Every now and then a game comes along that I really don’t fancy playing. Those who know me well would hazard a guess at such a game involving lots of guns and lightning reactions; something I don’t deal with well. Others will mention an in-depth RPG that requires hours and hours or exploration and discoverment.
And whilst those people would be probably be right, I have to admit to initially feeling that way about the latest survival horror title on Xbox One, Outlast.
You play the role of Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist who does what freelance journalists do best; go out on the search for the latest headline news in the hope it’ll bring in a buck or two. Receiving a tip off that a psychiatric asylum is somewhat corrupt, Miles makes his way to the gates, enters the building and from then on in, the horror begins to unfold in front of him. As always, we won’t spoil any stories in our reviews but you can be sure it’s a story that is written to the very highest degree.
To the untrained eye, Outlast is a strange beast. It’s obviously filled to the absolute brim with the scariest horror tricks that anyone could imagine, but whilst games of this genre usually have you fighting your way through some undead masses with a shotgun, Outlast keeps it’s fighting to the very bare minimum….so minimum that there isn’t a single gun, grenade or even punch thrown from the games main protagonist. And that is the main selling point, even above the ghastliness and spine tingling moments that come at you from every corner.
As previously mentioned, Miles is a bog standard reporter; he has never got himself involved in a bar fight and has always kept himself distanced whenever trouble arises and so it would come as a massive shock to the system if we saw Miles fighting back the horrors within the asylum. In fact, Miles’ only ‘weapon’ is his trusty camcorder and its night vision mode. Now, neither journos or camcorders are best known for their fighting abilities and this is no more true than in Outlast. The video camera in question is used solely for scanning the area, and helping Miles navigate his way round the often pitch black halls of the asylum. With everything shown in first person view, you have the option of holding the cam up to your eye and using its zoom and night vision modes to good effect, or you can wander around with it down by your side. If you think you’ll get away with the latter very often then you’ll be very much mistaken as I found I played a good 95% of the game with it fully trained on the horrors in front of me.
And this is where things get a little tough, for to utilise the night vision mode of the camcorder fully, you‘ll need to search out and acquire a number of batteries to power the damn thing. For the most part these can be found lying around as you progress through the eight differing areas of the asylum, but in order to take full advantage of the power of light, a bit of exploration and searching of side rooms is pretty necessary. Without it, Miles will be struggling to fumble his way round even the simplest of rooms and wouldn’t last more than a few seconds when he’s trying to escape the clutches of the many psychotic patients that are frequenting the halls.
Aside from the batteries, there are a number of documents scattered around that help fill in a bit of the backstory and these are always good to have a gander at. The only other ‘collectable’ comes in the form of notes written by Miles himself. To grab these you need to be viewing the action through the camcorder (something that happens pretty much most of the time anyway) and then point it in a certain direction. This all seemed a bit random to me and if you’re looking to collect all notes, I would think the intervention of a walkthrough guide would be the only hope.
But back to the main action and running away or hiding is something you’ll be doing an awful lot of in Outlast and thankfully there are numerous cupboards and rooms scattered around with just that in mind. Your complete lack of weapons heightens every sense in your body and in combination with the dark corridors, some severely heavy breathing, eerie sounds and ramping up of both the volume and speed of the background music whenever something is about to really kick off, Outlast is most definitely not a game for the faint hearted. I’m not afraid to admit that during the 7 hours or so it took me to fully complete Miles’ journey into the weird and unknown, that there were numerous times I would jump from my seat and a good few that had me shouting out in horror.
But sometimes a good ol’ scare is just what you need and I found myself fully engrossed throughout the entirety of the strange story and despite the scares, the jumps and the verge of a heart attack, wanted to carry on playing until I’d seen more of the well structured, annoyance-free story, if only to see if Miles would eventually escape or become entwined into the whole institution.
It’s normally about this time, especially with the low-cost digital titles, that I begin to point out the negativities and issues, but truth be told, there isn’t an awful lot I didn’t like. If I had to be very petty then I’d say that there is a fair bit of traipsing around trying to find the correct route through the darkness and with that comes a decent amount of repetition, but on the same hand, it’s the not knowing and the suspense of the walk that makes Outlast what it is…..and that is something that is very good.
Outlast may have scared the bloody hell out of me but it’s an experience you should take in.
Depending on how good your heart is of course!