30 January 2016

THE HORROR...THE HORROR...

So...what to say about Outlast?  I'm evidently writing this review a wee bit retrospectively...but that shouldn't matter much, given that the game hasn't aged one iota since its release in 2013, and we have a much-anticipated sequel due out later this year. 


 
 

Never mind just video games, though...Outlast is, in my humble opinion, the single most successful piece of media/art/entertainment to yet explore the whole "found footage" phenomenon made so popular by The Blair Witch Project in 1999.  Yes...that long ago!  The film world is yet to find its own bona fide, relatively flawless masterpiece in this category, but the game world can safely rest on its laurels, at least until Outlast 2 rears its imminently ugly head.  And for once, there's even a logical reason for our protagonist keeping his video camera up to his eye: To wit, it's his only source of light, and he's pretty well screwed without it! 
 

SETTING AND GAMEPLAY


Rest assured, Mount Massive Asylum is a pretty bloody scary place, whether one is viewing it in sickly green night-vision mode or otherwise.  And the tenants?  Don't even ask!  Or rather, I'd prefer not to tell you, as you really should play the game and find out for yourself.  This is one of the single most effective things about Outlast, actually: The fact that not nearly all of the asylum's occupants are violent, and others even bide their time and "play" with you a little before moving in for the kill, so your first playthrough will be spent never quite knowing who is going to come at you, and when.  We're a loooooong  way from the days of Doom-style gaming where everything just magically gravitates towards you and attacks on sight...and when they do, well, it's not like you have any means of defending yourself, other than running and hiding and perhaps occasionally crushing pursuers to death with errant elevators (purely by accident, of course)!

 


 

In short, Outlast elevates the horror game to new levels of cinematic sophistication, while keeping its mechanics defiantly minimalistic.  Hell, the only items in your inventory, other than key items relating to your immediate task, are the batteries you so desperately need to keep your camera's night-vision function working.  Smart players will work out, quickly enough, that it's best to conserve said batteries wherever and whenever possible, lest your camera should go dead at the most inopportune of times!  But what about "health", I hear you ask?  And I answer:  Indeed...what about it?!  Depending on the difficulty level you choose, assailants call kill you with one, two, maybe three blows if you're lucky.  In other words, you will die in this game...probably quite a lot! 

 
 

 

There's also replayability aplenty, not least of all on account of the aforementioned difficulty levels and the frequently unpredictable nature of the mapping and A.I.  I've played it five times now, and still occasionally find myself going "which bit is this again?", mere seconds before I'm forced to turn tail and flee some minor antagonist I'd completely forgotten about!  It's nothing if not a game chock-full of surprises; but rest assured, it doles out suspense in proportions at least equal to, if not greater than, its impressively colourful palette of "jump-scares".

 

 

THE LEGACY


This game was made with much love, and I and many others have received it with an equal lavishing of love.  Indeed, it's arguably no less than a virtual love-letter  to the horror genre, and quite possibly my personal favourite horror game of the last however-many years or so.  A modern masterpiece, by any reckoning...oh, and the Whistleblower DLC is every bit as good as the parent game, and an absolute must-play for all fans bar perhaps those who think that the main game goes "too far" in certain directions (let me put it another way: The squeamish and/or expectant mothers perhaps need not apply)!  An absolute fucking work of art, and a heck of a rollercoaster ride to boot.  If you consider yourself any kind of a horror fan, do yourself a favour and play it...NOW.

 

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Michael B.

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