Outlast PS4 Review

Last June, I posted an article about a horror game that made me jump in fear even on the crowded, noisy show floor of E3. With one well-timed and unexpected jump scare, Outlast was cemented in my mind as one of the most promising launch window titles for the PS4, and potentially one of the scariest games in years. Of course, it wasn't just that one moment of fear that made me see the potential in this new horror series. Rather, it was a constant build-up of dread and a solid, creepy atmosphere that lent itself to an unrelentingly scary pacing. 

I've played Outlast on PC via Steam already - it served as great preparation for a horrifying Halloween - but the game has just now gotten around to releasing on the PS4, the first platform that I played it on. And I'm happy to announce that the game remains as fast-paced, shocking and pretty on the PS4 as it was on PC. In fact, because both versions utilize a controller heavily, there's just about no difference between the two, aside from some Trophy integration in the PS4 version that will push the masochists among us to seek out all of the rewards in Outlast's horrifying asylum.

The game begins in a rush, sending you hurtling through a seemingly abandoned mental institution with a series of heart-pounding jump scares that set a solid tone almost immediately. But jump scares are cheap, and while Outlast certainly has many of them, the developers at Red Barrels clearly know the value of creating a palpatable tension before allowing us release in the form of a brief, terrifying scare. It is in this area that Outlast truly excels.

This crazy doctor drives one of the game's gorier moments

Perhaps my favorite part of the experience was the placement of tutorial text. Early in the game, for example, you'll enter a dimly lit hallway and witness a figure dash out in the distance. "Press LB to run," the game will handily inform you as you creep down the hall. "Great," you'll almost inevitably think. "Looks like I'll be running from a monster any time now..." But that moment never comes, at least not until maybe 20 minutes later. It leaves you anticipating a scare that doesn't even exist. Small touches like these make Outlast unpredictable and thrilling, and serve to keep the game from falling into a rut of repeated "gotcha!" moments.

Mechanically, Outlast is simple. Like the Amnesia games, Outlast forgoes combat altogether. If you see an enemy, you'll have to run because you certainly won't be able to kill him. It's frustrating in some moments, esepcially if you're trying to put yourself in the headspace of the main character - grab a glass shard, or a chair, or something, man! - but it's also pretty horrifying in some of the game's best moments. I won't spoil anything too specific, but the game is at its most nail-bitingly intense when it pits you in medium to large environments and gives you an invincible enemy or two to avoid as you scramble to complete objectives.

First-person platforming also rears its typically ugly head surprisingly often, but unlike many titles of its ilk, Outlast makes precision platforming from first person seem easy. This is thanks in large part to some pretty automated jumping and climbing controls, but I'd take automated controls to cheap and unpredictable deaths any day. The jumping and shimmying add just enough mechanical depth to keep things interesting in some of the slower parts, and the vaulting mechanic streamlines the process of escaping from enemies nicely without making things too easy.

Outlast gets great mileage from its camcorder conceit

Outlast is a heart-pounding experience from beginning to end, but if there's one complaint I can muster, it's that the game sometimes falls into the trap of relying more on gore than horror. Don't get me wrong - most of the game is downright terrifying. But a few moments towards the late middle and end of the game lean a little more towards Hostel than the relentless scares of the early hours. They're brief moments, though, and they definitely do have their place in the game. One of the game's more brutal moments also leads into a great chase with a really memorable enemy, so in the end it's justified.

There's been a lot of buzz around Outlast as one of the scariest games of all time, and while horror is subjective, I personally found that point hard to argue with. The unrelenting pacing of the title lends itself to a chest-thumping, jump-in-your-seat adventure that never lets up, and with a simple story and mechanics that get surprisingly great mileage as the game winds down, Outlast is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. If you're a fan of horror of just like a good thrill, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give this new horror gem a try. 


Score: 9/10

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