Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indie Horror: Outlast

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 14, 2014

OutlastI fully recognize that “indie” is a broad term, now more than ever. At least as far as individual titles are concerned, “indie” represents a significant majority of ’em. And they run the gamut from student offerings to professional teams with years of AAA experience finally going at it alone.

Outlast is a work from the latter category. Created by developer Red Barrels, a team of individuals with impressive AAA credit, it’s a little too short and a little too shy on production quality to be confused with a recent-vintage AAA offering. And maybe a little too linear. No, wait, strike that, AAA loves linear games. Anyway… it’s a very polished indie offering that serves up very scripted, but very powerful scares.

The game takes place in the modern day in an oh-so-cliche insane asylum… but the twist here is that it’s an old, long-shuttered asylum that was purchased by a medical / pharmaceutical company and reopened as a private operation to conduct experimental therapy on therapy on patients. You play freelance investigative reporter Miles Upshur, tipped off by a contractor that highly unethical procedures are being conducted, and that families of the patients are being paid hush-money to keep quiet about it. So you do some creative breaking & entering to get your scoop.

OutlastSS05… And then you discover that the inmates are truly running the asylum. You picked the wrong night to sneak in. The experimentation by the Murkoff Corporation has made these people worse, not better. And to top it off, the experiments have created a nanite-driven entity hosted by the subconscious of one of the patients which can only be seen via Infrared night-vision. Which of course is an option on the main character’s camera. Due to all the darkness that must be navigated, it’s an option that must be used frequently.

I suspect the developers designed the entire game around the fact that everything – especially people – look freaky in IR.

While I have my quibbles about the gameplay – did I mention it’s very linear and scripted? – I can’t argue with the results. The old hospital is a nightmare landscape that is merely disturbing only in its “safest” moments.  Miles is incapable of combat, and so survival is dependent purely on stealth. Not that combat and weapons did the SWAT guys any good who entered the building just ahead of you.  You hide and sneak, or run and leap, through the horrifying funhouse, and be prepared for plenty of jump-scares. And dying.

OutlastSS02It’s the little touches that really brings some of it home for me. When you go through a door or corner, your character may reach out and steady himself on the corner, as if getting ready to push off and run away if there’s something scary on the other side. It’s a small thing in a first-person game, but it adds an element of believability and a reminder that you are playing someone IN this world, not just an observer. And your character has a voice. He breathes heavily, and you can hear the terror there as the tension increases. You can easily find yourself breathing heavily in sympathy. Oh, and he screams.

You may scream along with him, but it’s entirely optional.

There’s additional DLC – “The Whistleblower” – that chronicles the terrifying adventures of the contractor who sends Miles.  I haven’t played it yet, but it is something of a prequel to the main game, giving another perspective on the horror that transpires at the old mental hospital.

Outlast delivers the thrills, scares, and horror. I haven’t played all horror games – including mainstream – to do a straight-up comparison, but I’d expect Outlast to rank up there on a short list of scariest horror games of all time. But be warned – it goes for the graphic horror. It features plenty of blood, gore, guts, and dismemberment.

Good ol’ hardcore Halloween / horror fare, right?


Filed Under: Impressions, Indie Horror Games - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • Akracing said,

    Watch out, because the game hides some really surprising moments. Not for players, who have nightmares after a horror movie.