WeView: Outlast

There’s been a surge of new horror games recently, thanks in part to the indie gaming scene, where smaller developers can often outdo the big publishers who are all-too eager to put guns in their game. Look at Dead Space, for example, which transformed from a horror game (albeit one with a focus on guns, anyway) to a co-operative action game by its third instalment.

Sometimes it’s great just to be scared silly, and Outlast achieves that brilliantly.

Set in an abandoned mental institution, Outlast is immediately rather unsettling, something that’s not helped by all the creepy characters. You’re trapped in there with them and all you have as a video camera, which can be used to document the situation or to allow you to see in the dark, though you probably don’t want to see what’s hiding in there.

It’s a very scary ordeal, which is definitely what a lot of people wanted and expected from a game such as this. Hide-and-seek enthusiasts were probably quite happy with the game, as a lot of it relies on hiding in cupboards, lockers, under beds, or just about anywhere that the monstrosities of the asylum aren’t dwelling.

Dan Jones reviewed the game for TSA, saying that you will “have a hard time finding a game that embraces horror better than Outlast” and scoring it 8/10.

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.

Personally, I managed to make it to the prison section (I know, that’s not really far enough at all) before I gave up on the game. It’s very enjoyable, but it’s something that had already been done before in titles such as Penumbra and Amnesia. Still, I’d like to go back at some point and get scared once more.

But would you? Let us know what you thought of the game in the comments below – were you scared silly, or did the game bore you? Is horror not your sort of thing, or did you lap it up?

Simply leave a paragraph or so with your thoughts on the game – try to get them in before Sunday afternoon for a chance to be included in the Verdict round-up next week – and don’t forget to put a Buy It, Sale It, Plus It or Avoid It. We know it’s been on PS+ before so won’t be on there again, but we can pretend for this rating system to work.

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20 Comments

  1. Found the whole thing very underwhelming to the point where I just couldn’t be bothered with it. The game seems to lack atmosphere and very quickly descends into a one trick pony of jump scares and very little else. It had the potential to be far better than it is and there are a multitude of titles out there who do the whole jump scare thing far better and with far better games wrapped around them. Definite avoid for me.

    • Well, that’s weird. I’ve seen differing opinions on games before, but never quite like that.

      You don’t like it because it only does jump scares, and doesn’t do them as well as some others? And I liked it because it doesn’t abuse jump scares, but the scares are just so perfectly timed?

      Interesting difference of opinion, but I guess not entirely unexpected. Horror does rely on being able to manipulate people in exactly the right way, and different people react differently.

      Are you generally a fan of horror? I’d love to see how many people liked the game in each group. Those who like those things normally, and those who don’t.

  2. Quite simply, buy it. Unless you’ve been advised by a doctor not to, perhaps due to some sort of heart condition.

    It’s possibly the most terrifying game I’ve ever played. Yes, it relies on some cheap jump scares in places, but it doesn’t abuse that too much. In fact, I’m sure it deliberately uses them to make you think that’s how it’s going to work, so you’re anticipating the next one. Which doesn’t happen. And then does five minutes later when you’ve stopped expecting it. Must be some of the most perfectly timed scares ever.

    Add some nicely designed locations and some excellent audio and it ends up being terrifying. The camera mechanic helps too. Checking every dark corner you’re about to turn, just in case something horrible is about to happen.

    I spent most of the game running around in a panic, only stopping to be disturbed by some of the more unpleasant bits, or to change pants. And to wonder how all the power of the PS4 can somehow fail to render an even vaguely realistic looking penis.

    The end section does go off in a weird direction though, but it’s still good. (And it’s the one bit of the game that most reminded me of various films)

    So buy it. And then the DLC for it, once you’ve finished the main game. That’s possibly even more disturbing.

    I think my vote counts as 1.5 “Buy It”s then. Is that how this works now?

    • I must be numb to it. Despite reading so many reviews of the game saying exactly what you do I just don’t feel it with this game. I find the Catacombs in Dark Souls far more terrifying than anything this throws my way. It’s odd as I find Amnesia genuinely disturbing and struggle to get anywhere due to being genuinely scared silly by it but with this, absolutely nothing beyond a few ‘boo’ moments. Go figure.

      • Ah, so it’s just your brain works differently to mine. Which is fine.

        I think scaring people can be an exact science. You could create something scientifically proven to be the single most scary thing possible. For one person. Which would be a bit crap.

        For a larger audience, you need to aim wider. You’ll scare more people (but not as much as that single person), but it’ll miss a lot more too. Or you could go the route so many do these ways and go for gore and horrible torture. Then you get most people going “Ewww!” and nobody being properly scared. Lightly horrify the widest possible audience, rather than properly terrifying a few.

      • I like to refer to it as the Paranormal Activity effect. I was told to go and see it and that it was terrifying and I would poop my pants and no, and no again. I’ve had scarier curries. I made someone who told me PA was scary sit through Takashi Miiki’s Audition and deliberately hid the what type of movie it was as punishment. Now that is a scary movie.

      • The Paranormal Activity films rely on the jump scares too much. Although they sometimes manage something a bit more interesting.

        I like the idea of not telling someone exactly what they’re in for with Audition though. You could get away with saying it’s a (quite dark) romantic comedy at the beginning. Before it descends into weirdness and _that_ foot scene. Not sure it counts as scary though. Just weird and disturbing and strangely compelling.

        Takashi Miike knows how to do some quite horrific violence without quite straying into torture porn territory. (I still think the fantastic 13 Assassins is his best film though)

  3. Finished the game lastnight. While it’s enjoyable and scary as absolute fudge, the fear pours away when you get caught and killed because you can just pick back up from about a minute prior and go through it all again. The consequence for getting caught wasn’t enough in my opinion.

