Outlast, along with some other games to be reviewed, is on my sh*tlist. I want to lock it into a rocket silo at about the “4” part of the countdown and haul ass. But I’m biased as hell here.
The survival-horror genre that I grew up with was inexplicably shelved for years thanks to the ride in the helpless horror genre that Outlast helped birth. To be fair, many other titles had a hand in this meteoric rise (and a fair amount of screaming Youtubers). This is a genre that takes the “limitless stalker” concept from Clocktower or Nemesis and hands that power out to everyone like candy. If everything is just as scary and unstoppable, what reason is there to be scared of anything? Death in these kinds of games becomes a meaningless hiccup without much lost beyond time. Wasted time!
Okay, and I’m back. Reel it in.
Look, Outlast is a fine example of a trope taken in a new direction. You’re entering a shady institute as a journalist looking for evidence of wrongdoing, only to find that ALL of the doings are wrong. This Miles guy does us other Myleses(es) proud with his journalistic integrity literally omniscient throughout this terrible assignment. While many would be clawing at the walls, he’s following leads and noting evidence. He would’ve beaten Hercules in a strength competition with that sort of resolve.
The presence of his video-ing camera gives players access to night vision as well as the evidence-gathering for your Pulitzer. You have to keep the camera fed with batteries that are pretty liberally placed between the certifiable insanity around you. This is the only real meter you have to worry about, which does not go unthanked.
For me – that is to say, without any love at all for the run-and-hide gameplay – very little gave me a fright. The only tense moments were when the atmosphere really amped up with the infamous Chris Walker. Outlast’s highest moment is in a deep, dark sewer in waist-deep water with Walker, who feels worthy of the unstoppable stalker status, sniffing and grunting for my blood. The only light in the room alarms either of you of the end goal, making each step forward feel like a plea for silence.
It’s unfortunate, then, that this short experience features that highlight near the beginning as that leaves hours of monotony to follow. The serious insanity in Outlast is that this decently-built cameraman can’t summon the strength to swing a board with a nail in it against those of his same size. I simply cannot swallow that someone is so frightened so much of the time that a locker or under a bed is safer than knocking someone out. Even a stealth mechanic, as a go-between, would’ve helped alleviate the monotony of running and hiding, but that just wouldn’t be scary enough, somehow.
Basically, if Outlast wasn’t the game that it is, I might’ve liked it more. That’s a steep hill to ice skate up. This isn’t the only title that saps my patience. It’s just the one that won the lottery today and shall now be stoned as it attempts to hide inside of a locker.