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Outlast Review: Horrific and terrifying

You’ve no doubt heard of Outlast, the scary-as-all-hell Steam title that’s now found its way to PS4 as a PS Plus freebie.

Guys, it’s just as scary as you’ve been led to believe.

Living up to its reputation, the game does every single little thing right at the start. A freaky mental asylum. Blood-splattered walls. Minimal lighting. And, because your character is a journalist, you’re supposed to document it all through the slightly detached lens of a video camera.

A video camera that’s, of course, equipped with Blair Witch-style night vision.

Outlast is full of tense moments and jump-out scares. While the latter might be a bit cheap, they’re still super-effective. I was stopping gameplay every couple minutes to ‘upload a screenshot’ — or so I told myself — just to get my heart rate back down to normal.

A true survival horror title, much in the same vein as Amnesia, Outlast doesn’t equip you with anything offensive. As it says in its opening, you have three real options while investigating the goings-on at the asylum: run, hide or die.

While its visuals are pretty great, Outlast really shines with its sound design. You’re constantly hearing creepy-ass things somewhere in the distance and you’re never quite sure if they originated from down the hall or just around the corner.

That’s what makes you freak out.

Well, that too.

Like any good horror production, you are the one filling in most of the scariest stuff in Outlast’s gaps. The green hue from the night vision camera only adds to that; if you’re a horror fan, you can’t help but draw connections to the myriad of handheld camera movies of late, and those thoughts tend to lead you down a path of downright awful. That sensation grows tenfold when you realise that you’re about to run out of camera battery and your night vision starts to blink in and out. You really, really don’t want to be stumbling around a sewer or prison cell in the dark.

Now, that unbridled sense of fear lasts for a good two hours until you start to get pretty good at predicting what Outlast will throw at you next. Enemies are basically carbon copies of one another; you’re either going to get the slim lunatic or the massive fatty. Once you see them, you run for your life and hide in a locker or under a bed. If you don’t see an enemy around, chances are you’re going to have something jump out at you in a scripted sequence.

Outlast loses some of its scariness once you get killed by a baddie and have to play the same sequence over. With each failure comes the realisation that everything is quite scripted. After you’ve had your throat ripped out by the fatty, he’s never really that terrifying again.

That’s not to say that Outlast isn’t scary; quite the opposite, in fact. I honestly can’t remember the last time a game made me shriek out loud.

Like a little girl.

It happened often with Outlast.

Sure, the story’s a bit hokey and tends to delve way too much into the supernatural, but what good horror movie isn’t the same? Best yet, Outlast is absolutely free for those with a PS Plus subscription, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t download the game and give it a try.

Maybe just start it in the middle of the day with your window blinds wide open.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.