Fifteen minutes. That’s how long I lasted my first attempt at playing *Outlast*. I walked past the gates of Mount Massive Asylum, and upon finding the door locked, I climbed through some scaffolding to get in through a window in the east wing of the building. A few classic style jump scares, some spooky atmosphere, nothing I couldn’t handle. Maybe I’d be OK.
I was not OK. The second I opened a door and was forced to peer into the darkness using only the night vision on my video camera just as a man hung himself, I was done. Nervously walking through the room beyond, weaving around bookshelves covered in what I discover to be the remnants of a SWAT team, I come to find one of the officers impaled, still alive, warning me to run with his last choking breath.
I took his advice, and in seconds I was online looking at pictures of kittens.
What got me most was that in Outlast, you run away, and fast. Danger will actually pursue you. These are not lumbering zombies or sulking monsters; these enemies have a disturbing degree of humanity. What does that mean? They can do most anything and go most anywhere you can. So you have to run and be smart about it. Hide in that box, or take the extra time to scurry into that locker? You will be vaulting over railings, diving through holes in walls, and scurrying along window ledges trying to find places to hide.
In terms of gameplay, plot, and presentation,Outlast hits the mark with most but falls short with plot. Gameplay is spot on. The game’s parkour mechanics lend the chase scenes a frantic sensation. The use of a video camera instead of a flashlight is brilliant, as it forces you to immerse yourself in darkness rather than provide illumination. Sound design is worthy of the highest praise, as are the level and character designs, which play with basic human instinct to conjure perfect amounts of anxiety. Sadly, the game falls short with its plot, which lends itself to a few too many clichés. But with a compelling urge to get the heck out of Mount Massive Asylum, it’s easy to find enough motivation to move forward even with the lacking plot.
With great determination and more silly cat pictures than Reddit can throw a stick at, I managed to push through Outlast in around 13 hours. I feel there were more mysteries to be solved, and stories to be found throughout the asylum, though I doubt my nerves could stand another foray into that disturbed place any time soon. Outlast is, by far, an opus of the horror genre of gaming. Sorry Amnesia, there’s a new king of terror in town.