Released on Windows in early 2013 and a year later on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, Outlast was the cause of many white faces, sleepless nights and nightmares. So far, the game has sold over 6 million copies worldwide and playing it, it’s so easy to see why.
After an anonymous tip the protagonist, Miles Upshur, sets out to investigate a series of fiendish experiments on inmates at Mount Massive Asylum (pretty weak name, I know). On entering the stereotypical house of horrors, Miles finds himself in the company of numerous human corpses and a moribund SWAT officer who tells him that the ‘Variants’ (inmates) have escaped and are taking over the place, butchering anyone they cross. He implores you to leave but the way you came in is blocked, plus that wouldn’t make for a very good game. So with little option, no weapons and a bad dress sense, you push on.
As soon as you first enter the asylum a light flickers and your are plunged into total darkness. The game starts to shine (no pun intended) here as you pull out your trusty camcorder. Now you can see your surroundings, albeit in an eerie night-vision lighting (adding immensely to the whole feel of the game). The view finder on the camera frames what you see eliminating any peripheral vision and further adding to the sense of impeding doom that hangs over you throughout the whole terrifying experience.
What lays ahead of our hero is not for the faint-hearted. Outlast’s developers, Red Barrels, really set the standards for the genre as everything from atmosphere and creepiness to graphics and playability is executed to a very fine art. The atmosphere seems to consume you as you start to feel like you are a real part of the game. Every dark nook and cranny omits a vibe that it’s harboring dark and evil entities and sometimes, they are.
The fact you have no weapons mingles with the dark and claustrophobic environments to make one feel increasingly vulnerable to the point of giddiness and it’s always the perfect moment when you are scared half to death as one of the asylum’s many gruesome occupants leaps at you treating you to a jump scare timed to perfection. When this happens the inevitable panic sets in and as you flail around for brown paper bag to inhale and exhale deeply in to you are forced to make a very quick off-the-cuff choice. I found the best choice is to normally scream out loud, curse the monitor, turn my character around and run in a random direction. Heart beating you search around for a hiding place whilst trying to gain ground, ducking and diving to evade your grunting, growling and bloody persistent pursuer.
Finding myself in a small room with just a bed I realized I could hide under (when a prompt appeared on the screen), obediently tapping the button caused my character to crawl under and hide. The only sound I could here was the sound of my heart beating and the distant sound of grunting and scraping. As the sounds got louder and louder I realized this walking nightmare was coming straight towards the room I was bravely cowering in. My fears were confirmed when I saw a pair of feet and also found out the scraping noise was what can only be described as a blood-soaked medieval torture implement dragging across the stone floor and both we inches from my nose.
The atmosphere this game sets from beginning to gruesome end is something I have never felt playing any game before or since. The crucially timed set-pieces make for a jump scare junkies paradise whilst the whole sense of other-worldliness, vulnerability and downright creepiness will keep the horror enthusiasts delighted throughout.
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