Outlast

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Outlast on Steam

MSRP: $19.99

Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox One, PS4

Release: 9/4/13


Last night, I was looking back over the games I played this month, and was mildly disappointed that Bioshock was the only one that really got under my skin. I mean, sure, I fell prey to a couple of jump scares, but I didn’t find anything else really haunting.

And then today, I decided to play Outlast.

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Now I have mixed feelings about the concept as a whole – I mean, I feel like just about anyone would at least try to fight for their life, and I’m pretty sure most folks would bring some sort of weapon if they were breaking into a creepy old insane asylum.  Of course, I wouldn’t go into a creepy old insane asylum by myself in the first place, so what do I know?  Anyway, Outlast wants you to hide, and so you shall.

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The whole haunted asylum trope is embraced here, and damn if it isn’t creepy from the get go. Now, of course, the doors are locked, and of course, you’re going to need to find a sneaky way in, and of course, scary stuff is going to start happening pretty much right away. But seriously, if this is how one tackles a career in journalism, I’m glad I passed on that.  A lot of horror games put you in a bad spot, and you’re fighting to get out.  Not this one.  Nope, you go in voluntarily.   And I can’t imagine I’m the only one who started playing Outlast, mumbling under my breath “My god, this is a really bad idea.”

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You have a handheld camera, and when you manage to use it to capture events, you get pieces of the story added to your notebook. I really like this mechanic, even if I’m not entirely sure where to point the camera sometimes.  Your camera also has night vision, which means you’re only worrying about keeping one piece of electronics powered, since this pretty much eliminates the need for a flashlight.  You’ll still want to look around for batteries, though; night vision drains them, and it drains them fast.

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True confessions time: I didn’t last long. It wasn’t that my character died – it’s that I managed to open a door (like several other doors I’d opened in the very recent past) and something – I don’t know what – popped out and I screamed like a little girl (me, not the character), and I decided that maybe Outlast wasn’t a game I should be playing while home alone. Or maybe ever. It was already under my skin, and I didn’t want to keep going.

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Despite a relatively short play time, Outlast is jam packed with atmosphere and jump scares and horror and I get why it has the reputation of being the horror game for folks not easily horrified. That said, it’s likely to sit unplayed in my library for awhile longer – I’m not sure I can really get on board with the feeling of complete helplessness that comes from knowing I can’t defend myself in any way. If you’re feeling braver than me – and that’s not really saying a lot – Outlast and it’s prequel DLC is currently on a deep discount on Steam through tomorrow morning.

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