Outlast Review: An Uncompromising Horror Vision
But on the other hand, from an experiential standpoint, it’s great that Red Barrels resisted the urge to make anything easier on the player. Finding out where to go is a matter of paying attention, trial and error, and situational awareness, further augmenting the horror atmosphere. There’s little to break the immersion (except for collectible documents and extra batteries, which are both given a bit of flash to make them stand out — this is entirely necessary to keep you from missing them altogether) or to take you out of those high-adrenaline moments. And that’s a great thing.
It’s just that, from a gameplay standpoint, not knowing where to go gets frustrating. Running for your life and missing the correct path because you’re running for your life often means dying and restarting. There were several moments when trial-and-error was the order of the day for me, and one when I got so turned around that I spent an extra half-hour just trying to puzzle out where to go (largely because of the stalker wielding huge surgical shears who was searching for me). So while abstractly, again, I love that Outlast in no way coddles its players, dying repeatedly in order to find the right way forward can kill the scares.
On PC, Outlast looks pretty great, in a piles-of-guts kind of way. Mouse and keyboard are generally a solid control scheme for the game as well, although I found the keyboard robbed me of the game’s freakiest mechanic: the ability to look over my shoulder at my pursuer while running. That control is mapped to the lean keys, Q and E, and it was damn near impossible for me to hold shift, navigate with WASD and be dexterous and focused enough to hit Q on top of that. A gamepad might make that easier, and it’s a great way to make your heart skip during some of the game’s most intense moments.
I spent most of Labor Day weekend playing Outlast in short bursts, and even late in the game, it had the ability to get my blood racing and my spine tingling. It’s possible that by the end, Outlast does, in fact, slightly outlast its mechanics and AI, but the novelty of running and hiding and its phenomenal, no-holds-barred presentation definitely make up for it. This is a gross, scary, disturbing game: you should play it.
- First-person mechanics, presentation and premise are awesome, delivering great scares and tons of tension
- Explicit and uncompromising horror vision is highly unsettling
- Zero hand-holding and very few immersion-breaking gamey elements
- Lots of heart-pounding moments, especially the chases
- Presentation style stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some high-quality modern horror films
- Some quality freak-outs and jump scares
- Generally smart checkpoints that don’t punish you too badly for screwing up
- Sometimes confusing geography or requirements for advancing result in a lot of trial and error
- Enemies generally all play the same way, even when they look different
- Especially late in the game, can start to lose its scares through repetition as the player learns the game’s limits
Final Score: 90/100