Outlast is the first title from Red Barrels, a Canadian developer founded by industry veterans. It also happens to be an absolutely cracking debut. Originally released on the PC in September of last year, the survival horror has shuffled onto the PlayStation 4, where it’s available as a free PlayStation Plus download at the time of writing.
To start with, it should be noted that this is very much just a port of the Windows-based iteration of the game. There’s very little difference between the two versions, aside from the addition of the DualShock 4, which works perfectly with the title. In fact, so good is the implementation that using a controller is arguably the best way to play the game.
You assume the role of a reporter named Miles Upshur, who has received a tipoff from a stranger telling him to visit the Mount Massive Asylum located amidst some shadowy mountains. This refuge is owned by the macabre Murkoff Corporation, an evil group who partake in equally shady activities. The whistleblower – of which there will be a DLC expansion based upon in the near future – claims that the company is up to something bad, and that it must be exposed.
Travelling to the menacing mansion – late at night, of course – Upshur brings with him a handheld camera and batteries, and heads into the bowels of the facility, where it’s immediately clear that something terrible has taken place. There are a plethora of corpses and entrails littered throughout, and those who are alive are either hostile or too far gone to really understand what’s happening. But just what is going on? All is gradually uncovered as you explore the morbid facility.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this game is intensely violent and incredibly gory, so if that’s not your idea of a good time, then it’s perhaps best left alone. If you’re up for a few jump scares and a hauntingly foreboding atmosphere, though, there’s a truly mind-bending and terrifying tale to be uncovered here.
You’ll need to explore a variety of locations in your quest for the truth, which are almost always grungy and bathed in blood, vomit, and various other pools of viscera. Many areas also boast poor lightning conditions, which augment the game with the opportunity to showcase its cleverest mechanic: the camera.
Rather than find yourself armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers, the camcorder represents your main item of equipment. When raised, it feels a little like you’re living in the [REC] film series, showing the device’s user interface and listing things like aperture on screen. It also features a night vision setting, which serves as your only means to see in the abovementioned pitch-black environments. However, turning this option on will drain the gadget’s batteries, meaning that you’ll need to be sparing with your use of it.
As you capture the gruesome environments on memory stick, you’ll need to solve simple puzzles and avoid any threats. With no real combat options, you’ll often have to hide from enemies, but this simply adds to the tension of the game. The basic flow of the campaign – which sees you merely moving from one area to the next – may seem tedious on paper, but the differing locales and overwhelming atmosphere manage to keep things interesting. There’s only really one area where the experience starts to drag, and that’s in a sequence involving a particularly twisted doctor.
Still, one thing that never gets tiresome is the audio, which is a real masterclass. You’ll hear objects rattling in the distance, floorboards creaking, and various other ambient noises that pull you into the experience perfectly. Meanwhile, Samuel Laflamme’s score complements the environmental sound effects perfectly, with the use of lots of string work and plenty of startling dissonance biting away at your already frayed nerves. Is there something big around the corner, or is the music trying to trick you? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, and that means that it’s doing its job.
But the biggest challenge for a survival horror game is actually being scary, and fortunately this adventure is. It does rely on jump scares a little bit more than it probably should, but it also excels at subtle scenes, and even includes some straight up gross-out moments, such as the twisted doctor section mentioned above.
Few of these moments are let down by technical shortcomings either, but we did encounter some drastic frame drops – with the game temporarily dipping from the advertised 60 frames-per-second to sub-20 frames-per-second on occasion – as well as some chunky loading times. Indeed, as you move from area to area, you can sometimes find yourself waiting up to a minute for the next location to appear, which can kill the atmosphere a touch.
Still, that may offer some much needed respite if your nerves are already shot, as this haunted house of horrors will keep you occupied for at least six hours in total. That’s accounting for all of the collectibles that you’ll find, be it documents or notes written by Upshur about the things that he captures on camera. It may seem a little on the short side considering the ordinary asking price, but in reality, the adventure runs its course without feeling stale, and offers just the right amount of content to make it feel fulfilling.
It’s not perfect, but Outlast is still arguably one of the best survival horror games in recent memory. You’ll need a strong stomach to get through the campaign, but if you can cope with jump scares and graphic content, then this is an exhilarating experience from bloody beginning to chilling conclusion. With fantastic audio work and a clever camera mechanic, Red Barrels’ debut fear fest really will make you afraid of the dark.
Second half of the game is pretty repetative and not scarry =).
I will have to try this one out soon, unfortunately the Olympics are eating up my spare time right now.
@Gemuarto I've only played about an hour so far but was very impressed with it. I'll be disappointed if it drops off because it starts very well.
@get2sammyb it has a crappy ending
@get2sammyb First half worth every penny. Second is not bad at all, but run out of ideas, in my opinion. I just was tired of conception when you need to run from scary fat guy every 10 minutes. There were funny moment when I felt myself in Benny Hill Show, running from him from one room to another, around chairs and sofas. In second half, that guy starting to be pretty annoying, teleporting almost in every place you go. Developers really overused him =).I wish this game to be twice shorter than it is. But I liked it a lot, anyway. And want moar horror games.
I have not played this yet because I am afraid.
Am I still a grown man ?
Enjoying this so far about 2 hours in. It is creepy and I am not easy to psych out.
Good game from what I've played so far but @Gemuarto is right that it loses steam the further along you get. Still, much more true to survival/horror nature than the newer RE's. I'd be interested to see what this development team could do with a publisher willing to give it a bigger budget.
I have been playing since last night and love it!! How do I run though?! I'm stuck in the basement trying to turn the generator on.
@DaftPlayStation I didn't think the ending was bad. I think it could have been a little better, but not bad at all.
Turn the two generator starter motor things in the rooms either side of the room with the main generator button in on, then Hide and a nasty barsteward with a lump of wood comes to inspect (he comes through the lit initially locked door) go through that door follow the corridor to the left then right and in a room on the left is the final switch then go back to where you turn your generator on and done, all the while avoiding the nasty bad guy with the lump of wood that has a rather painful nail in the end!. Don't forget to explore and grab your batteries! you'll need em.
Great game btw, a nice freebie
This game is chilling. I'm actually struggling with it, but also enjoying it? Great review, totally agree with your verdict man.
So far so good.... I hope the second half isn't as bad as early comments suggest.
@ivanmata It's definitely not as good as the first half, but it's certainly got its positives!
I started last night. All I can say is that it starts out great. Wonderful atmosphere. Very scary to play. I read somewhere today that I should check out some livestreaming of this game on the hardest setting. That sounds like fun.
Played the first 5 minutes just now, and, erm, I've made an executive decision that it's probably not a good idea for me to play anymore. I don't know if my heart can take it....
Play this game with a vita! At night! With headphones, better yet, play with the Sony Wireless Headset (pulse)! I agree, audio is top-notch! I bought it first for the PC, and I must say, I enjoy it better on the PS4. It would have been cool if the developers would have put in a trap system... allowing the player to set up some traps or something. Running around gets a little old, but having your character breathe like he's about to poop his pants really does set up the mood. Scariest game I've played in a LONG while.
Tap here to load 18 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...