"Death, taxes, and howling lunacy. Welcome to Mount Massive. Enjoy your stay."
Miles Upshur is having a bit of a bad day. Acting on an anonymous insider tip, he made his way into the remote Colorado Rockies, to a sinister institution known as Mount Massive. Operated by the controversial “research and charity” branch of the less-than-morally-sound Murkoff corporation, the asylum’s was operating under the utmost secrecy until Miles’ arrival. Turns out, that was a bit of a mistake on his part – Mount Massive isn’t exactly the sort of place anyone in their right mind would want to be.
In case you were wondering, in Outlast you’re Miles. You’ve neither self-defense training nor a grasp of basic weaponry. Your only piece of equipment is a camera with a night-vision mode. The asylum, meanwhile, is crawling with deranged patients (and much worse, but I won’t spoil anything for you). Your goal is simple – figure out exactly what went wrong in the asylum, chronicle it with your tape recorded, and do everything in your power to escape with your life.
That last one’s going to be a bit difficult. See, while most of the patients will just babble at you or wander about in their own warped little world, there are a few that’d like nothing more than to murder you. Pretty standard horror fare right there, right?
Of these men-turned-monsters, it’s the hulking Chris Walker that truly stands out. Whenever this massive brute approaches, a palpable aura of dread hangs in the air. His heavy footfalls are accented by the metallic clink of chains, and the music that accompanies his arrival is decidedly discordant. Factor in his guttural, whispered threats and you’ve the makings of something grand. It’s rather fitting that he’s the most commonly-encountered antagonist; even as you flee from the other denizens of the asylum there’s the disconcerting knowledge that he’s never far behind, and you rarely feel so hunted as you do when he’s near.
That’s something Outlast excels at: making you feel hunted; forcibly instilling a deep panic in you as you flee desperately through the corridors of Mount Massive, vaulting over and climbing up obstacles in the desperate hope that you’ll find some safe haven just around the next bend. At the same time, however, there’s really no lasting impact. Yes, it’s disturbing – and somewhat gruesome – what goes on at the asylum, and I was scared at several points during my play-through, but it never left any lasting impact.
Perhaps this is a matter of taste. I found the subtler, more cerebral horror of A Machine For Pigs clawed far deeper into my mind than the terrible lunacy of Outlast; not everyone will feel the same, I’m certain.
Another of Outlast’s chief selling points are the parkour elements. Red Barrels didn’t disappoint in this regard; although the controls did occasionally fail to register a jump or a vault, Miles was nevertheless extremely agile. Evidently, a career as an independent journalist lends itself quite well to excellent cardiovascular health.
Since we’re already talking about gameplay, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the ‘monsters’ – the patients at the asylum. These are simultaneously the game’s strongest and weakest point. See, the AI for your enemies isn’t exactly the best. That is to say…they seem kind of brain-dead. Sure, they notice and pursue you fairly reliably, but there were several occasions where I found myself hiding in the most obvious place imaginable- yet somehow, they never seemed to track me down.
It's possible that this was a conscious choice on the part of the developers. I mean, the people pursuing Upshur are lunatics. Plus, there was still a very real sense of danger while being pursued (at least, whenever Walker entered the scene), and the oft-enclosed spaces of the asylum usually left very few places to run.
There's also the camera - your lifeline, and the means by which you'll advance the narrative. Whenever something noteworthy happens, make sure you've hit 'record,' and Miles will write a comment down about it in his journal. Further, when you’re traversing the darker sections of the asylum, your camera’s night vision is often your only companion.
Using this feature, however, drains the battery like mad, meaning you’re constantly on the lookout for more batteries. In theory, this should lead to a great deal more agitation. In practice, however...it may just be indicative of my personal caution, but I found that I almost never ran out of batteries – whenever my stores were running low, I somehow always seemed to find more cells in the unlikeliest places.
While it may not be as scary, Outlast is fun to play, and it's got a fairly interesting story complete with a little bit of much-needed brevity. If you found yourself wanting after playing A Machine For Pigs - or really, even if you didn't - pick up Outlast and give it a try. You won't regret it.
GameDynamo's Score for Outlast (PC)
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A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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