Survival horror is back and it’s never been more terrifying or twisted. Indie developer Red Barrels has reminded us that true terror still exists in video games with their game Outlast. And given recent “horror” releases such as Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3, Outlast comes as a much needed savior for the genre. It’s dark, gritty, horrifying, intense and various other fear-inducing adjectives. It’s a game with only a handful of mechanics, which only heighten the sense of helplessness, and an atmosphere that is second to none. And now PlayStation 4 owners are getting their first taste of terror (while PC players have known fear since this past September) as it has opened the doors to the asylum to a new audience.
Outlast casts you in the role of an unfortunate freelance journalist, Miles Upshur, who is given an anonymous tip in the form of a letter which reveals that “terrible things” are going on at Mount Massive Asylum. This psychiatric hospital, where blood-thirsty lunatics roam the halls and deranged doctors administer unorthodox treatments, is overseen by the shady Murkoff Corporation. Armed with nothing but a camcorder and a burning desire to uncover the truth, the journey into the poorly-lit asylum begins. From here things spiral out of control in the worst way. Your eyes, and camcorder, will be subject to countless gruesome slaughters, mutilations, necrophilia and male nudity. All of these horrific aspects culminate into one of the most engrossing settings we have ever seen. The audio is no slouch, either. The suppressed breathing of Miles coupled with the haunting musical score can create tension even in scenes where no enemies are present. However, once the enemies (known as The Variants) do get involved, one’s own breathing is sure to become labored as well.
Miles has no weapons at his disposal. In fact, he’s all flight and no fight. Outlast takes one of horror game’s best features and makes an entire game out of it. The monsters you can’t kill are the most horrifying. Those who spent time trying to escape the Regenerator in the first Dead Space can attest to the effectiveness of this design choice. Everything from the blade wielding Variants to the hulking Chris Walker are perfectly capable of relieving Miles’ body of any life force. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Vaulting over tables, squeezing through crevices, hiding in lockers and ducking under beds are the extent of the
offensive defensive capabilities available to the player.