Outlast 2013: A Generational Masterpiece Of Horror Games
September 4th, 2013
True Survival Horror Experience: You are no fighter - if you want to survive the horrors of the asylum, your only chance is to run... or hide
Immersive Graphics: AAA-quality graphics give players a detailed, terrifying world to explore
Hide and Sneak: Stealth-based gameplay, with parkour-inspired platforming elements
Unpredictable Enemies: Players cannot know when - and from where - one of the asylum’s terrifying inhabitants will finally catch up to them
Real Horror: Outlast’s setting and characters are inspired by real asylums and cases of criminal insanity
Outlast is a one-of-a-kind first-person horror game that throws you against your sanity, with every moment built on suspense and fear. You play as Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist with balls of steel and a drive to shock video rivaling Louis Bloom of the film “Nightcrawler,” with nothing more than a camera, a notepad, and Olympic cardio talents. Limited-resource horror games are a popular niche among gamers, and Outlast was the poster child for the growing business for a long time, and with good reason.
Yeah, we realize we’re late to this vintage treasure, but let’s get one thing straight: we love horror games, and we still scream at every jump scare and close our eyes when things get too gory. It’s a genre that, to be honest, can be too much for some people, and one should avoid it for the sake of their sanity.
We are all fascinated with terror. We’re fascinated by why someone would willingly choose to be terrified, attracted by the various ways horror can be effective, and find ourselves pulled to horror games in particular since they’re the most difficult to master and, as a result, the most interesting and spectacular when done correctly.
Outlast isn’t the absolute apex of interactive horror, but it’s a close second and a high bar for other developers to reach. It cannot only shock you but also terrify you with the force of the terrors within it. It’s unquestionably filthy and grotesque, arguably the most unpleasant game we’ve ever seen, and it still makes us squirm as we recollect some of its most heinous moments. It does so in a weirdly, even frighteningly compelling way, almost as if some dark part of you wants to see how far the devs would go or if there is ever any light at the end of a never-ending tunnel.
Outlast accomplishes much of this thanks to a rich and gloomy atmosphere, as well as a thorough understanding of its mechanics. Outlast leaves you powerless, forcing you to sneak and hide from foes who can often see and hear you much better than you can them, yet thanks to an almost continual supply of hiding spots and the ability to evade your pursuers if you are discovered, the game never becomes tedious. This isn’t to say it’s a simple game or one you can play casually without thinking about enemies, but it puts you in circumstances you can’t manage and never feels harsh, as many horror games do when they rely heavily on trial and error.
This is due in part to Outlast’s ability to fully immerse you in its environment. There are never any moments when you don’t feel like a powerless journalist with a camera, and this fragility and immersion is one of the key reasons why this game is so horrifying. Every misstep, heavy breath, cut and bruise, and a frightened glimpse of your character is depicted in such a way that you truly feel like you’re inside them. In every other sense, he’s a blank slate, yet as you step into his shoes, the actual world fades away as you journey through almost literal hell on Earth.
Everything in Outlast becomes secondary to scaring the living daylights out of you almost as soon as you grab your camera and step out of your car unprepared for what awaits you inside Mount Massive Asylum, and it’s because it succeeds so well at this goal that it’s easier to overlook some of the game’s less-polished aspects. It’s easy to become lost running in circles due to a general lack of direction and difficulty to recollect your aims, which is exacerbated by the nearly impenetrable darkness that often conceals entrances and roads, and without a map, even retracing your steps to rule out places you haven’t been becoming a hurdle that takes us out of the experience because we are forced to rely on a guide to get there.
The plot, as fascinating as it is when it is set down neatly on paper, is conveyed in such a way that it is frequently jumbled and confused beyond comprehension if you aren’t paying close attention to every word of dialogue and document picked up. Even still, it shifts gears frequently enough to look almost purposefully crafted in such a way as to keep you wondering what it all means based on the few strands that are thrown at you. Outlast has a hesitation to commit that can be followed throughout the game, as if it’s worried about spending too much time on one character at a time, lest you conclude it’s the game’s major emphasis. As a result, the final product is always intriguing but rarely gratifying.
The most disappointing aspect of the experience, however, is the last chapter, which, not only in terms of plot but also in terms of location, loses practically all of the fear of the other chapters and ends the game on an unusual note. We didn’t detest it so much for the finale as for what it did to the game as a whole, which had been dependably good up until that moment.