[Review] Outlast – an emotionally taxing, stunning good time.
Release Date – September 4, 2013 | Developer – Red Barrels | Genre – Survival-Horror | Platform – PC
Outlast might just be one of the most anticipated survival horror games of this year. I know that I have been waiting patiently, and now the wait is over as it released on September 4th, 2013 and it is available for download on Steam. Outlast was created and published by Red Barrels; an independent up and coming gaming company based out of Montreal, Canada. Their mission is to create single player downloadable games, and their vision is to immerse players into interactive experiences, in which the player goes on an emotional, and unforgettable journey. To their credit, the team of Red Barrels does just that with their stunning visuals, and white knuckled game play.
The Story of Outlast takes place in the desolate mountains of Colorado, where only horrors await inside Mount Massive Asylum. An abandoned home for the mentally ill, recently re-opened by the “research and charity” branch of the transnational Murkoff Corporation. It seems they have been operating in complete secrecy, that is until now. Acting on a tip from an inside source, independent journalist Miles Upshur breaks into the facility with nothing more than a video camera equipped with night vision. What he discovers shortly afterwards walks a terrifying line between science and religion; nature and something entirely different. Miles’ and your only hope of escape lies with the terrible truth at the heart of Mount Massive.
Aesthetically, Outlast is by far one of the most beautiful survival horror games I have seen in a very long time. The team at Red Barrels is relatively small, but the way they use the Unreal 3 engine is amazing. This impressive psychological horror game really shows what a labor of love it was to make. Most of this game is played in the dark, or in very poorly lit rooms, encouraging you to use the night vision on your camera. I am sure it is no easy task to do this and still make it seem real. The game itself did not seem to be very taxing on my system either for all it’s beauty – I great feature for users with budget PCs. The team made sure to implement a highly customizable “settings” menu that allows you to make many types of visual adjustments. This makes sure that a wide range of computers can enjoy this game, not just the highest end.
At first, the game play took a few minutes to get used to, but no more than with most games. The controls are very smooth, with no noticeable hitching or tearing issues during the fast paced movement. Players can switch between Mouse/keyboard or use a controller. Both worked so well that I would say the difference would only be personal preference. I will say even though they are working on the game to be released on the PlayStation 4 later next year, it did seem that the current set up was geared more toward an Xbox controller. Another thing I noticed about the game was how dependent it is on high frame rates. If your frame rates dropped low for any reason in game, rather than lag out, your characters movements and the screen becomes blurred. Its as if Miles decided to take a few sips too many of the hooch to calm the nerves. Who could blame the guy with everything he is going through? In terms of where the controls lack — I would like to see a manual option to peek around a corner or up a window sill, instead of the game prompting you to do it when it feels necessary. I also felt like Outlast could use some improvement on the mechanics of opening doors. The game gives you an option to open them slowly or burst through. Every time I chose to open them slowly, halfway through the door would just slam open. Way to play it stealthy Miles.
This was a very polished title at release and there were no major updates issued on launch like most titles these days. As far as I can see, there were also no blatant glitches jumping right out at me. The AI seemed to respond just the way they were meant to, sometimes chasing me, and sometimes just creeping me out with longing stares. The shadowing is very realistic; almost so much so that I would have to turn on the lights my room just make sure there was nothing lingering in the dark behind me. I love the effect of something always watching me in the dark and hearing them breathing heavily as I passed by. For the sound score Red Barrels enlisted the help of Samuel Laflamme. Samuel did a great job at keeping it very true to classic horror movie style, with just enough emphasis at all the key points, so that one might wet themselves.
The weakest point of this game may be it’s replay value. For most of us after we have seen it once, the game is over. There are only really two ways to play through this title. You can either be a good reporter and try to get every ounce of the story by risking life and limb for the front page news. Or you can run like hell and hide and the right moment to save your skin until you can escape. With only these two options, I feel that most will shy away from replaying the game. With its reasonable $20 price tag and 5-7 hours of game play, Outlast is still a great deal and Red Barrels hit the nail on the head, without taking the shredder to your wallet.