The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Many modern blockbusters try to provide players with a buffet of
gameplay experiences. However, crafting a game with a living economy, a
massive open world, and dozens of minigames isn’t the only way to
engineer a compelling experience. Outlast doesn't worry about perk
systems, weapon upgrades, or even inventory management. Instead, this
game is hell-bent on one thing: horror. Fortunately, Outlast is very
good at the one thing it does.
The entire game takes place inside Mount Massive Asylum – a
government complex that was shut down in the '70s amid a mysterious
scandal. In 2009, Murkoff Advanced Research Systems reopened the
facility’s doors, but many believe that Murkoff's interests aren’t
entirely honorable. When reporter Miles Upshur receives a tip from one
of Mount Massive’s contract workers – who complains about the
corporation’s questionable activities – he decides that Mount Massive
could be the scoop of his career. After climbing headfirst into one of
the asylum's second story windows, though, he soon discovers that he's
descended into a hell he might never escape.
From the moment the game begins, Outlast's atmosphere is oppressive.
Doors shut unexpectedly, bloody footprints trail down hallways, and the
weeping of grown men echoes off the walls. After crawling through
red-streaked sewage in a frosted sewer and being chased through a
medical ward by a demented doctor with giant scissors, I knew I would
never know what to expect next.
Mount Massive Asylum is populated with hundreds of deranged inmates –
many of whom stare blankly at broken televisions or mutter to
themselves while curled up in a corner. Most of the time, these lost
souls are harmless, but you never know when one of them might decide to
lunge for your jugular as you pass by. To make matters worse, a bulky
figure with a disfigured face constantly chases you through the asylum’s
halls, and he seems intent on keeping you from passing back out of the
asylum’s front gates while wearing anything other than a body bag.
It's a good thing that Outlast's atmosphere is so arresting, because
its gameplay is rather simple. Miles is a reporter, so he's not equipped
to fight back with firearms or makeshift weapons, or even a
pocketknife. Outlast doesn't let you face down its terrifying threats;
your only option is to run like hell and hope to find a locker or bed to
hide under until the danger passes.
The only thing in Miles’ pocket is a camcorder equipped with night
vision. This gives Outlast a hint of stealth gameplay. You’ll naturally
want to sneak past your enemies in the dark, but Outlast doesn't give
you any tools to track enemies when they're out of eyesight, and it’s
impossible to keep Miles’ size-twelve clogs from sounding like
doorknockers even against the shaggiest of carpets. As such, you are
constantly wandering into trouble and having to immediately backpedal to
the nearest hiding spot and wait for your pursuers to forget you exist.
Even then, you can't hear enemy movements over your character's own
heavy breathing, so I would occasionally emerge from hiding to find that
my foe was still in the room.
Outlast’s biggest frustration is its lack of a map or some other form
of navigation tool. It's easy to get lost in the game’s maze-like
environments, and this is especially tiring when the game sends you on a
scavenger hunt. I quickly grew tired of having to flip three switches
to turn on the power, or drain a sewer pipe, or activate a sprinkler
system before progressing to the next area. Being lost inside a
pitch-black catacomb while men with knives try to sniff you out is
intense, but it starts to lose its thrill when you wander past the same
water pump for the fourth time.
However, every time I started to grow tired of scavenging the
environment for batteries to power my camcorder, the game threw a curve
ball at me. Suddenly a contained explosion would blow me through a
window and into a prison shower, or I'd end up dodging fire inside a
cafeteria that some pyromaniac had turned into a blast furnace. It got
to the point that even crawling through a vent and coming face to face
with a docile inmate with an empty stare would send a chill down my
Outlast is a virtual tour through a hall of terrors. Even playing the
game in full daylight makes me uneasy. However, the game's overall
level design and gameplay were sacrificed at the altar of fear. If
you're looking for an experience that will get your adrenaline pumping,
Outlast is hard to beat, but if you’re looking for a meatier horror
experience then you might want to run past this one.
The EdgeThe PC version isn't markedly different from the
console version. I actually preffered playing the game with a
controller, so there is no real advantage to there. I did noticed that
the textures in the PS4 version were sometimes a little blurrier than
the PC version. Otherwise, the two versions are nearly identical.
Looking for another great horror experience? Check out Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.