Hello my dear mortals, it is Halloween Month on Pinkie’s Paradise! So we will offer a lot of spooky content! If there is one form of Horror I really REALLY enjoy its Horror games! I love Horror games and I have played so many! It works so well as a genre! You are so invested in everything going on! So this month I will discuss a few horror games! The first one I wanted to start with is perhaps one of the best examples of putting the player in the middle of the horror! Today I review Outlast
One Hell of a Job
Outlast places you in the skin of investigative journalist Miles Upshur who responds to a tip that some mysterious things are happening at Mount Massive Asylum. We do this from a first person perspective that both feels very classical as well as somewhat innovating. The game came out in 2013 for PC and a year later for PS4.. a few months after that it was brought to xbox One. I played it on Steam where it costs €16,79 at the moment of writing. I forgot what I paid for it so I will use this as it’s pricing standard. The game holds 80% MetaCritic score and critics tend to score it somewhere between 70% and 80% so it is fairly well received. I played the game before but I lost track of my goal due to a long intermission between playing and then dropped it all together! So I started over and I finished 3.9 hours later according to Steam. Apparently I have the DLC as well so I might take a shot at that later on. Thus showing I enjoyed this game quite a bit!
Yet I can also already tell you that the game REALLY got on my nerves as well! Sometimes in a good way.. sometimes … less. It is one of those games that at it’s best offers me one of the best horror experiences I have had..yet at its worst makes me want to give up screaming. Developed and Published by Red Barrels, it is a game I both love and hate at the same time. I could say the game is good enough that I was invested to keep playing.. but it is more the case that the frustrating parts are short enough for me to not be pushed to the point of quitting The good bits though.. man! Those really stay with me!
The concept of playing a Journalist investigating a spooky place in these kind of games is nothing new but in this game you actually feel like a journalist! You constantly make notes in your journal, you film stuff with your camcorder and use the thing as your night vision. If you do not record and just try to escape you don’t make notes and get less story exposition! It is your choice really! The game does a good job to provide motivation for the character to be there and providing you with just the right immersive tools.That said you are a journalist and before you play this game you must realise you will never become more than that! You will not suddenly master the art of gun or gain super powers to phase ghosts or monsters.. no most of the time you’ll even be running away from “normal” human beings who hold a stick to hit you with. Being a journalist must really suck.
Surrounded by Madness
What this game does really well is build and atmosphere! There is great voice acting from both the NPC’s and the main character. The whispers of the NPC’s just repeat a certain phrase over and over.. or shouting to get the bugs out of their head feel genuinely spooky! At several times I felt like I genuinely was navigating through an Asylum. Which is a great location for more than one reason! Something or someone here killed most of the staff, so moving from A-Block to B-Block or even trying something as simple as an elevator can be quite an arduous task. Only some employees have the keys..but there is no one to simply call them for you.. even if you find them.. you aren’t sure all the pieces of them are there! Most of the loonies are in some kind of cult, repeating some prayers to something called the Wallrider.. they don’t care about escaping, they just want to make sacrifices to their god, the voices in their head or simply because it tickles their funny bone.This weirdly creates a cohesive world.. where the backtracking makes actual sense, and where the status quo can ever shift. These guys are insane and everything in the game tries to convince you of that and it succeeds well.
The voice acting of the main character is also done quite amazingly! Miles has trouble breathing when he is scared, he winces in pain if he jumps while injured, his breath becomes more and more loud if he runs for a long time. You can sometimes even just hear him swallow as a reaction to his fear as if you are really running yourself. He never says a lot to keep the immersion high, if he has anything to say he writes it in his camera log where you can see him getting angrier but also more scared as you progress in the game. Taking you on an emotional journey. He gets put trough torture sequences and he never FULLY recovers, he always struggles a bit more with his new injuries weighing against him… that being said.. those are the scripted injuries that do that.. the damage you take while fleeing does not impact the story but still as we make progress rather than getting stronger we get weakened a bit and that is very pleasant way to play trough a horror game. How much longer can I go on.. “shit they will find me because I am so out of breath” it’s all ponderings i had with this game.
The game also does a fine job to keep you “inside” the Asylum or the areas below like it’s sewers. During the intro you notice things have gone bad and you want to escape so you’ll have to reach a guard office to open a door so you can bail. However when there it means you are staring at a screen for a bit.. distracting you.. and so you manage to get yourself captured into the next stage of your adventure. Finally escaped that monster and you see the door?..Well you are in bad condition so someone manages to overpower you and drag you to their lair where the new expedition starts. It’s an effective method of keeping you engaged in the adventure and each area plays a bit differently than the other. In the big open wards for example you will have to run and dodge enemies more.. while in the narrow basement area you will need to exploit dark corners and other hiding spots. In the sewer you will have to crawl through narrow spaces to avoid being caught and thus there is quite a bit of variety as you play.
