Outlast Review

July 8, 2014

I’ll be honest – I had zero intention of playing Outlast when I first saw the trailer back at the end of 2012. Scary games aren’t my thing. At all (insert Lana Kane – “nooooope”). Scary movies? Yes. I’ll sit there for two hours and embrace the fact that my goose bumps are so intense you’d think I was R.L. Stine’s muse. That and the fact that playing the F.E.A.R demo back in 2005 when I was 15 during the wee hours of the morning subliminally predetermined my future gaming choices and playing times…

Curiousity got the better of me, so to the internets I went in search of gameplay. The more I watched, the more curious I was to share the same experience that these random internet people had (because why else do we watch them?). The widened eyes, pursed lips, sweaty palms, the audible dry throat swallow and never-ending strew of profanities…I wanted that too.

Initial experience was at a friend’s house that had it on PS4, so I gave it a shot. And by shot, I mean that I sat there for 30mins, cross-legged leaning against a wall, controller close to my face as if it was a form of protection, squealing like a little girl and throwing the controller every time I got scared.

So I bought it the day it was released for Xbox One.

With the crackling of a vapid radio station barely audible over the top of a vehicle driving up a rocky road (at what one could only assume is an ungodly hour of the night), the journey into Outlast begins. Pulling up to the security gates of Mount Massive Asylum – sans security guards – immediately you notice that something is not right. I mean, sans security guards. A quick skim of an email exchange between the main character and an anonymous tipster cements that theory, and armed with only a handheld video camera, you enter the abandoned facility.


Entrance to Mount Massive Asylum, sans security guards.

The only item you carry and use in the game is your handheld video camera. While its purpose in game is to “record” your findings, it also has a night vision mode to assist you during the dark areas (which are DARK), however at the cost of using precious battery time. Batteries are far and few, and not always made so obvious, so being conservative with your supply is a must. There are moments where your only ability to see is with that night vision mode…you’ve been warned.

Your enemies are obviously a result of the cult-like program in place at the Asylum, which is something you discover fairly early on. And while they themselves may not vary much in the ways of appearance and their style of attacks, you have zero way of defending yourself. Your only chance is to either not be noticed by them, or to frantically run for your life. Hide or run. Or is it hide and seek…? Though you may pick up on the enemy pattern and try to use that to your advantage, it only makes the experience more terrifying knowing that there is something about to make its way to you. Do you hide now? Is this a good spot or will you get caught upon exiting? If you run will he hear you? What if he turns around and sees you walking out? What happens if he doesn’t arrive, do you exit your hidey-hole and continue on, or will you wait just that little bit longer to be sure…


Hey, MOVE – that’s my hiding spot.

Consistently maintained throughout the entire game is the chilling atmosphere through visuals and sound. Corpses strewn across rooms or hung from the ceilings, messages and directions left in blood, dilapidated structure, too much light where you don’t want to be seen and no light when you need to see. The grainy green “Blair Witch” feel of the night-vision mode, the areas where it is impossibly dark and increasing the gamma/brightness does nothing – all perfectly tied together as a sickening treat for the eyes.

But what is a survival horror game without hair-raising sounds? The silence, only to be broken by the screams and wails of those in torment, the murderous muttering, the footsteps and thuds of an enemy lurking by in the dark, and the breathing. The intense, labored breathing from the character – subconsciously raising your own heart rate in preparation for what happens next – all of this is perfectly executed together with the visuals to create an experience you never forget.

So with all of the above in mind, what sort of game can you expect after you enter Mount Massive Asylum? Can you expect a game that switches between a slow and steady test of your stealth skills, to a fast paced tormenting race where missing a jump or turn will be your demise?  Or what about a game that ensures to hold and maintain your unwavering attention via total immersion inside a world where your own fear compels you to continue? How about a game where the minute something goes wrong – you are scared? If that’s anything and everything you’re hoping for, Outlast delivers just all that.

Outlast did for me what I believe these types of games are made for, and, what I was hoping for – it made me feel. I lost track of time. I refused to play it at night. Hell, I even streamed it via Twitch while chatting with a friend on FaceTime so that I wouldn’t be alone. I have zero desire to replay this game through on a higher difficulty level, for me personally – once was enough. But if you’re the kind of person that takes great pride in achieving the impossible (or being super awesome at games, whatever), then I implore you to do just that. The satisfaction upon completing the game is just simply not enough and creates enough desire to either play it through again or to download the DLC as soon as possible. Which, I may do, if I feel like annoying the neighbours with my screaming and profanities at some ungodly hour of the morning.


Such mise-en-scène!



Immersive world - Endless jump scares - Consistent atmosphere


Enemy patterns are predictable - The cult thing gets a bit old.

Overall Score: