Developer(s) – Red Barrels
Publisher(s) – Red Barrels
Project Manager – Paul-Andre Renaud
Producer – Louis St Denis
PEGI – 18
Originally released last year as a digital download for Steam, Outlast this week found it’s way on PlayStation 4. But whilst I think it definitely will provide a very stern test for veteran survival horror fans, for me personally, it did little but to re-emphasize the ongoing reservation I have with survival horror games. The focus seems to be mostly on merely making the game as scary as possible and deviating far too much from gameplay, which is the most important aspect of any game. But in terms of scaring people, this game certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Graphics – 9/10
For an indie game, it is very well polished, and the attention to detail in the environments and scenery certainly makes this game stand out from a graphical point of view at least. But the fact that this game is so well-presented could also be disturbing by others, as the gritty and horrific atmosphere is depicted throughout the course of the game through the presence of disemboweled corpses and pools of blood along with the floors and walls. The surviving inmates around Mount Massive asylum, where the game is set, also make for some particularly unnerving sights, along with some of the game’s primary antagonists such as Dr. Trager and Chris Walker. But even before I entered the asylum at the start of the game, the atmosphere was still extremely frightening, as the game begins on a windy night illuminated by a murky-looking sunset.
Gameplay – 4/10
As much as I enjoyed this game’s atmosphere and horrific settings, the gameplay certainly left a lot to be desired; even for survival horror. The objective of this game is to simply run and hide, whilst exploring the asylum; often using a night vision camcorder. That’s it. There’s no way in which players can defend themselves at all, as with virtually every other game in the genre. Whenever enemies come into close proximity, players have no choice but to either run or hide from them, which whilst unique in its own way, makes this game seem like less of a game and more of a film. To me, it’s not engaging enough to be able to be called a true video game. Apart from this, there’s merely one side quest, involving the collecting of documents scattered across the asylum. Unfortunately, the game’s play is original, but in a very negative way.
Controls – 10/10
A first-person survival horror, there are absolutely no problems with the controls at all. A nice touch that the developers added was the door-opening mechanics that involve slowly opening them. It increases or maintains the constant feeling of tension, which is present throughout the entirety of the game.
Lifespan – 2/10
This game will take no more than five hours to finish, as there is hardly anything to do in it. Again, I find this is particularly bad; even for a survival horror title. In other games of the genre, there is a bit more replay value to be had, as some of them include alternative endings, but there isn’t anything like that in Outlast, unfortunately. It’s also particularly annoying given the size of the in-game world, and what could’ve potentially been added to the gameplay in a bid to make it last longer.
Storyline – 7/10
If this game really had to play out as much like a film as it does, then it was imperative that it at least had a decent story; and the story isn’t too bad to be fair. It tells of a freelance journalist named Miles Upshur, who is tipped off by an anonymous source about events happening at Mount Massive Asylum. He decides to go and investigate, but unfortunately, he ends up finding more than what he’d bargained for, and immediately resolves to escape with his life. As far as survival horror stories go, whilst pretty typical, it is particularly scary. The majority of the scares in this game come not from either the copious amount of jump scares or buckets of blood, but from the constant feeling of tension, which has been a device used not only in video games before it but in top-notch horror films as well as classic literature. I also like the element of players having to discover the back-story of Mount Massive Asylum for themselves through the documentation found throughout the game. But the game’s story loses marks for its lack of uniqueness. I mean, how many games or films before it have depicted people traveling to reportedly dangerous places and subsequently finding more than what they would’ve liked?
Originality – 4/10
In addition to the game’s overall story probably sounding very familiar to fans of horror in general, the uniqueness found in the game’s play also has an extremely negative impact. I think the only thing this game would probably be good for is testing horror fan’s limits, as it is at least an incredibly scary experience.
To summarize, all this game did for me was perpetuate my constant concern that most games in this particular genre focus too much on scaring people and take focus away from what truly matters; the gameplay. Whilst it does have very decent visuals and a story worthy of fan’s attention, it doesn’t take long for Outlast to outlast its appeal, in my opinion.