Underrated Games: Outlast

If you’re any kind of horror fan, a game that should certainly be on your list to play is Outlast. First released by Red Barrels in 2013, you play as protagonist Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who decides to look into an anonymous tip-off about some more than questionable goings-on at Mount Massive Asylum. The Asylum was re-opened by a company known as Murkoff Corporation, under the guise of a charitable organisation. Something terrible is happening there, and it’s up to you to uncover the truth.

All the game gives you is a camcorder, a few batteries and a copy of the anonymous tip-off e-mail before it sends you on your way. It’s important to keep your camcorder on for as much of the game as possible, because if you capture certain events with it Miles will make notes and these will sometimes be useful and always a nice touch of detail. In certain parts of the game the only way you’ll be able to see and navigate through the Asylum is by using the night vision feature on the camcorder, and this eats batteries. Luckily you’ll be able to find extra batteries dotted around, typically near electronic devices so keep your eye out; you’ll want as many of them as you can get your hands on.

The game doesn’t exactly ease you in gently, either. You get about a minute to prepare yourself before you start finding walls smeared with blood, homicidal patients and a room filled with severed heads. But the lack of subtlety in Outlast is what makes it such a brilliant horror game; the horror is around every corner, and you can never escape it. One murderous patient or another, whether it’s the horribly mutated Chris Walker or the sadistic twins, will be hot on your heels at any given moment.

Another invaluable thing you’ll find throughout the game are official documents. These will sometimes be simple e-mails sent back and forth between doctors of the Asylum but some will be reports on the patients you’ll encounter. Often they’ll explain a little of the patient’s backstory, what kind of ‘treatment’ they’ve received as well as a breakdown of their mental health, so it’s useful to pick these up and read them. Each patient has a very distinct personality, and are all unsettling, intriguing and downright terrifying in equal measure.

You’ll be horrified to know that it’s not just the patients you have to watch out for in Outlast - haunting the Asylum is a deadly swarm of nanites known as the Walrider, the main antagonist of the game. The Walrider has taken possession of a patient known as William “Billy” Hope, who has learnt to control the Walrider as he pleases and, rest assured, you will encounter the less-than-friendly entity a number of times throughout the game.

A feature of Outlast that I find really makes the heart race is the run-and-hide feature. There’s no fighting in this game, and even if the protagonist could fight, I don’t think he’d last very long against some of the patients. You’ll have to use your best stealth tactics to avoid being spotted, and the options to crouch and peer around corners come in handy when you need to be sneaky, which is pretty often. However, in the unfortunate event you’re spotted, all you can do is make a break for it and try to find a hiding place, all while your pursuer is pounding close behind you. You can hide in lockers, toilet cubicles, under beds and even in air ducts if they’re accessible; but trust me, you’re never safe, even when you’re hidden. You’ll be waiting with baited breath as you hear the patient checking the locker beside yours, praying he won’t find you. If he does, you’d better be ready to run.

Mount Massive Asylum also lives up brilliantly to its name. While playing you’ll often feel that there are endless ways in which you can go, countless doors to go through and never ending corridors. Some doors will be boarded up and certain ways to go will be barricaded, but, even with these closed off areas, the Asylum itself is huge. Not only that, the range of environments you’ll come across will keep you feeling excited for whatever else is just around the corner. Every environment is unique and fresh, from the blood-spattered Male Ward, to the pitch black labyrinth of the sewers, all with varying numbers of patients hidden in the shadows just waiting to meet you.

Speaking of being hidden in the shadows, this game has its fair share of jump scares. There’ll be times when you can anticipate them and times you won’t be expecting them in the least but whichever it is, nothing will prepare you for them. You just have to dust yourself off, get your camera rolling and carry on surviving.

Alongside the first Outlast game there's a DLC called Outlast: Whistleblower, a prequel which lives up extremely well to its predecessor and provides a fresh new trip into the hellish Mount Massive Asylum. There'll also be an Outlast 2 hopefully coming out in Autumn of this year for various platforms, and from the teaser trailer and released details, it looks like it's going to be one hell of a ride.

Outlast and Outlast: Whistleblower are both available on Steam for £14.99 and £5.99 respectively.

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