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Outlast Review

More Game Info (Print This Article)

Graphics:

 

7.9

Gameplay:

 

8.4

Sound:

 

8.3

Control:

 

8.0

Replay Value:

 

7.5

Overall Rating:       8.1

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Red Barrels

Developer:

Red Barrels

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Survival/Horror

Release Date:

February 4, 2014

In an increasingly jaded and desensitized society, it takes a lot to scare people. However, the original tactics for generating fear remain the most effective, as the great masters of horror would tell you. You can only see so much gore and disgusting, shocking imagery before you’re not grossed-out, and you’re not shocked. You’re bored. Creating fear in another has always been about preying on the imagination, because what we can dream up is a million times worse than the goriest, nastiest thing you can splash across the screen. Developer Red Barrels understood all this when they set out to make Outlast.

A pure survival/horror game, the terrifying experience relies heavily upon your freakish atmosphere. You are exploring Mount Massive Asylum and there’s dark, twisted intrigue at every turn. Blood smears walls, damaged individuals sit staring at blank television screens, and all manner of creepy, unsettling visuals assault the senses. Whether you’re seeing it via the night vision of your camera, or you’re creeping along in the shadows, you’re always on edge. This is due in large part to your forbidding environment, which is meticulously designed for one purpose:

To scare the sh** out of you.

That all being said, when you get up close and personal, these graphics don’t necessarily impress. It’s not about the visual fidelity, though; it’s about the overall presentation, which is vastly more important in a game like Outlast. The audio complements the horrifying backdrop with plenty of subtle, ambient effects. A cry or scream in the distance, a piece of furniture being overturned, the sound of running footsteps; it’s all there to quicken the pulse. Your character starts to breathe heavy when things are getting especially dicey, which is another great addition. The score is a little too subtle and doesn’t play a big enough role, but that’s a minor complaint.

As I said, Outlast is a survival/horror game, through and through. You have no supernatural abilities; you don’t even have any weapons. And when I say no weapons, I mean absolutely nothing. Nope, not even a blunt instrument you might be able to use in self-defense. As an investigative reporter intent on solving the mystery behind Mount Massive Asylum, you’re going in armed with only a camera and your very human senses. You can use the night vision on the camera but that’s the only benefit you’re going to have. Your goal: Capture on camera the utter insanity that’s occurring within the asylum’s walls.

Well, that’s actually a secondary goal. The first goal is to survive, because within minutes of stepping foot inside this evil-infused structure, you’re aching to escape. There are lingering victims of some diabolical experiment, and some of those victims have mutated into nightmarish denizens of the night. All you can hope to do is run and hide. You grasp the desperate nature of your situation within the first hour; a hulking brute is hunting you and at first, your only option is to hide in a locker. That’s when you realize that facing anything would be suicide.

Herein lies a glimmer of absolute greatness. Such a premise makes you feel the fear. It makes you appreciate the fact that your chances of escaping alive are slim to none. It forces you to act cautiously and by the way, when you’re being cautious, you’re giving your brain more time to imagine a myriad of terrifying situations. To combat this, you try to move faster; you just want to escape, so you start to run. However, you’ll soon learn that nobody survives when they panic, so your only option is to be extremely careful, and pay very close attention to your surroundings. Even then, though, there will be times when you jump a foot out of your seat and end up dead.

It happens fast. This brings me to one of my complaints, which involves the game’s design. Basically, you’re trying to avoid just about everything but many times, it’s impossible to initially elude the latest crazed creature. Therefore, there’s a bit of trial-and-error involved, which I normally wouldn’t mind. Heck, I tend to like that mechanic, which is why I’m a big fan of stealth games. However, in a survival adventure that thrives on the sudden and unexpected, trying to escape the same situation several times over diminishes the original impact. Really, only that first encounter really hits home; after that, you’re just trying to figure out where to go.

Still, that fantastic atmosphere always draws you back. It also helps that there’s a paper trail you can follow, as you’ll find various notes and documents that shed more light on the events that plunged Mount Massive Asylum into hell. This is a surprisingly intriguing aspect of the game, and you find yourself reading each piece of evidence you come across. Not only does this give you a much-needed respite from the horrors that stalk the hallways, but it also adds to a deeper fear. Understanding what happened won’t ease your terror; it will only exacerbate it, which is what a decent story is supposed to do.

I think my biggest problem is the general restrictive nature of the game. Firstly, while I understand and appreciate the concept of having only a camera, this tends to get a little tiresome. You’re always worried about the battery dying, for instance, and you’re never really sure exactly what you should be capturing on film. This makes the game feel somewhat aimless and even makes the camera feel superfluous at times. They just don’t do enough with that mechanic and more could’ve been done; remember Fatal Frame? The other issue is that because the game is so very linear, you can’t really explore at all. I love linear adventures but this is too cramped, even for me.

Other than these small gripes, though, Outlast remains a memorable and incredibly effective survival/horror quest. There are so many moments that will make you feel legitimate fear, and that’s no easy feat. It’s also worth noting that despite the game’s constant desire to make you jump, none of them feel cheap or contrived. This is a pulse-pounding game that makes its presence felt. It challenges you to remain calm in extraordinarily terrifying situations, and it presents us with one of the darkest, most frightening atmospheres in recent memory. Play if you dare!

