The First 15 – Outlast (PS4)

The foyer of Mount Massive Asylum

The foyer of the asylum shows some serious business is happening here…

Outlast is a first person horror game where you play as a reporter who is leaked information on human experimentation going on at Mount Massive Asylum. You arrive late at night and after some catwalk climbing, find yourself inside the Asylum – and it’s trashed, not to mention full of very angry and deranged patients! Outlast doesn’t take long to start throwing the scares your way, which honestly, is the type of game I hate to play. That being said, my first 15 minutes of Outlast quickly turned into two unexpected hours. Nothing wrong with some late night horror games to ensure you’re awake until sunrise, right? My friend was sitting next to me on the couch and we both kind of balked at the idea of really playing a horror  game. After some taunting if we were really going to play Outlast, we turned off all the lights and turned up the sound a little more, I manned up and started the game. Bravado aside, I was spooked just by the idea of playing the game. (Editor’s Note: continuing my goal of playing games outside my wheelhouse, Outlast is a perfect example of a game I’d never play usually)

The mechanics of the game are fairly standard FPS – the biggest thing is that you don’t have a weapon or way to combat the enemies, you’re simply avoiding them. You’ll use a handheld video camera to light up dark areas (with a night vision mode that is equally terrifying as the dark) and have to rely on batteries you locate in the environment to keep the camera working. The horror game tropes are pretty clear within the first half hour or so, you’ll see lots of jump scares and hear creepy music, and plenty of disfigured individuals roam the asylum. I feel jump scares are cheap fear triggers, Outlast also makes a point that you will need to avoid these crazed individuals by hiding in lockers or under beds, or just out running them. It’s not always easy, and I can promise you’ll take a wrong turn and find yourself reloading to a checkpoint after being subdued by an enemy.

Creepy!

Using the night mode on your camera is your primary way of finding your way through the dark

The PS4 controller is a nice addition to the Outlast atmosphere. The light bar glows like a flashlight when the camera comes up, then green when you’re using the night vision on the camera. This is a neat trick to provide some ambience in a dark room. If you’re caught and killed by an enemy, it goes red, just to remind you that you’re about to die. The game looks really good too, if you take time to actually stop and look around. You’ll have some opportunities to do so; the flow of the game tends to give you some reprise from event to event, a lull to provide a another place to dig in the scares when you least expect it. I’ve had some graphical glitches from time to time, but overall its a terrifying delight. The sound design is on point, from the voice over work to the creepy music in the background, there is plenty of tension built based on just what you can hear. Surround sound users will love it.

We’ll talk a little more Outlast during the upcoming Super NovaCast, so stay tuned!

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