Another soon-to-be classic of horror
Well, Outlast is one of those rare titles where the developer knew exactly what they wanted from the get-go and, in my opinion, actually executed their vision perfectly. Honestly, all things considered, Outlast is an Amnesia clone. It just is. They share a lot in the way of design and just how they instill a sense of fear in the player. Without Amnesia, the original, I don't really believe we would have Outlast. At least not in the form that we have it now. That being said, I believe Outlast trumps its obvious spiritual predecessor and delivers an experience that any horror fan can appreciate.
Not since the Condemned series, and the aforementioned Amnesia, have I ever been so wary to turn a corner in a videogame. The game is damn oppressive and, really, isn't what I would call a fun experience.
It messes with you. It does everything it can to mess with you. From sound design to character design, everything is there to unnerve you and make sure your stay at Mount Massive Asylum is not a pleasant one. It creates an atmosphere which you just want to escape from, and the game is damn near perfect because of this. You aren't meant to have fun with this game. You are meant to hate it, in all the right ways. I sure did, and the experience is one I will not soon forget.
Outlast is one of those titles where they managed to meld story and gameplay so seamlessly that the need for cut-scenes and scripted events is almost non-existent. The large majority of the story (and back-story) is told via files that are up to the player to find throughout the game. They not only paint a better picture of the overall narrative driving the player forward, but also give context to the location itself, cementing it as this real place with a real story, in itself, to tell.
The rest, of that which the player experiences first-hand, is given better context, considering they have their camera ready, by taping their actions throughout and is delivered by the player character via notes that he writes of the more important scenes. The game does a great job at confusing you as to what exactly is going on early on but, by the end, allows a firm grasp of the events taking place, considering you did the proper investigating needed to unravel the story for yourself.
As far as the gameplay itself goes, Outlast is a relatively simple game. Throughout the 3 - 4 hour experience you will be doing little more than sneaking around, exploring the asylum for clues, batteries for your ever-depleting flashlight and hiding/running from baddies when the first said mechanic fails you. The game is about as simple as it gets and is part of the reason why I actually prefer it over a game such as Amnesia. While I am a relative fan of Amnesia, I am constantly put off by its sometimes rather obtuse puzzles that take away from what actually makes the game itself interesting and such an experience . . . the tension the game slowly builds within the player. This is not the case with Outlast. It does everything it can to keep you in the overall experience it creates and makes sure you are always on your toes. Never annoyed, just paranoid.
There is little else to say about the game, really. It's an excellent addition to the horror genre and is bound to be looked at as a classic some time down the road. As of right now, it is one of the best in the genre and anyone even relatively interested should give it a try.
Thanks for reading!