Monday, August 4, 2014

Full Review: Outlast (PC)

Whew!  This post has been a decent time coming, but that is the way things work sometimes.

Outlast comes to us from Red Barrels Games located in Montréal, Quebec and was released on multiple platforms in September of last year (2013).  Apparently a number of people who worked on this game had previously worked on other AAA titles such as Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Army of Two.  With the exception of having to occasionally climb up the side of a building and leaping across gaps across boards on multi-story-high scaffolding, I do not see much of the aforementioned games in Outlast, and honestly, that is perfectly fine with me.  As previously stated, I see a lot of Penumbra and Amnesia in Outlast, which I just read is pretty accurate.

The initial story is pretty straight forward and is told through text just as you start the game.  You are told who you are as well as your motivation, somewhat cleverly inserted into the usual horror game disclaimer.
The story holds up pretty well throughout the entire game.  One thing though that story and character development kind of hinge on is that the player is going to find and read the various documents scattered around the asylum/hospital.  As was the case with Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, if you do not find/read any of the documents, then there is a very real chance the player will be lost in the story or just not interested.  It is nice to know though that game developers (maybe not all) have enough faith in their players that they will read while playing a video game as opposed to watching exposition heavy cut scenes.

One thing that I really liked and appreciated was that not every inmate in the hospital/asylum was out to kill me.  There were really maybe 10 in the entire game, but god damn when one of those ten came at me, I was high tailing it out of whatever room I was in.  Or in some cases, under a desk.
Yes, even a grown man will hide under a desk.  Especially when being chased by that guy!

*Bit of a Spoiler*
I will say though that I was happy that aliens or the supernatural did come into factor into the story, although their inclusion would have fit in with the world that was created.  Everything that happened was explained as well as could be and that I appreciated.

Outlast is a semi-surprisingly simple game when in comes to game play.  Being only equipped with a video camera, there are not a lot of options for the control scheme; at least for me as I was using the mouse/keyboard combination in lieu of controller support.  Moving is standard WASD with Q and E for peering around corners and R for reloading the battery required for the night vision on the video camera.  Left Control is for ducking while  Spacebar is for jumping either vertical when you are standing still or horizontal while moving.  Left Mouse is for opening/closing doors and the Right Mouse is for raising/lowering the video camera.  Lastly and most importantly, F turns the night vision off and on.

I did have some issues with closing doors although I got beyond Miles slamming the door when I felt he should be trying to be quiet while being pursued.  My problem was that while frantically running away from whatever it was that was chasing me, I would sometimes be on the wrong side while trying to close the door.  Eventually I had to kind of over correct by running backwards through a door frame then going forward to close the door behind me.

Hiding was also a nice touch considering you were unarmed throughout the entire game and weapons simply did not exist for you to pick up.  Be it under beds, under desks, in lockers, up in air ducts and even around corners.  If you could cram your body into it and were out of eye line, there was a  pretty decent chance of momentarily escaping the pursuer.  However, there were times where I was dragged out from whatever hiding spot I had chosen so I did like any grown man in that position would do.  I either ran or was brutally killed.

I thought that the graphics were great, considering 80% of the game was spent looking through a video camera display and about 40% of that 80% was spent looking at a black, green and white screen.  I should also say that I only had the graphical settings set at Medium where as they went up to High and Very High.  I just did not want to run the risk of the game skipping or momentarily freezing while an enemy/sound bite/music cue began only to come back a second later to find a rather disturbed inmate with a butchers cleaver embedded in my cranium.
Maybe not the best representation of the games graphics, but you get the picture. . . eh!?
In the end, I did not experience any lag in gameplay due to hardware limitations and honestly, the game looks great even at "Medium" graphical settings, so if your computer can run at a higher setting, it will look even better (at least it should).
The music for Outlast was composed by Samuel Laflamme.  Both Conklederp and I commented on the quality of the score before I even entered the haunted house/asylum.  There was a very movie feel to how the music was used, both as background atmosphere and in the use of scare chords.  There were even times when I could have sworn the music cut out all together, which is never a good thing in a horror setting.

The soundtrack is even available for purchase through Red Barrels for less than $10.  The one thing about horror game scores is that they tend to be atmospheric and unless something oddly heroic happens, there probably will not be an exciting song in a major key.  Still though, a great score that fit perfectly within the game and the world.

A lot like the lantern oil in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, I became very aware of how many batteries I had left and I would not use either source of light when I did not have to.  And as was the case with A:TDD, once I realized that dying was not as bad as I thought due to the game semi-aut0-saving and bringing me back a short time before I had died kind of killed the sense that dying was the worst possible thing that could happen and became more of an annoyance, which could be perceived as the swan song for a horror game.  Outcast however excelled at jump scares, even when I was sure that there was going to be something coming around the next corner.  The game also did a great job with the feeling of dread when you would see a pair of inmates behind a set of bars talking shit to/about you then walk away with a determined, "Let's go!"

The motivation of Miles Upshur is to get the hell out of Mount Massive Asylum, and really that was all the motivation I needed to keep playing.  I could not in good conscious leave him (myself) in there and you can be sure that there was an overwhelming sense of relief (in-a-way) upon completing the story.  The 8 hours I spent with/as Mr. Upshur were well spent indeed and he will not be forgotten.

They Hide In The Dark So You Can't See Their Fears

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