“No! nonononononono! S**T NOOOOOOO!” This made up the majority of my playtime with Outlast on the PS4, a survival horror game so creepy that I struggled to press forward even with the lights on. Scaredy-cats beware, this is one spooky ride.
Like many horror games, Outlast follows the protagonist as he struggles to escape from a mental institute. Unlike many horror games, the protagonist chooses to go into the institute of his own free will. The main character is a journalist who’s looking for their carrier defining story that will change their life, and so they venture deep into the institute to find that big scoop! Story isn’t that important in Outlast, it’s really only there to give a reason for the character being there and why they have a video camera on them. Speaking of the video camera, let’s talk about why Outlast is so great.
For the majority of the game the player will be looking through the lens of a video camera, and this one mechanic is why Outlast stuck out so much to me. In most horror games, the player is seeing the story play out through another characters eyes, and while you can do that in Outlast, it’s the mechanic of looking through the camera lens that was so great. When holding the camera in the pitch black asylum, you can go into night vision mode or zoom using the camera zoom, these little features all culminate into making Outlast feel like a found footage movie that you’re in control of. Using the camera drains the batteries, so finding more is crucial to continuing to have night vision. This adds a feel of needing to continuously push forward as fast as possible to find more batteries, but also reminds you of the constant threats surrounding you. Since you can’t fight the freaks roaming around, the best you can do is hide and wait for them to wander away, but doing so wastes battery life. Few horror games manage to balance fear with stress of needing to press forward, and Outlast does it superbly.
Being a PS4 game, it’s no surprise that Outlast looks great. The whole game has a dark and brooding atmosphere that never dies down. But they aren’t the strongest point to the games design. Believe it or not, the main characters hands are where the graphical detail really shines. The hands are incredibly fine crafted to look like photorealistic hands, the knuckles are bruised and the backs of his hands have small hairs sticking out. The hands will lightly twitch and move realistically depending on if the protagonist has run, grabbed something, or has recently crawled. The games art and aesthetics are brilliant, but it’s in the hand design where the masterful craftsmanship is most visible.
Outlast is blumin’ scary! I’m not the world’s biggest fan of horror, but I can appreciate a great game when I see one. It may lack a deep and developed story, and the enemies at times can be a little stupid when the player hides from them, but I think that anyone looking to be scared out of their minds should play the messed up adventure that is Outlast.