While the game may not be perfect, it successfully represents why this medium display horror better than any other.
The survival horror genre has found itself in an awkward position over the past few years. While most big name developers have forgotten what makes the genre scary, many smaller developers have successfully brought the screams of gamers everywhere to the next generation. Developer Red Barrels has released the latest game in the horror genre title Outlast. While the game may not be perfect, it successfully represents why this medium display horror better than any other.
Outlast is a first person survival horror game that put’s players in the shoes of Miles Upshur: A ambitious reporter who decides to blow the lid on a questionable insane asylum called Mount Massive Asylum. While inside, he quickly learns that something has gone horribly wrong as the asylum reveals some dark and bloody secrets. Things progressively get worse from there and players begin to search the gruesome asylum to find answers. The story, although not groundbreaking, was actually really enjoyable and I found myself seeking to find the hidden documents scattered around the decaying building. In addition, I also enjoyed how Miles Upshur would occasionally take notes if the player studied an event long enough with their camera. It is a creative way to give personality to a silent protagonist, and his writings were overall very entertaining.
Easily the most superb aspect of this game however is the sound design. This is usually the case for most horror games, but Outlast does this especially well. Sometimes I would hear enemies move or scream in the room next to mine, but I would find it empty by the time I muster the courage to explore it. When hiding from enemies in lockers, Miles Upshur will breathe heavily and become more scared when traversing the rest of the game. Nearly everything has a sound, and my senses were shot by the end of my experience. Red Barrel did an amazing job with manipulating the sound design, and I haven’t seen any developers achieve this high of quality. The developers made a very good looking game as well as I found the environments and lighting design to be especially gorgeous.
Nearly every aspect of the presentation in Outlast is superb, but sadly the gameplay is more of a mixed bagged. In order to survive against the unpredictable enemies, players must run away and find certain places to hide to avoid confrontation. Miles Upshur can’t physically fight off the crazed patients, which is why players have to rely on his superior agility. In addition, Miles carries a camera that players can use to not only to record the asylum, but to see in the dark. Players must use the night vision sparingly however because it will drain the battery life fast. There are batteries that are scattered around the environment, and players will want to find every battery they can. This is because the game becomes pitch black with the night vision camera.
The gameplay may not sound bad, and initially it isn’t. I really enjoyed the being chased by the enemies, and I especially like how not every inmate was trying to kill you. However, despite all the strengths it has going for it, the game suffers from a problem that plagues most recent games. There is simply no threat in actually dying. This becomes a problem because it allows players to avoid the main gameplay which basically boils down to deadly Hide and Seek.The environments are very large, and traversing them to find your goals can be very time consuming: Especially when you need to simultaneously avoid the deadly inmates. While investing the time into the stealth mechanics is suppose to be fun, it ends up becoming pointless because there is no threat in error. If Miles Upshur happens to die, he will quickly respawn close to where he left off. As I got closer to the end of the game, I simply ran as fast as possible through the enemies to accomplish my goals. Sure I would die usually once, but the quick respawn insured that it wouldn’t be an issue.
I’m not blaming the game for having fast load times, but there needed to be some threat to death to help keep the game scary.The game ultimately felt repetitive near the end and devoid of any possible replayability. I think Outlast would have benefited greatly if there was a little more randomness to the gameplay. Enemies felt very linear, which doesn’t take advantage of the game presenting harmless inmates. The game could have taken advantage of this by changing which inmates attacked each playthrough. The unpredictability would have forced players to reaccess each situation because the danger would change after each respawn.
Consumers shouldn’t avoid the game however because it is still one of the best games in the genre. The gameplay mechanics are not broken, the sound and graphical design are out of this world , and the story was entertaining throughout the experience. The game is roughly 5-6 hours long, and I enjoyed my time with it. There just needed to be more of an incentive to keep coming back to the horror besides future DLC. Outlast is a fantastic game, and one of the best games you can get on the PS4. The lack of incentive to relive the twisted tale of Mount Massive Asylum however holds the experience back from being superb. There is a lot of potential in this license, and Red Barrel has a good framework of what can become a staple series in the horror genre.