326824.jpgI first played and beat Outlast a couple of years ago on PC. In fact, when I first heard that Outlast was coming to PS4, it was one of my main reasons to get a PS4. At any rate, I finally played the PS4 version and the Whistleblower DLC this weekend, so while it’s fresh in my head, I had better review it.

Outlast puts you in the shoes of Miles Upshur (get it?), a freelance investigative journalist that receives an anonymous tip from someone known only as the Whistleblower (in fact, that’s who you play as in the DLC) who has inside information on what is going on at Mount Massive Asylum, and that those who run it, the Murkoff corporation is doing terrible things to the inmates. As you drive in, your radio shuts off, likely jammed communication. Miles finds that there is nobody around outside but empty SWAT vehicles, so he must sneak inside using a broken window and nearby scaffolding. When he does, he finds dead bodies of patients, security, and SWAT members. Soon Miles is caught in a fight for his life as he struggles to escape Mount Massive, though the inmates want him to stay either to kill him, or to witness all they have been put through. In fact, there are some really great and unforgettable scenes throughout Outlast.

Outlast04.jpgThe gameplay is kind of Amnesia-style; there is no fighting, only running and hiding if when you’re spotted. It’s played in the first person and has an interesting mechanic: the camcorder. Miles is a journalist, so he brings his camcorder with him, and it’s his greatest (and only) tool in Mount Massive. It adds two interesting gameplay elements. The first of which are notes. If you are recording a major event of some sort, Miles will write a note about it, giving you more background on Miles’s character or the world in general. In fact most of the story is told through these notes and documents that you can find hidden around the asylum. The other is the ability to turn on night vision mode. Night vision allows you to see in the dark areas of the asylum, but slowly drains battery life, requiring you to only use it when you need it. Like Amnesia’s lamp and oil, you’ll need to swap out the camcorder’s batteries when the power gets low. You can find more batteries hidden all around Mount Massive. In fact, as the battery gets near the end of its life, the camera will flicker, giving some pretty unsettling effects, especially when you’re already feeling tense. You’ll need to manage your battery supply, as well as when to “reload” as swapping batters does take a few seconds. As a result, it’s sometimes better to swap batteries before your last one is completely drained, as you may need to be prepared, then trying to run away from an angry inmate while swapping batteries in the dark. The night vision is a fantastic mechanic, because it give you the tense feeling of managing limited supplies, while also giving you a way to stay very afraid of the dark. Maybe it’s just me, but I always found that familiar green night vision unsettling, especially the way it lights up eyeballs.

The main thing that really makes a great horror game, in my opinion, is the atmosphere and sense of dread and uneasiness the setting puts you in. The first half or so of Outlast does this really well. The asylum is new to the player and terrifying, you visit a number of differing areas, enemies aren’t too numerous, weird characters comment and follow you around; it makes for a great feeling of unease. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stay static through the whole game. Instead, about halfway through, the game kind of runs out of ideas. Enemies become so numerous and always aware of where you are that getting past them stops being scary, but instead becomes annoying. Typically you have to solve puzzles or find switches to hit while being pursued by these ultra-intelligent inmates. If it’s an area you haven’t been to yet, you won’t even be familiar enough with the area to explore it, because you’re too busy being chased. That said, not every chase scene in Outlast is annoying an unfair. Outlast06.jpgThere are a couple (especially before that halfway point) that are really well done and put you on edge with a real sense of tension. Usually when I replay Outlast, I give up at the halfway point simply because that area is SO ANNOYING. After a while, puzzles get very predictable too. Hitting a switch spawns an enemy, or alerts them to your presence, so might as well just hide in this closet for the next 5 minutes while he comes and goes. You probably spend a good 1/3 of Outlast hiding in lockers or under beds waiting for enemies to go away. Another problem, in my opinion, is the science fiction setting near the end of the game. While the game slowly builds up to it, the last 1/4th of the game is really kind of boring and forgettable, and leads up to a disappointing (at least I thought so) ending.

The last thing that irks me about Outlast is its reliance on jump scares. Jump scares are not scary, they are startling. They have their place in horror, no doubt, but I often find them a quick, cheap thrill. Again, for me, horror is about the unsettling and sense of dread, not about loud sound cues and in-your-face monsters. The rattling of chains in the distance as it slowly approaches you is much more frightening than turning a corner and a creepy guy is standing there with a loud noise to accompany him. After a while you can just start to anticipate where a “scare” is going to pop up. Not a fan of that.

Lastly, Whistleblower has the same problems as the base game, but in reverse. Instead, it’s fairly uninteresting up until the last 1/4th. Most of it has you pursued by an uninteresting and annoying enemy that seems to know your every whereabout (sound familiar) until eventually you meet a really crazy character. The first bit puts you in that sci-fi setting as well, but once you get out of there, the creepiness really ramps up from there. Another cool thing is that you’ll see events from the first game happening as you attempt to escape Mount Massive as well, making for some really cool “fan service” moments so to speak.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Unique and effective camcorder mechanic.
  • Mostly varied environments.
  • The first half of the game.

Cons

  • Enemies that stop being scary and start being annoying.
  • Heavy reliance on jump scares.
  • The last bit of the game just kind of runs out of steam and leaves you with a disappointing ending.

Final Score: 8/10

Outlast is by no means a bad game, again, especially the first half or so. It just kind of runs out of steam near the end, that’s all. If you’re a horror fan, definitely check it out, it’s still a really good game, it’s just flawed in ways that can’t make me put it up there with Amnesia or Silent Hill 2.