Outlast Review (PS4)

Outlast Review (PS4)

Outlast was one of 2013′s biggest success stories, hailed as one of the scariest games of recent times. Developer Red Barrels enjoyed success thanks to a combination of solid design, a decent concept, and strong word of mouth. 2014 has now seen Outlast hit the Playstation 4, only this time people are fully aware of the game’s reputation. But does this have an impact on the game’s success this time around?

Outlast‘s plot is rather generic on paper. Freelance journalist Miles Upshur sets off to investigative Mount Massive Asylum after receiving an anonymous tip. Upon arrival, it quickly becomes apparent that there are dark forces at work, and Miles is stuck at the centre of them.

The plot wont make much of a impact, especially on those who are experienced players of horror games or viewers of horror films, but it’s adequate enough to keep players interested. Throughout the 4-5 hour experience, players are exposed to numerous scenes which try to develop a genuine sense of disgust via disturbing imagery or acts. These scenes are what prop up the shallow plot, allowing the game to naturally flow.

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With the story not impressing much, it becomes the job of the gameplay to truly create the experience, and thankfully it’s up to the task–at least for the most part. Taking inspiration from the found-footage horror film sub genre (particularity Grave Encounters), Outlast offers only one item to use throughout the game in the shape of Miles’ handheld camera. Given how dark the environments are, looking through the camera and its nightvision feature is often the only way to progress. The nightvision mode is a vital tool that also gives the game an eerily genuine look to it, increasing the tension tenfold. The camera requires batteries which run out quickly, however, but there are replacements to be found around the asylum, increasing the need to converse and search when necessary. The brief periods of sheer darkness between changing batteries pulsates with terror.

The camera gimmick works fantastically well thanks to how life-like it appears, almost breaking the fourth wall and placing the player up front and centre in the game. This is where the real terror of Outlast is found.

In partnership with the brooding-yet-brilliant audio, Outlast becomes a tour-de-force of tension and terror, or at least for the first few hours. Outlast tends to rely on jump scares to provide a large chunk of its horror, which becomes a somewhat predictable tactic around the mid-point of the game. There are also a number of sections that force the player to hide from enemies, and they work well and throw a genuine sense of panic into the game. The build up to the scares is done beautifully, but the execution is repeated too often in overly familiar methods.

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Outlast does have a few smart tricks up its sleeve that redeems the over use of jump scares, fortunately. Miles will often begin to react to the events around him in a human and relatable manner. His breathing becomes heavier, he shudders in reaction to the tension; these are small touches that gives Outlast a genuine sense of life and realism. Red Barrels have managed to create a horror title that never makes it totally clear when the player is in danger. Not all the inmates of the asylum are threats. Some are just as scared and confused as Miles. This makes identifying genuine threats devilishly difficult. Any number of times an apparent harmless situation can turn deadly and the player will rarely see it coming.

For all its neat tricks and ability to create a genuine unnerving atmosphere, Outlast still hosts some truly dated game mechanics. There are a number of times the player will be tasked with turning a valve or flicking a switch in order to turn a bigger valve or flick a bigger switch. It feels out-of-place and slightly lazy. These situations drag the player out of the game’s world and feel utterly artificial, undoing all the great work done to submerge the player in the game.

Overall, Outlast is a solid, well-crafted horror experience that provides an enjoyable jaunt through some truly bleak themes and imagery. The overuse of jump scares doesn’t detract from the overall experience too much and instead keep the player firmly locked into the game, but the unnecessary valve/switch sections, however, do take away some of the admiration for Outlast.

Outlast may not be the scariest game ever made, but it does a good job of providing a decent horror experience thanks to some genius work with creating tension. For the price, Outlast is worth the admission, and for horror fans of any entertainment medium, it’s unmissable.

 

Sean Halliday


1 Comment

  1. Outlast: Whistleblower – Review (PC) | Pixel Gate
    May 10, 2014, 12:54 am

    […] you didn’t read our review for Outlast on the PS4 then go take a peek over here at Sean’s article. This review is all about the DLC add-on/prequel for the game called […]

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