    On the whole though, bricks were shat many times and the atmosphere is absolutely brilliant. Many parts were lovely (though grim) to look at too!

    I’m looking forward to getting to play Whistleblower soon. The new generation of horror games is great for old fans of the genre like myself and will hopefully only get better and scarier :)

    • Buy it. For the price it’s a decent length game and while it might not have the same impact 2nd time round, it’s worth a play through.

  4. Well I was enjoying the tense atmosphere and finding it all moderately scary when I got stuck on a puzzle in the basement and I haven’t gone back to it. Shame as I was enjoying the change of pace, will return at some point (maybe). Don’t know how to rate this one, plus it I guess since that’s what I did.

  5. It’s not often that I play a video game that manages to make me crap my pants but Outlast came very close, particularly in the bits at the start.

    I haven’t finished the game yet but I feel like I can still give a judgement based on the fact that it does exactly what it’s meant to do: it comes dangerously close to giving you a heart attack whilst actually making the game quite enjoyable to play at the same time. Considering that I don’t normally get on too well with horror games, I will continue to go back to this one until I play five minutes at a time and finish this game some time next year.

    The way that Outlast forces you to use the camera which subsequently restricts your field of vision is terrifying. That’s everything the game is meant to be though, it forces the player to be put (somewhat) out of their comfort zone, depending on how well you manage with horror, and it makes you keep playing because it’s exciting when you’re running away and just inches from getting caught by one of the crazies.

    For me, it’s a buy it. The game isn’t exactly expensive and for the price it’s well worth it.

  6. What was scary about this game was the fact that many people was hyping it as the scare fest we been looking for, by the time I got to playing it as a horror fanatic you sort of know what to expect & where to expect it.

    But regardless still a good game that makes you jump.

    Buy it

    • It’s that “what to expect & where to expect it” thing it gets just right, for me at least. If you’ve seen enough horror films, you know the rules. You know where the scares are coming. But in this case, it twists the rules, just a little bit.

      Starts out with fairly obvious scares exactly where you expect them. Yes, you’ll jump the first time. You always do. It doesn’t matter how many films you see, that first jump scare will always get you a bit.

      But then it starts playing with you. You know exactly where it’s about to scare you, and it quite deliberately doesn’t. The TV room early in the game? The creepy atmosphere with that expectation of a big scare that doesn’t come is much more terrifying. And then it goes for a big jump scare afterwards. Just to remind you they can do that. A second jump scare shouldn’t work, but somehow does. I think it’s because you know the rules, you know where they should happen, and if you screw around with that formula, it can work. As long as you’re not just chucking random scares in.

      • I’m sure I remember Steven Spielberg saying that you only really get three scares out of an audience. The first one is pure fright, but after that it’s a case of diminishing returns – the audience might get caught a second or perhaps third time, but after that they begin to expect scares and prepare themselves for it.

        Whilst I think that’s true for movies, I think games – and the direct control they give the player – means that every scare can be just as vital. Especially when viewed from a constrained first person view. Plus, every time somebody switches the console off, and then comes back, they’re essentially ‘resetting’ their scare-o-meter; hence why I’ve not gone back to Outlast!

      • That’s true, up to a point. You can only really get 1 big scare of a certain type to work before it loses it’s power. So one instance of something jumping right in your face while the music suddenly makes a noise similar to someone throwing an orchestra down the stairs.

        But there are other sorts of scares which can be just as effective. Possibly more so in a game where you’re in control (or you’re trying to be), and you’re expecting another cheap jump scare.

        There’s the sudden grab from behind, which probably doesn’t work as well in film. There’s the quiet bits with odd sights and sounds you can’t quite make out to unsettle you (amplified by the player expecting something to go wrong and cause them to die, rather than some character in a film being about to die).

        Or, as Outlast does so well, there are those bits where it all goes wrong and you’re in a panic trying to get away. (Which doesn’t work so well if you then die and have to repeat the section again, and again)

        And then there’s general unpleasantness and violence. Which just tends to make me go “Ewww” briefly. (Actual removal of body parts in at least vaguely graphic detail is the bit that usually makes more of an impression on me. Unless it’s decapitation. That hardly does anything to me, weirdly.)

        Mix all those different things up and don’t do what people expect (at least, not _when_ they expect it) and you can get more than a couple of scares. You can get hours of continuous terror.

  7. I have yet to finish it as it still scares me, I am not ashamed. Good game though, BUY IT

  8. I’m ashamed to say that I only played Outlast to the point where you get into an air vent, Die Hard style, and then see some… thing… scampering around in the room you’ve just left. It’s about 15 minutes in. That was enough for me and I’ve been reluctant to go back to it. I will go back, but only when it’s light outside and I can be assured nobody will leap out at me when I stop playing.

    If being scared is your bag, it definitely seems worth the money…

    BUY IT

  9. I liked the fright but didn’t enjoy the flight instead of fight.
    To clarify, Avoid it if you’re not an avoider..

  10. This game mixes a few elements so brilliantly that the resulting atmosphere is just fantastic. First, it’s not the usual shooter, you cannot even hit back, you just can run or hide, or die. This makes it so much scarier, as you feel pretty helpless and out of control. Second, the darkness and the limited vision when using the camera work perfectly, you often don’t see things coming, and you know that there will be things that are after you. Third, the sound design is just great, your ‘own’ breathing, the theme when Walker is around, and sometimes in the dark you have to listen carefully where your opponent is, and it works so well.
    This was the scariest and one of the best games I’ve played for years. I had the best moments in the beginning, when just hiding in a locker and being too scared to come back out for minutes.
    Not just ‘BUY IT’, but ‘BUY IT, AND THEN BUY THE DLC’.

    • And, it even made me jump in a few places during my second playthrough, loved it… :o)

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