In Outlast, you are Miles Upshur – and most certainly without a paddle.
Yes, your name is humorous; but I promise you that will be the only time you chuckle through Outlast. Red Barrels Studio released this survival horror title back in September of 2013 to much acclaim. Outlast certainly deserves the majority of praise it receives, and it continues to showcase the indie developer’s hard work – through a brutal exposition, terrifying atmosphere, disturbing characters, and haunting grit.
In Outlast, you play as the wittily named Miles Upshur. Miles is a news reporter, and he recently received a letter from a whistleblower at the Mount Massive Asylum in Lake County, Colorado. The report reads that some pretty unethical methods were being practiced at the asylum, so Miles, with his pad of paper and video camera, decide to check it out. After he arrives at the overbearing asylum – a mansion-esque mammoth that towers over its scenery – and finds it looking rather abandoned, he does the right thing: breaking and entering. When the B&E job goes awry, Miles finds himself in a struggle for his life in the forms of insane inmates, mistreated experiments, ghosts, and a rather terrifying ephemeral demon. It certainly wasn’t what he imagined he’d find.
Outlast takes the simple idea of a first person survival horror game and adds a video camera. It’s nothing special, but it makes the player strategize a bit. Miles’ camera requires batteries to stay in its night mode setting – something you drastically need, as most of the game finds you in very dark scenarios. If properly thought out – assuming you have the time and wherewithal to do so – you can strategize your night light usage. Batteries can be found often, though there were segments of the game where I had to navigate my way through darkness. In all, however, the added camera is a logical gameplay addition that, in my opinion, enhances the game.
Outside of this, Outlast consists of carefully circumventing a set of enemies who never leave you alone in order to find an escape from Mount Massive Asylum. This proves to be a mightily difficult task, of course, as most of your exits are boarded, locked, or blocked, conveniently barring your desperate escape. Ever the reporter, Miles continues to film the asylum and research files and file clippings that he discovers on his journey (your collectibles). This, of course, can only be done when not in an intense run for your life. And while you are sprinting down corridors, you can use much of the environment as your hiding place. Lockers, tables, and beds can be used to hide within, behind, or under – though if you’re in the line of sight of your enemy, they’ll spot you with ease.
That’s pretty much the sum of gameplay in Outlast. It’s pretty standard, and it never gets dull (though it does occasionally become frustrating). The real gem of Outlast is its incredibly tense atmosphere. The darkness, the sounds, and the decrepit inmates at the asylum serve to seriously drive home the terror of the game. I’m a fan of horror games, as I’ve often said before, but outside of Emily Wants to Play, Outlast is perhaps the most frightening.
The only complaint that I can really muster to throw against Outlast is that I didn’t dig the ending. It was fairly evident that the game did not try to hide what was happening at Mount Massive Asylum, leaving a paper trail of evidence that, if found, could be easily constructed by the player. So while the ending actually makes fairly logical sense, and it’s hard to argue against, it was one that I felt did not fit the tone of the game. It by no means ruins the game – as I said, it makes sense – but it did drop it a few notches for me.
Outlast is an excellent indie horror/thriller by Red Barrels Studio that combines true horror with a horrifying atmosphere to create one of the best survivor horror experiences I’ve had to date. For $14.99 (or free on PlayStation plus), you’re served up a fairly lengthy experience (for the horror genre, anyway) that delivers some of the best scares of the decade. With realistic visuals and disturbing enemies to boot, Outlast is well worth your time and money – and most deserving of its upcoming sequel.