Outlast on the Playstation 4| Developed by Red Barrels | Published by Red Barrels.
Outlast was the February game given away as part of Playstation Plus on the PS4, it is described on the Playstation Store as a single player survival horror, I would say that it fully lives up to that description. Red Barrels have created a game that feels like it should be based on a horror movie from twenty years ago. This game is full of scares and they are so well implemented, that it has the brilliant knack of making you jump even when you know you the scares are coming.
The background story to Outlast is quite simple, you play a journalist who has decided to act on an anonymous tip to investigate a psychiatric hospital called Mount Massive Asylum. This Asylum is owned by a murky and underhand corporation (aren’t they all?) called Murkoff. Upon arrival it seems something is amiss and as you enter the asylum you quickly wish that you should have ignored that tip to investigate.
The gameplay in Outlast is fairly unique in that you have no weapons and as such no means to defend yourself from the various inhabitants of the Asylum. What you do have however is a video camera, this is essential to survive due to its night vision mode that you will have to use in the many darkened areas. This is a mechanic that is used well in the game as it runs down batteries that forces you to look for more. The green hue of the night vision really does seem to draw you in as you creep around, hearing noises well before you see anything.
The tension and atmosphere this game manages to create puts you on edge, the music is perfectly timed to create the maximum amount of psychological unease and tension before the loud bang of someone appearing behind you! Or worse when you are hiding under a bed not wanting to wear the batteries down, so you peek every now and again before you see a face before you, it is terrifying in those seconds in the dark hearing your stalkers footsteps growing ever closer.
The run or hide mechanics of the game are a welcome change from many of the action oriented ‘survival horror’ games, but sadly it does mean that the gameplay can feel repetitive and this is one of the problems that this game has. It is a fairly short game, around four hours for a play through so luckily it doesn’t get too repetitive. I did not understand however why the player never once tries to defend himself, I understand that there are no weapons but surely you would try and use something to defend yourself such as throwing books, chairs or anything you could grab at your pursuers?
One major problem that I had with the game was that some of the tasks were unimaginative and only there to extend the length of the game. Many games employ the tactic of forcing the player to find three different switches to open a door or new area and Outlast does nothing to change that. Sadly it is dull having to find several switches just to progress over and over. Some sections also feel like you have to learn the layout and, as such means you will have a few repeat deaths until you learn which way you are meant to go to get to the next section of the game. The story, whilst set in a classic clichéd location of a secluded and disconnected Asylum, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed and a bit of a let down towards the end.
Overall I really enjoyed Outlast and thought it was a welcome, if at times terrifying, change to the genre. Outlast works perfectly at making you jump and really draws you in like few horror games have been able to, play this on your own in the dark and I guarantee you will soon feeling your heart pounding as you slowly open that door in the dark not knowing what is on the other side.
I am giving this game a rating of 7/10, it delivers on the scares but I felt it was lacking in variety to give it any higher, either way it is well worth playing.
Reviewer: James Holland