The overarching story and mythos is quite interesting.. What is this Wallrider thing? What does Nazi Germany have in common with this institution, what is actually happening in this place and could there be more?! Why did they start this experiments? Through filming certain areas or pieces of dialogue with your camera you can trigger Miles thoughts on the case while throughout the Asylum there are plenty of files to collect giving you insight what is going on here.. and what drove these people to be how you see them today. You never NEED to read the lore to progress, it will just make you understand these people as persons. It’s there for you to offer more flavour should you so choose to indulge. Sometimes it’s as simple as explaining why a vending machine is blocking a door, other times delving deep into the inner machinations of this place. There is so much to explore but you can also roleplay the survivor and not go for all that and it will not give you a crappier ending.. like in Layers of Fear. Finding secrets is it’s own reward!
The controls are fairly tight for the majority of the game you just use WASD to move and ctrl I think to duck. The left mouse button interacts with objects and the right one brings about your camera and subsequently by pressing F you can activate Night Vision. Shift Sprints and Space jumps and that is it.. all your controls! . At first it does feel weird to open doors with the left mouse as you expect to have some sort of attack…but opening and closing doors…is your only means of defence…so it makes sense it gets mapped there! If you wish you can of course customise but the simple moveset works well for the most part. I particularly liked how sprinting does not really have stamina. It just makes you more noticable! Which means that despite this being a stealthy game you can really play this at your own pace! Since I don’t like being forced to wait a guard to have left an area.. this is a great plus for me.
The Creature that Lies Beneath
The game is at its strongest when you deal with the Lunatics of the Asylum.. however when it leaves that behind for some sort of husky mutation following you in the sewers it stumbles a bit! The Sewer is never a location I enjoy in video games and this game is no exception. This game deals a lot with dark and to navigate through it you use Night Vision on your camera. It’s a mechanic that works great! However.. in the sewers it became a bit annoying. In normal areas you sparingly use night vision to preserve battery but the entire sewer is so dark that you practically have to use it constantly which isn’t bad persé but it also takes away the charm of the gimmick a bit..Compare it to say a Predator game.. the Heat Vision is a cool way to spot enemies and it seems like a cool power to have but if the Predator could only see in heat vision it does not feel like a power..it becomes just an interesting visual.
That visual is locked behind an energy bar that while fairly hard to drain can still be consumed if you don’t properly pay attention.The biggest issue with the controls I had was the fact that you manually have to reload camera batteries with a press of R. Why would I want to reload my battery early, there is almost NO situation in which I found it handy. R however is a button that is used by default to store something away in Oblivion. Here I wanted to put my camera away for jumping a few times when I realised I just wasted an entire battery. Which makes zero sense from a logic perspective. You would not chuck away a battery that is 75% full. This might seem like a small gripe and I was lucky it never got me into TOO much trouble but since saves are “environmental” as in.. you can not save but the game saves based on when you do a task or reach a new area, I assume it is possible to lock you out of progressing further if you accidentally waste a battery or two. I was roleplaying so I did not go wild to get all collectibles. If I did I bet battery life would have become much more tedious.
The worst thing about this game is the jumping though! First person jumping has always been known to be bad but with this game I frequently missed a jump and got myself into big trouble. There is a fair share of platforming to be done even. The “second floor” stage even is built around all sorts of jump challenges. This is the part I hated most along with the sewers. Part of this stems from the fact that this actually feels like a hospital. Wards are build on top each other so if you have to climb three floors all of them are bedrooms. If you miss a jump it can be very disorienting to figure out on what floor you landed and how to make your way back up again. Broken floors are everywhere broken steps are just as common and the jump comes with a fairly accurate delay.Which is fine but if you need to jump a lot on the run, need to navigate through air ducts a lot (which you reach by jumping into them) and even clear two platforming parts these jump controls feel way to rigid. It’s also never really clear how you can clear certain objects. Sometimes A vending machine lies on the ground so you can reach a vent.. however if a vending machine lies at just a slightly different angle and you want to jump on it to avoid enemies it doesn’t work.. You can hide in toilet stalls but they do not count as a hiding place.. You can not jump on a toilet to hide your feet. Jumping feels more like a way to string some scenes together with cutscenes than it is it’s own thing.