The Good: Fantastically freaky environment. Excellent ambient audio. Solid control and pacing. Gives you an unparalleled sense of vulnerability. Thrills and chills are legit, not cheap. A firm understanding of fear, and how it works.

The Bad: Repetition of events tempers the fear. Camera mechanic is somewhat vague. A little too linear.

The Ugly: “As is the case with all true survival/horror games, it’s the ‘ugly’ that makes it great!”

2/19/2014 Ben Dutka

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Comments (20 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 10:53:04 PM
Reply

Loved this game so much. I agree with most of the review but I think I'd score it a little higher because I came at certain points with a different mentality. Free for Plus members but it's kind of shocking how cheap it is for such an accomplished game.

LOVED the fact that you had a body that reacted like a person and viewed things through that person's head instead of scooting around on a dolly and watching the world through their stomach.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 11:12:38 PM

I think the critical average is a tad low; it's somewhere in the high 7s. Not sure why, though, as I didn't read any other reviews.

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 12:31:03 AM

I love it too and found myself thinking about it as I went about my day. Dreading returning to it when I got home because of how scared it made me yet as soon as I got home there I was playing it.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 8:09:06 AM

That doesn't really surprise me in today's gaming landscape.

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flux equals rad
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 11:59:44 PM
Reply

Just finished it tonight. I agree with the review that there are diminishing returns with each successive retread of an area after the initial death, but the overall experience was phenomenal and frightening. Every time I was spotted by a demented lunatic my mind read 'where is the exit...where is the exit'. This is what survival horror can and should be.

My favorite PS4 game so far.

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 12:30:16 AM
Reply

Thanks for the review Ben. Such a fun (if that's even the right word to use) game. I found myself shouting while sitting in my chair with my headphones on in a dark room. I love games like this and there sadly aren't too many.

You're right though about the repetition ruining some of the edge.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 8:09:27 AM

That's the test, does it make you FEEL and yes it does!

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Grandmaster
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 12:59:43 AM
Reply

This game was scary as hell! Loved absolutely every minute of it. I thought the graphics were good and ambiance was well done.This is true horror. Capcom take note of this with your Resident Evil series!

Last edited by Grandmaster on 2/20/2014 1:00:41 AM

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 1:28:31 AM

As much as I enjoyed this game it's a different type of game than you'd find in RE and honestly I don't want the next RE being similar to this.

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daus26
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 1:31:04 AM

I gotta agree. Graphics was good. Infact, I think it's really good. It looked sharp. Anybody know what fps it's running? It seemed really smooth too.

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 1:53:49 AM

It's running at 60fps on the PS4. I'm running it at around 110 :)

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PlatformGamerNZ
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 2:57:17 AM
Reply

i haven't read anything about this nothing about this much of this review but i have heard nothing but good things about this game for what it is just thought i wud say this. i'll read the review later properly

happy gaming =)

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___________
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 3:20:30 AM
Reply

ive said all i have to say about this boring repetitive PoS!
i mean how much fun can a 5 hour game of hide and seek be?
and how scary can it be if when your found, nothing really happens?
he grabs you, throws you to the ground, you loose a little health, and rinse and repeat!
oh im shaking in my boots!

all ill say is i had more fun with the first 20 minutes or so, than i did with the rest of the entire game!
PS, developers, please, can we get rid of the horror game generator cliche?
no, seriously, its getting ridiculous!
every SINGLE horror game theres a generator down and you need to flick 4 obligatory switches to generate it.
its almost come to the point now that you know exactly how a games going to play out before you even play it!

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Banky A
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 7:01:00 AM

Should start working for the industry if you want some of your ideas to come into fruition.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 11:50:42 AM

This guy couldn't even pick up trash. Come on, don't give him any ideas.

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slugga_status
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 1:12:54 PM
Reply

I've played about 20 mins so far and definitely moments that made me jump and had me on the edge of my seat. Looking forward to playing the rest

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Hand_of_Sorrow
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 4:47:54 PM
Reply

i have'nt played the game, i have a freind who
uploaded 15 minutes of game play to youtube.

all i got to say, move over Capcom!

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telly
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 5:02:02 PM
Reply

Genuinely scared the hell out of me. I don't think I scare easily, either. I actually have to take breaks between sessions my nerves get so jangled. Which is to say, this game is really great :-)

And of course, it's yet ANOTHER game included with the cost of PS Plus, so you really have no excuse not to get it!

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Tim Speed24
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 6:17:35 PM
Reply

This was finally a game where I feared death from the first person view. Dying in COD, please...

And I loved the fact you can see your hands and feet when going around corners and peeking out.

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rogers71
Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 4:41:07 PM
Reply

Ben, I think you missed one of the main points of the game. You said it was too cramped. The main reason it was cramped is because they set the game up that way is so when you play the game the next time, it is different. Some of the doors that were locked in your first playthrough will be unlocked and vice versa. I agree that they could have opened it a bit more but I like the aspect of different playthroughs. Not sure how that works. I haven't tried it yet.

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