Outlast Preview: Amnesia: Dark Descent Made Red Barrels Believe

Without any means of defending themselves, players are forced to puzzle their way through the game’s environments, looking for vents, doors, crawlspaces and broken walls — and hiding places.

“You have to avoid enemies, although they’re not really typical enemies because they’re patients of the asylum. They’re a criminally insane person — you never know what to expect from them. It’s like meeting Hannibal Lecter. You might be having a nice dinner with Hannibal Lecter and the next thing you know, he’s cooking your brains. We’re going for a similar vibe, we place patients along the way, and you won’t know if they’re simply going to talk to you, if they’re going to ignore you, if they’re going to attack you and try to kill you. All you can do is run away and hide from them. There’s no gun, no knife, no baseball bat — at least, none for you.”

The demo shown at E3 2013 itself was the same Red Barrels also showed off at PAX East earlier this year, which our Ron Whitaker played and previewed. With an emphasis on stealth and a game visual mechanic that leaves the player in near-darkness with only the night vision mode of a video camera to illuminate their surroundings, things in Outlast often get pretty tense and claustrophobic.

It’s a visual style that has been seen in a number of horror films, perhaps most notably REC (remade as Quarantine in the U.S.) and in portions of Cloverfield, both of which Morin said were inspirations for the game. Also heavily influencing its visual style is Chris Cunnigham’s experimental short film Rubber Johnny, which embodies a trippy night vision experience. Musically and atmospherically, Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining acted as a bit of a template; Morin said the first trailer Red Barrels made for Outlast included music from The Shining before the team brought on a composer, and therefore couldn’t be released to the public.

Augmenting the gameplay and visual style will be the storytelling, from what I saw in the demo. Morin said Red Barrels is looking to tell Outlast’s story “in the most organic way possible,” and likened it to Half-Life in that way. “The story flows as you play,” Morin said, so don’t expect to be stooping down to find notes and documents to read as you move through the asylum.

Speaking of story, there may be more of Outlast once players get a chance to play Red Barrels’ first title, which Morin said will probably last about five hours.

“We are making Outlast so it’s the start of a new franchise, so we’re planting seeds for stuff that might take place in a prequel, a sequel, DLCs,” he said. “So we have a bunch of ideas. We’ll just wait and see what the reception is for the game, and go from there.”

So far, that reception has been pretty strong. Morin said players in the booth had uttered a few screams, despite the noise and lights of E3 creating a fairly distracting setting. At PAX East, Red Barrels set up a booth with a dark curtain to close off players even more, which reportedly elicited some pretty intense scares. And that presentation was so powerful, it drew the attention of Sony. Barrels set up a booth with a dark curtain to close off players even more, which reportedly elicited some pretty intense scares. And that presentation was so powerful, it drew the attention of Sony.

“They’re the ones who came to us at PAX East,” Morin said. “They played the demo, they liked it, they wanted the game on PS4. The invited us to E3 and gave us a spot at the conference. My hands were shaking at that stage.”

That’s a feeling that many Outlast players seem to share — but perhaps for different reasons.

Outlast is coming to PC this summer and to Playstation 4 later this year.


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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