By: Jeff Cater
Outlast, a fright fest originally released on PC by publisher and developer Red Barrels, has manifested on PlayStation 4s across the United States — it costs $19.99, but it’s free to PlayStation Plus subscribers. As Miles Upshur, you travel to Colorado to investigate the happenings at the Mount Massive Asylum, and then you get the shit scared out of you…
The controls feel just about perfect, and they provide an immersive experience due to how responsive and sensitive they are. Walking around is done with the left stick and pointing the camera is done with the right. Miles can peer around corners by leaning with L2 or R2, which also can be used to look behind him while running with the L1 button. Using the zoom function of the camera can be done either by pressing up/down on the d-pad or by sliding your finger along the Dual Shock 4s touch screen, which is the only clumsy mechanic. Overall, the controls are damn solid and, in this instance, provide a preferable experience over keyboard and mouse.
Outlast is dark. REALLY dark. In fact, it’s so dark that the dark side of the moon says… well, you get the point. As you trudge through the various facets of the facility, you will be treated to some stupendous visuals. The game runs as 60fps with no dips (at least none that I encountered), and the textures are all wonderfully gritty and grimy; Mount Massive is a mighty fine depiction of entropy.
The camera that you use also does a great job of feeling and looking like an actual video camera: the colors bleed under the contrast of certain light conditions, and the night vision mode very convincingly depicts eyes as shiny green emeralds against the black of the unknown. Character models are also very detailed and fit the Asylum’s atmosphere; it really feels like everyone has just been stuck there.
Now, the sound is amazing. The voice acting is bone chilling, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the soundtrack and ambient noises of Mount Massive. This old monument to psychological illness groans with age and rain clicks its windowsills. Amidst the creaky doors and distant wails of residents, a simple trudge through a puddle of blood is almost nauseatingly real; as there’s a deep, sticky fall to every subsequent footstep.
As a “tourist” of Mount Massive, you go in weapon-less and with no knowledge of self-defense. The only real way to deal with the psychos inside is to run away or flat-out hide from them. Thankfully, Outlast is a game that does first-person stealth correctly. Hiding in lockers and underneath beds is the way to go, but just be prepared for the fact that not everyone falls for those tricks, so you’ve got to be ready to run on a moment’s notice.
Although many of the scares within Outlast are canned jump-scares, the tension felt in Mount Massive is unmatched. You never, ever feel like you can take a breather; whether you’re being chased or searching for batteries for your camera, you will be moving the whole time. As you delve further into the Asylum, it becomes clear that the adverse environment is taking its toll on Miles’ mental state, which is totally understandable as you keep finding severed limbs in toilets.
It isn’t the longest ride out there, but Outlast is a damn good one. Survival horror titles have grown a touch stale over the years from the traditional choices in the genre, but Outlast comes along with a breath of fresh necrosis in order to bring it back to the frontlines. And damn is it scary.