can detect his smugness and his anger about the horrific events going on. So in that sense, you can still relate to him, even if he’s not really likable in any sense.
Aside from some key scenes, the story is not really memorable. Originally, your main goal is to investigate the ongoings of Mount Massive Asylum. And then for 90% of the game, your goal is to escape Mount Massive Asylum. Without any meaningful character interaction from Miles, you remember mostly the scares from the story rather than the actual substance.
Still, the lore and the social/religious commentary are pretty fascinating when you get into them. Plus you don’t usually see this amount of gritty realism in a video game, not even a horror game. So as a horror story, it did its job.
Since I said my piece about the main game, let’s talk about Outlast: Whistleblower for a bit. Whistleblower is a new campaign that takes place before the events of the main game. This time, you’re a software engineer employed by Murkoff Corporation named Waylon Park, the titular “whistleblower.” It turns out that Waylon Park is the man responsible for sending Miles Upshur the anonymous tip about Mount Massive Asylum, thus setting the stage for the main game.
Unfortunately, Waylon Park gets caught into the incident that kills off the majority of Mount Massive Asylum’s staff and experiences a fresh piece of hell for himself.
This time, you have three main antagonists: Jeremy Blaire, an executive from Murkoff; Eddie Gluskin, a misogynistic patient recently driven insane by an experiment; and Frank Manera, a thin but cannibalistic patient.
Frank Manera is pretty forgettable since he has a single defining trait, but Eddie Gluskin is a legit disturbing character with a clearly warped view on life.
Overall, there are no fundamental changes to the gameplay. As DLC, this campaign is shorter than the main story but still well worth playing if you liked the main story.
In conclusion, I recommend giving Outlast and the Whistleblower DLC a try if you’re looking for a terrifying experience with a gritty realism to it.
- The story works alright for a horror game, but lacks a real connection to the characters and the specific ongoings of the plot.
- The exploration and hiding mechanic work well in this setting.
- The realistic environment and character models present a truly horrific experience.
- The sound design is pretty good and helps control the tension of the story and gameplay.
- The puzzle-solving lacks depth.
- The cinematic jumpscares tend to be frequent and distracting, mostly coming across as harmless.