The design of the game is also relentlessly boring. There are I would say 6 major characters, maybe 5 that appear along you.. the others all feel like generic clones of each other… All regular build loonies look exactly like the same character. Even the head priest guy that plays an important part in your story. I got killed one time because I had to find the father and I saw a character that I thought was him and it killed me. Mostly because I had insane difficulty telling these guys apart.Even when I get to the female ward all characters are slenderly built and have a bald shaven head and varying degrees of “rot” on their face. Same goes for the assets used. This is how it works in real life but it is so boring to see the same computer on every desk with the same screensaver. There are like 30 pepsi vending machines in the nuthouse alone! There are even more in the underground lab you uncover later. Some details are very cool like heads in jars , a series of bathtubs filled with blood..but a lot of areas look the same. Ward 1 looks like Ward 2 and you have to remember where you are with almost no significant landmarks as everything’s the same.
Per example I had had to find three fuses. They lay in three visitor wards. Trouble is you are constantly being chased here so running frantically. I could not find the third room for quite a while there because I had to jump over a bench with a wheelchair behind it. Another room had a bench to jump over and nothing behind it while a third had one of those stretcher ads to jump over. THe problem here is.. these are all very VERY overused in the game so they stop being landmarks. The game has no map so you run around completely lost. I am sure that was part by design as this place really does create the correct atmosphere.. but as far as playing fun is concerned this is a big issue.
The game finally goes a bit far in it’s story with superlabs , men in black, a doctor who must be over 150 years old and evil ghosts. I love the insane asylum idea and I even like the idea of them trying to make weapons out of these people and experiment on them..because hey.. these people are insane they will just never be believed. I don’t even dislike the mutated guy I mentioned earlier.. I just dislike him in certain scenarios. The end though I found to be quite lame. It had a good scary build up and even some scary payoff but this ends like any early 2010’s horror movie and that is such a shame for something that offers a lot of surprises in the beginning. Near the end they do jump the shark. They also seem to mistake the Triquetra symbol of the Holy Trinity, Celtic Knots or the Wiccan symbol of the triple Goddess as the biohazard symbol for some reason! Not sure what that was about.
Scare but Beware
Maybe it is because I play this after midnight and my brain is tired enough to keep making sloppy jumps and pressing wrong buttons but I found Outlast to be a very flawed product. Much more so than Layers of Fear or Amnesia the Dark Descent for example. Yet the punch it packs for it’s horror moments is also so more potent! I had several scares and my heart raced even more! The story may not be able to resist pushing things a bit too much over the top but the more subtle lore does keep it interesting. Had the game had just a bit more diversity in enemies, had the running away gimmick been just a bit more fleshed out this would have been a 10/10 game for me.. and now I am not sure what grade it is. I loved how the game made me feel, I loved the scares, the vibes, the atmosphere. When we look at the “actual” gameplay.. as in me doing things.. I hated about 50% of it. Yet a part of me is glad that I did.. I need to struggle with direction to feel that fear. I need to wish I was somewhere else instead of being at that or that location, I need to be frustrated that I do not have enough battery to discover everything this place has. I might have been able to do so.. but the game makes you doubt yourself and think as a survivor. Making mistakes is a part of being a survivor as well.. so I really did have ONE OF THE best horror experiences..it’s just no where near the best horror game.
In the end I think I compare it to your mom reading you a bedtime story. Sure the little Mermaid can nowhere sing near as neat as Ariel from Disney.. she might cover half of an image trying to show you an illustration in the book and she might say some words you do not understand. Maybe she is reading just a bit too softly, afraid of scaring the neighbors. You might have even preferred if Daddy spend some time with you and be annoyed that he did not. Nowadays you know there are MUCH MUCH better versions of that story out there, yet despite the sheer difference in quality.. nothing can capture conveys as much feeling as when your Mamma was telling you the story in her own clunky adorable way.
I have to do a lot of prep work for my move on the day this goes live! Which is a Saturday! So unfortunately tomorrow there will be no Pinkie’s Anime Adventure as I simply lacked the time to watch this week! So for my week update! Not a lot changed! I have been setting some things up for my impending move, today I am gonna buy some boxes to put stuff I can already store away in. If the rain ever lets up and I can bring them home whole.
I am also getting contacts since we in the Netherlands now finally have to wear masks in public places.. kind of.. and my big glasses don’t really do well with that! Since I don’t want to feel like I am living in Victorian Horror London with all the fog, I need to put some contacts in my eye! That is fine though.. I just like my face more with glasses! It hides imperfections. Monday some people are coming to my appartement to give me a to do list for the move. If the girl whose appartment i am getting hurries up this weekend (she is packng) I will be busy packing next week! If she needs more time.. I will be here a lot to blog! In the coming week we also will see another horror story from Kuro so look forward to that!