Outlast is one of the scariest games I have ever played. Almost as scary as Alan Wake, but in a completely different way. It takes everything you could possibly be afraid of and cranks up the dial to 1,000. From darkness, decay, blood and gore – to the feeling of being chased or trapped. It’s all here. Prepare to enter an asylum where you are not simply waiting on the next big scare, but are constantly in fear.
Players take control of Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist who makes his way to Mount Massive Asylum following an anonymous tip that tells of the inhumane experiments taking place there. Upon arriving, Miles is greeted by the mutilated corpses of asylum staff members. The patients themselves roam aimlessly around the facility, attempting to kill you on sight. Miles then runs into Father Martin, a cult leader who is hell bent on keeping Miles at the asylum. Now trapped inside, Miles must unravel the mysteries of Mount Massive and find a way to escape.
There is no traditional combat in Outlast, save for a few scripted sequences. Instead, players will spend their time moving through the facility in a parkour-style of play – constantly on the run. Miles can also crawl, vault over obstacles, or slide through narrow gaps. When you aren’t running in fear, a good majority of your time will be spent hiding from enemies and waiting for them to pass. Miles can hide inside of lockers, under beds, or behind objects. Some enemies will even continue to search an area if they suspect you are there, providing a great vibe of suspense as you wait for them to pass.
Since the asylum is ultimately shrouded in darkness and dim lighting, players are equipped with a video camera that is also capable of providing night vision. However, using your camera consumes battery power, so players will definitely want to use it wisely. Extra sets of batteries are available as you make your way through the asylum, but you will need to search for them. Most of the scripted story actually unfolds through notes and footage taken by Miles.
Some players may become used to the scare tactics of Outlast after a while, even anticipating what might pop out next. Fortunately, Miles is almost constantly being chased, and that’s what really makes Outlast so scary. You cannot attack enemies, so running and hiding is your only option. Players will traverse through rooms and hallways – running into furniture, walls, and other objects as they frantically try to escape or find a place to hide. There is nowhere completely safe in this asylum and enemies will track you, busting down doors and revealing your hiding spot on many occasions. Always be prepared to run.
There is some dim lighting throughout the asylum, but it is well placed and careful to never reveal too much of what is down a hallway or around a corner. The musical score and sound effects aren’t as good as Alan Wake or Resident Evil, but they work well to set the tone of each situation that arises nonetheless. Instead, smaller touches, like footsteps and the sound of Miles breathing go a long way to immersing players in the world of Outlast. Since the Mount Massive Asylum is dark, you will often rely on your ears to know what lies ahead. In addition to footsteps, the sounds of moaning, chains, and dripping water all help to envelope you in the games atmosphere.
As I mentioned before, some players will no doubt become used to many of the scare tactics at Mount Massive. However, Outlast itself is also aware of this, as the game is relatively short and does not overstay its welcome. Total play time lasts around 5 or 6 hours, depending on how thorough you are in searching the asylum. Players looking for the ultimate Outlast experience should play through the game on Insane difficulty – things are much scarier when death is just a heartbeat away. Should you decide to give the game a shot, I also highly suggest playing in a dark room, with a gaming headset or surround sound system for maximum immersion.
Outlast is a truly original experience, full of genuine suspense and ghastly consequences. I had previously seen others play the game on PC and am glad it has finally made its way to Xbox One. Many games have attempted the kind of atmosphere that Mount Massive brings to the table, but very few have nailed it the way that Outlast does. Players will be constantly listening as things move and happen around them. You will be drawn into the games atmosphere, wanting to learn more about its inhabitants and what happened to them. Looking over your shoulder, hiding under beds, and running for your life as you inch closer to the truth, and freedom. Its a very surreal experience. Red Barrels has crafted a short, yet ultimately satisfying masterpiece. Grotesque and terrifying. Intense and unforgiving. Outlast plays out like your favorite horror movie – only its much more frightening.