|a game by||Red Barrels Inc.|
|Editor Rating:||6.7/10, based on 1 review|
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Horror games where you can't fight against foes are an interesting concept, but they're very difficult to get right--and Outlast definitely doesn't get it right. The game's attempts at stealth are clunky, and once I was discovered by the monstrosities that roamed Mount Massive Asylum, it became a frustrating race through locations I'd had little or no time to get familiar with. An unarmed protagonist flailing madly through dark hallways works in movies--not so much in games. Surprisingly, Outlast is at its best in its quieter moments. Exploring the well-crafted environments and finding more pieces of the unfolding story felt rewarding, to a point where I think Outlastmulti've been a much better game had it ditched its action scenes, focused on narrative and puzzles, and done far more with its two most underutilized aspects: the camcorder and your character being a reporter.
Outlasts problem is that dying in videogames isn't scary. Feeling like you're going to die is, sure, but once you actually reach a checkpoint load, the illusion deflates. For all its engaging scene-setting and naturalistic design, the game leans too heavily on fatal trial-and-er-ror moments. Each one makes you less willing to indulge its central tension, until eventually you're comfortable sprinting past monsters that should be terrifying. You gaze long into the abyss, then realize the abyss is actually just a matte painting.
Had Red Barrels left Outlast in the oven a little longer, I think it would've really stood out. After spending 25 years hacking and slashing and blasting my way through most games, having combat stripped out altogether is a welcome change of pace. But Outlast lacks sustained tension, it lacks variety, it lacks any sense of danger, and it lacks an engaging mystery to solve--all pretty big no-nos when it comes to horror. The horror must always service plot, never the other way around. Otherwise, it's horror for horror's sake.