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Outlast Review: How to Properly Shit Your Pants


When a fan of horror games hears the phrase "scariest game ever" spill out of somebody's mouth, they quickly turn around in shock and anger with their fists at the ready to defend their favorite horror classics. While classic horror games are great and all, a title that is constantly being hyped as the "scariest game ever" is impossible to ignore.

Outlast, a new horror game developed by the popped-up-out-of-nowhere company Red Barrels, is sure to scare the shit out of you no matter what your overall opinion on the game is. While some may see this game as a rollercoaster ride of cheap jump-scares, there are many unique aspects of this game that make it so enjoyable (that is if you find being absolutely terrified enjoyable).

You play as journalist Miles Upshur, who is investigating Mount Massive Asylum. There is something about this journalist that makes him stand out in the world of first-person video games: he is not a floating head with telekinetic powers. Outlast puts the player into an actual human body; as in, if the player were to look down they would see a torso and legs and feet and all sorts of neat body parts. Look down right now! That's what you see, correct?

This feeling of actually being in the body of a character deepens the game's feeling of immersion. Like I mentioned before: no telekinetic powers! This means that Miles has to reach out with his delicate little hands to open each door. Such a simple detail provides the player with an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability.

Another neat-o feature is the fact that when Miles is frightened he begins to whimper (like a scared human would do), making the player say "Why are you scared Miles? Now I'm scared because there is clearly something to be afraid of that I don't know about!" Something about making the character really come to life and feel like more of a physical being gives players a heightened sense of fear and insecurity.

An important thing to mention about this game (something that may piss many players off) is the fact that the game is very linear. Every enemy is a scripted encounter, and most doors are locked, forcing the player to take a very obvious path laid out before them. This aspect of the game sort of craps on the game's replay value.

Linear-as-shit gameplay aside, Outlast brings a whole array of unforgettable gameplay moments. At one point during my playthrough I saw a creepy-ass figure with a sharp object at the opposite end of a narrow hallway, and in one of those "Nope! Fuck that!" moments I backed up only to have Miles look down at a large blade sticking out of his stomach before falling to the ground without getting the slightest glimpse of his killer. For me, this moment was a huge success in game mechanics; I had myself a fresh new kind of death instead of running away and having my character go "Urgh!" and "Gack!" as my screen flashed red upon each hit from my pursuer until I died.

This game provides one of the creepiest atmospheres I've encountered in a horror game. The gory details of bodies and entrails strewn throughout the asylum is only the tip of the iceberg. During your visit to Mount Massive Asylum, you can expect to meet plenty of patients with great personalities! Patients that simply stare at you or stand in place without moving, muttering strange phrases can make the player feel very insecure, as they can't really tell which of them are going to do something threatening.

A unique feature that makes this game stand out is Miles' choice of the modern horror game's ever-so-popular personal light source. It's not a torch. Nor is it a flashlight. It's a camcorder! Miles holds this device up to his face, casting a green, eerie glow over everything. Viewing the world in this lens causes the eyes of patients to glow and the static of the camcorder creates a slight obstruction of an otherwise clear view.

The game's sound has a large impact on the atmosphere and the player's feeling of safety (not that the player should ever feel safe). It quickly becomes difficult to tell if you're more comfortable with or without the ominous noises, as the silence can be just as terrifying. When those creepy-ass noises stop playing you'll wish they'd come back!

One of the game's many strong points are its heart-pounding chase scenes. The eerie atmosphere is occasionally broken when some scary-ass dude explodes through a door in pursuit of Miles. This often employs fun little parkour tactics that are sort of reminiscent of Mirror's Edge, but not quite as over-the-top or badass.

The other use of enemies in Outlast comes up when there are small areas with an important objective or destination. Enemies will skulk around these areas aimlessly, but will give chase upon finding the player, which makes the player peek around corners, hide in lockers, or simply run like hell. This feeling of being hunted is an important feature in any horror game, and Outlast nails it (to a certain degree).

That certain degree comes from the minuscule lethality of the enemies. While there are some cool (and clearly specifically scripted) deaths that can be had in this game when a seemingly docile patient shanks you for an instant kill, enemies during these badass chase scenes and hunting areas tend to lack the ability to kill anything. You may find yourself jumping around an enemy as he lacerates you with a machete. After four or five hits you run off and quickly hide so that your health can regenerate Call of Duty style.

One of the game's enemies wants nothing more than to grab Miles by his scrawny neck and throw him. That's all he does. Ever. It seems to deal damage but I never stuck around to find out how many throws it takes to kill a Miles Upshur. Being able to dance around an enemy as they swing at you until you decide to run off into a locker makes the enemies a hell of a lot less menacing.

While the game has a few drawbacks, the overall experience is absolutely amazing for those who enjoy horror games. For me this game was a 6-hour long terrifying adventure that occasionally found me leaving my dark cave for light while I let my heart settle down. The creepy atmosphere and intense chases never seem to let up (and why would you want them to?).

Despite the short-lived, linear gameplay and low replay value, Outlast is a definite must for players who are looking for a great horror game. This game, even with its flaws, manages to be a shining example for modern horror video games. Although the title states that this is a review, don't expect me to throw out any numbers (as I don't want to come off as a douche, and don't believe that a game can be summed up as a number). I do hope that this review has helped individuals come to a decision on whether or not this game is right for them, and I also hope that I have given insight on the game's mechanics regarding what is or isn't effective.
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About Lazerbeeemone of us since 7:45 PM on 10.02.2013

Hey there, my name is Lazerbeeem.
As is the norm for most people on this site (I assume), I've grown up playing and loving video games my whole life. I appreciate all kinds of games; fat ones, skinny ones, short ones, tall ones, etc.
In previous years I've been pursuing a career that involves working on computers, until one day I decided that I should probably not aspire to be something that will not make me happy (and working with computers quickly became tedious and frustrating as hell to me).
Instead I decided that I want to WRITE STUFF, and video games seem like the perfect place to go for me.