Outlast Review

Outlast Featured

Outlast Cover

Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Platform: PC

 Having been a long time horror fan, I have long since developed specific tastes and requisites or what I think makes a “good” horror game. Of course, it is worth recognizing that games I do not find scary can still be great, or at least, appreciated by others. A game in the horror genre can be a lot of things, although scary is preferred. It just seems hard to come across one that I’d feel comfortable suggesting is actually terrifying. Is Outlast the game to do it?

Outlast Featured

Nope. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it sure starts out promising (with a fair dose of unintentional silliness).  You’re a journalist who has received an anonymous email calling your attention to a huge corporation involved in shady dealings at the local asylum – Mount Massive Asylum. It’s a bit odd, but you feel it is your journalistic duty to take down the capitalistic scum and believe this story will be their downfall.

Things don’t go as planned though as soon as you enter the asylum you realize that it is in a state of utter chaos. The inmates really are running the asylum! As you might expect, it’s only the really crazed ones who you are apt to encounter along your journey. That may be the first weak point of the game. It’s incredibly hard to make a really fearful enemy out of a human. Insane they may be, they’re still shown as people who (usually) wear clothes, sit on couches, and speak coherently.

Other issues with the game come from the way it plays out which is far too formulaic to be scary. When everything is new at the start it works… but then you start to encounter the same setups time and time again. Much of Outlast is played as a stealth title. This means there are enemies lurking in the dark waiting to pounce if you’re not careful to avoid them. Whenever you press a button on some machine, or take some important item, you are also basically assured one will come running. So jump into the usually conveniently placed hiding spot! Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

Outlast Screenshot

The same holds true for other aspects of the game, such as the neat addition of a digital video camera. Its main function is becoming a “flashlight” via night vision mode. However, using this eats up battery super fast which means you’ve always got to be on the lookout for more batteries. They’re incredibly important considering much of the game is pitch black otherwise. While a neat concept, limited resources in horror games always annoy me. Thankfully this is no Resident Evil printer ribbon so you’ll find batteries all over the place.

One aspect severely lacking from most modern horror is puzzles. The same holds true for Outlast. Oh, there are things that some might construe as puzzles, but they aren’t in the least. Mostly, you must simply find the thing you need to interact with and then move on. This becomes difficult because of the meandering inmates who will chase you back into the same old hiding spots until you know your way around.

This is a huge issue because horror games ride the fine line between scary and annoying. Outlast tips the scales in favor for annoying. After all, at some point, being harassed by the same inmate is bound to make players frustrated. As soon as frustration sets in, almost all fear dissipates. You’ll likely find yourself just rashly passing by enemies because all fear of death has been removed.

Outlast Screenshot 2

How did the developers think to remedy their loss of creepy tension? Simple, just add jump scares! There are a great deal of jump scares in this game and they’re primarily the bad kind. This means you’ve got a loud noise accompanying practically each one. There are times a scare like this can be used effectively, but again, doing it far too often wears out the novelty. Beyond that, jump scares are probably the most hated scare in all of horror media because they’re considered a cheap way to shock someone.

The best thing about Outlast is the design. Unlike most horror games, it actually allows players to be plunged in absolute darkness for significant periods of playtime. Granted, you have a light, but it is still neat. Graphically the game is quite attractive, with much attention paid to detail. Walls are often scrawled with ramblings or splashed with blood. Little touches like this show there was a lot of work put into the game.

Good graphics do not make up for monotonous, and entirely fright-free, gameplay. Watching “Let’s Players” will probably reveal a lot of scared faces, and they may well be scared, but I simply was unable to look past the multitude of annoying aspects to open up to scares. And at the end of the day, there’s a lot more to a good horror game than graphics. Some of my scariest experiences gaming have been with titles from the PS1 era, not modern HD games.

Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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