February 20, 2014

Gaming: Why Outlast is the Scariest Game I've Ever Played

As a man have you ever been so scared...

by something you've seen on a TV screen that you let out an audible yelp? I hadn't, until a few weeks ago. Then I downloaded Outlast. I'd seen a few mentions of it on IGN, Twitter etc and the fact it was completely free meant I had nothing to lose by downloading it. So I did. 

For a free title the game is visually stunning. It's not quite on the level of Battlefield/Killzone but the use of atmospheric lighting and gore, lots of gore, create an involving and engrossing world. 

But what is Outlast's world? Basically, you are Miles Upshur, a lone reporter that has gone to investigate a mystery. Standard storyline so far. But it's what you find in Mount Massive Asylum within the first five minutes of playing that makes you aware that this game is something a bit different. Not wanting to spoil it for those that are yet to play, it involves a metal pole, a member of the games version of Spec Ops and lots and lots of blood. 

It wasn't long after encountering this scene that I unleashed my aforementioned cry of fear. Let me tell you now, this game is scary as fuck. Not since the first Silent Hill (a game that I played when I was about 11) has my heart rate quickened, sweat beaded and breathing intensified whilst gaming quite like it does when I'm playing Outlast. Check out this video of me playing it with my sister, even in this second long video you basically hear me crying...


Why exactly is Outlast so scary?

For me there are three main things that make the games world and it's deranged, murderous inhabitants genuinely terrifying.

1. You Cannot Fight 

Think about that for a second, when was the last time you played a game where you genuinely had no means to defend yourself? You can even jump on things to kill them in Super Mario for fucks sake. When the psychopaths come a knocking, or chasing, in Outlast you have but one option, run and hide. This creates a real sense of urgency and fear as you scramble over desks and slam doors shut behind you in a pathetic attempt to slow your bloodthirsty pursuers. Just to make the game that little more terrifying, hiding doesn't even guarantee your safety as some of the more intelligent enemies will actively search you out.

2. You Can Run Out Of Light
One of the coolest, and at the same time most frustrating, aspects of Outlast is your video camera. As a reporter you carry your trusty camera wherever you go. This is lucky really as filming certain scenes with it will unlock aspects of the story to help you piece the sordid tale together. This same video camera can come in extremely useful in the many pitch black areas of Outlast's asylum as it is equipped with night vision. However, it's not quite that simple. Using your cameras night vision runs down it's battery and when the only way you can find more batteries is by delving deeper into Outlast's depraved world the low power beep becomes a genuinely scary sound to hear. I've been caught in a few pitch black areas with no vision and the sound of 'things' moving around, every time I was almost reduced to tears.

3. Breathing

It's a simple thing, we all do it. However, when Miles Upshur starts doing it you immediately tense up. It's a very simple part of the games mechanic that is devastatingly effective. When the environment takes a turn for the scary Miles' breathing intensifies, coming in heavy yet short, sharp rasps. I'm not a psychologist so I couldn't tell you why but when you hear 'him' getting 'scared' you start to as well. In my opinion it's probably the single most innovative and effective dynamic of the game and I expect to see it being used a lot more frequently in the future.  

So being defenceless and deprived of light in a mental asylum gone even madder than usual is kinda scary, who knew hey? Seriously though, if you've got a PS4 and a spare pair of pants download Outlast, I dare you.

Here's a trailer to kick start the pant wetting:

Written by Ryan Hill

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