Personal Rating: "Worth playing"
Traditional Rating: 8.5/10
Genre: Survival Horror
For me - Outlast arrived on wave of hype after watching IGN's clip of the game scaring the crap out of many of its contributors. Personally, I love being terrified in gaming but alas very few horror games have been able to chill my blood to the bone and leave a path of sweat trickling down my back. Games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill had the market sown up in the early days but for this gamer they were nothing more than a snooze fest than an actual scare fest. Thanks to the buoyant indie scene horror seems to be coming into its own and particularly on the PC.
A lot can be said how the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent changed the name of the game. By simply placing an ordinary and often troubled main protagonist into a world with no way of defending themselves but instead running and hiding from the terrors of the night developers where finally able to allow pure horror to emerge from the shackles of weaponry.
Outlast takes place in a mental asylum on a dark and stormy night (what doesn't get scarier than that) as you take control of a journalist, Miles Upsher, who acting on a tip-off that things are not well at all at the Mount Massive Mental Institute decides to take poke around to see if there is a valid story worth printing. Armed with nothing more than a hand held cam-corder his investigations will uncover a dark and deeply disturbing secret housed within its walls. It's better the player enter this sick and twisted world with as little information as possible so avoid youtube playthroughs and other detailed reviews until you have played it yourself.
Gameplay wise Outlast employs the same mechanics set about by Amnesia with the exception that the main character can now vault over obstacles in his course whilst fleeing from some of the most disturbing characters ever created for gaming. In between filming what you see you will be doing a lot of frantic running and hiding lest you forfeit your life.
On a scariness level - Outlast succeeds admirably even outdoing Amnesia at its own game. This is truly a terrifying experience (up the ante by turning all the lights off and playing with headphones on) and with fantastic AAA style graphics truly immerses you in a world of horror that is coupled with a sparse but very tense soundtrack. The audio for Outlast and the various sound effects it employs to scare it players is top notch.
If I have one complaint about the game, it's that it gets bogged down by its length. For a horror game to be truly terrifying it needs to be able to sustain that tension and usually tension of this sort can only be sustained for a short period before it becomes rather rote and unfortunately Outlast does become rote somewhere in the middle. It seems the developers (Red Barrels) were far too in love with the idea of scaring gamers that they missed the number one rule - brevity! By the time Outlast reaches the final stages of its story it picks up a bit again (the story it tells is quite a good one for a game of this nature) although it does rely yet again on what's been told countless times before in the movies/print media so you probably won't be particularly surprised or shocked at its outcome.
The DLC - called Whistleblower - that can be purchased to supplement Outlast is a truly harrowing afffair and I would say up's the scariness level by 10. Playing Whistleblower in the dark with the headphones on I could only sustain minutes rather than hours before actually developing a tension headache and on more than one occasion I was literally screaming out aloud in absolute terror (frightening the rest of my household). The main villain in the asylum for this piece - a cannibalistic psycho with an electric chainsaw - is literally the stuff nightmares are made of and had my skin crawling for the majority of the DLC's length. The DLC also succeeds admirably when it comes to the tension because its literally over in 4hrs. I would love to see more additions to the main game like this campaign because I really enjoyed the DLC.
As it stands - Outlast is now my favorite horror game on the PC. It does frustrate me a little that developers, and that includes the Amnesia Developers, still haven't gotten the pattern down perfectly yet (there is no need to artificially inflate your game when it's a horror game) but for a start this is a game headed in the right direction. Lets hope they get hold of a good editor should there be a sequel.