I’ve had many games make me hide behind my chair over the years. The likes of Dead Space and Condemned have had me playing with one eye shut. None have terrified me more than Outlast. It’s a tense affair that leaves you completely powerless to defend yourself. The game is so simple that it’s effective. You can’t attack enemies or power your way through the game. All you can do is run and hide in a horrifyingly beautiful asylum. However, in between the terrifying scares and interesting narrative, Outlast provides some repetitive mission objectives and some of the character models are a bit dated.
The game is good looking and features very nice dynamic lighting and soundscape. They work in cohesion to have you on the edge of your seat. Little things like leaving a trail of bloody footprints really add to the immersion of the game. However, despite the world looking nice, the character models look very dated. The pathfinding of the enemies is also very easy to read once you spend several minutes observing. The animations are a bit rigid and enemy types become repetitive towards the end of the game. To be fair, you’ll probably spend most of the time running away to really notice it.
What’s great about the game is that you can’t fight off the enemies. The aim of the game is to survive and you will spend most of your time running and hiding. I’ve played my fair share of survival-horror games and I can honestly say that Outlast is a refreshing and original concept in that regard. I’ve had some memorable, yet utterly terrifying moments. Luckily you can hide in lockers and under beds, but this is still very nerve wracking as enemies can pull you out.
Your best friend in the game comes in the form of a video camera with a night-vision setting. Much of the environment is shrouded in darkness, so you will spend a considerable amount of time looking though the camera. This creates an enormous amount of tension as your field of vision is narrowed. The camera’s batteries also deplete, meaning you have to scavenge the environment for extra batteries. The game does a great job of forcing you to be conservative with your resources.
The game does feature some repetitive and typical game design elements. You often have to activate/find three things that help you progress. This takes you out of the game a little and when there’s a locker next to the objective you know something is going to happen.
The story is well written and quite disturbing in nature. You can pick up documents and audiotapes throughout the world, which help flesh out the narrative of the game.
Outlast is a unique and utterly terrifying survival horror, which forces you to flee and hide. The game creates an atmosphere and tension I haven’t experienced from any other game. It is great to play by yourself and even better to play with a group of people. It will make you scream and it will make you laugh. It is however let down by repetitive design and poor character models.