Outlast is a truly terrifying ordeal – a horror of all horrors. As you tentatively pace through the darkness of Mount Massive Asylum you’ll feel completely powerless against the deranged and vicious patients that run riot within. With only a night vision camera to hand, your only choices are to either run, hide or… die.
You will have a hard time finding a game that embraces horror better than Outlast. Whilst it may not be the best looking game on the PlayStation 4, the dimly lit corridors, creaking floor boards and faint screams give rise to a horrifying nail biting atmosphere which is strangely enticing. As you’re peaking from behind the covers, one part of you wants the terror to be over but another part of you doesn’t want it to end.
In Outlast you play as a journalist eager to uncover the sinister secrets hidden behind closed doors at Mount Massive Asylum. As you might have guessed, you find out more than you bargained for and in no time at all you will desperately be trying to find your way out of the madhouse.
It’s never quite that easy and just as you think the end is near, catastrophe strikes, throwing you out of your depth once again and back into the unknown. Injured, scared and defenceless, Outlast will put you to the test both mentally and physically.
For the majority of Outlast you will be relying on the night vision feature on your camera to guide your through the pitch black corridors, sewers and courtyards of the asylum. As with many good horror games, you are never alone. Lingering in the darkness are the deranged patients, all hellbent on breaking your body in two.
These patients are hideous too – it’s clear that they have been poorly operated on. Their entire bodies have been subject to patchy skin grafts held in place by poor stitching, and many have even had their genitalia removed – quite a gruesome sight to behold. You can expect many more disgusting sights throughout the game, becoming a blood fest at times. It’s definitely not a game for the fainthearted.
You always have to remember that you are completely vulnerable and that there is no form of attack against these patients. All you can do is run or hide. Lockers, bathroom stalls and beds are your best friends in Outlast as you can actually feel a sense of security when cooped up in or under them. Only when you think the coast is clear should you emerge from your hiding place and get back to the task at hand.
Sometimes you may not be that lucky. One of the patients may catch a sense of your movement and come hurtling towards you with a meat cleaver in hand. Hiding is off the cards in these situations – all you can do is run for your life and hope you know where you are headed. A dead end could spell disaster. It is almost inevitable that your character’s head will be caved in with a baseball bat by your pursuer if your escape is blocked by a locked door.
It’s just such a locked door that you must try survive long enough to open and escape through. The game will see you traverse through the main wards, sewers and courtyards of Mount Massive Asylum, in which you will encounter all sorts of problems and spooks along the way. Usually you will need to find or turn on a certain number of objects to progress through the level, be it water pumps, or generators. These areas are the most open parts of the game, and they are patrolled by the crazed inhabitants which you need to avoid.
There are plenty of different ways you can go to complete each objective, with multiple hiding spots to aid you as you progress. The first of these sections was easily one of my favourite parts of Outlast, but by the later stages you will find yourself following the same formula over and over again, and I found the repetitiveness detracting from the overall experience.
As previously mentioned, the asylum is pitch black in many areas. To counter this you have a night vision camera, which when raised takes over the whole screen with its HUD, but only allows you to see only a couple of feet in front of you. It’s not an ideal solution, nor is it effective one as over-use of the night vision feature drains the camera’s battery. You can find extra batteries on shelves and desks dotted around the asylum, but managing your battery count is a key part of your survival. Run out of batteries and you will soon find yourself helplessly wandering through the darkness – you never know what you might walk into.
This happened to me a few times during my experience with Outlast. On one occasion I misguidedly walked straight into one of my pursuers, we didn’t look too happy to see each other. Embarrassingly, I had to take some time out from the game after that as it spooked me just a little too much.
During my playthrough of Outlast on a lower difficulty there was an abundance of batteries, which did take the edge off the potential perils of walking around blind. On higher difficulties though, batteries do become more sparse adding a lot more tension to the whole experience where you will also be able to take less damage before you die.
The soundtrack to Oultast is fantastic. It’s creepy and leaves you in suspense throughout. Often the music will build up as though something terrible is about to enfold only for nothing eventful to happen at all. It is when you least expect it that Outlast makes you jump off the edge of your seat – and it never fails in doing so. Even if the design and objectives of the game feel repeated the scares are often unpredictable.
The lightbar of the PlayStation 4 controller also weighs in as a method of immersing you into the game. The colour of the light switches depending on whether you are looking through night vision camera or if you are being attacked by a patient. If you’re not playing the game in the darkness of your living room you probably won’t even notice this, but it’s a nice touch that can add to the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, once you’ve completed Outlast, which should take around only five hours to do so, there isn’t a lot on offer to get you to return to the asylum. If you’re into collecting documents to help fill yourself in on the back-story then there are plenty hidden throughout the game which all give some insight into the world, but if that isn’t your sort of thing then the £14.99 price tag (though it is free at the moment with PlayStation Plus) may seem a bit high for the content on offer.
Outlast is one of, if not the scariest game I’ve played. It’s creepy, suspenseful and terrifying at times. It does lack variation in terms of the objectives you complete, but the unpredictable jumps and scares should be enough to maintain that nail-biting tension you will find yourself strangely craving for.
Just remember to turn off the lights and try not to cover your eyes, because you’re in for one hell of a ride.