Gamereactor Portugal's Ricardo C. Esteves has survived the horror of Outlast. Was it a runaway success, or is it a game best hidden out of sight?

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The genre has seen a transformation over the current console generation, with the concept of survival horror shifting to something much closer to action. The few games that are still trying to hold on to that original concept can be counted with the fingers on one hand, and almost all were born as independent projects.

Outlast is one of those games, coming from the disturbed minds of the folks over at Red Barrels. Here you won't find huge monsters, spectacular action sequences, and the production values of a summer blockbuster. No, instead you will find an extremely intimate experience, with a bold concept and genuinely scary moments.

The protagonist is Miles Upshur Outlast, a journalist who decides to investigate what went wrong in an American asylum. The entire game takes place in the first-person perspective, but it's not a shooter. Miles does not have access to any weapons in the game. The only accessory that he can use is his camcorder, which includes night vision and is essential to surviving this nightmare.

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Players can have the camera equipped at all times: the only thing that changes when compared to normal vision is the presence of more elements on the screen, such as battery life and other similar information. Having the camera active will not impose any penalty, nor does it affect Miles' movement. The only situation where you must pay attention is when the night vision is active, as it's then that the battery will drain.

Outlast is a dark game. A very dark game. So the night vision camera is of particular importance. The effect of this mode is fantastic and creates terrifying situations. The Spanish movie [REC] (if you haven't seen it, please do so) seems to have been an obvious inspiration, not just for the visual effect, but for the behavior of the enemies.

As previously mentioned, using the camera in night mode consumes battery. Fortunately you can carry up to 10 additional battery packs, encountered as you progress through the game. We were never without battery while we were playing, which means that if you use some care and do not waste night vision where it isn't necessary, you shouldn't have any problems.

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Outlast is a survival horror in the true sense of the concept. It's a horror game, where the goal is solely to survive. When you find an enemy you will have two options: either act stealthily and try to avoid contact or, if seen, run for your life and try to outwit your pursuer.

The first part works well. It's a real game of hide-and-seek, where you can use beds, lockers and normal cover to remain hidden from enemies. The second part, when you are seen, does not work so well. Here Outlast becomes a game of tag. Basically you must outrun your pursuer, trying to hide again, but there are some problems with this.

We realise that Red Barrels tried to create a frightening experience by making Miles extremely vulnerable, but it becomes frustrating not being able to fight back. Most enemies are human - horribly disfigured and mutilated - but human. Miles could well try to defend himself with a pipe or tire iron, and the fact that there's no chance to respond is a bit frustrating.

Another problem resides with the AI. To begin with, it's slow. As the only player response to being discovered is to run away, Red Barrels made the enemies incredibly slow. They give up too easily. Imagine running into a dead-end room, closing the door you came through and hiding. The enemy will eventually come in, look around, maybe open a random locker (which may or may not be the one you're hiding in) and, if it dosen't see you, gives up, assuming the player is not there, when it's clear that you must be somewhere in the room.


Outlast has some scripted moments that are truly scary, not so much at the level of psychological horror, but by the use of shock. It's the oldest trick in the book, but if done right - as it is here - it can still be extremely effective. Then there is another kind of dread generated by confrontational situations with the enemy, but here the tension will begin to dissipate when you realise how weak the AI is.

The game is not particularly large - maybe five hours - but it is the right length considering the mechanics and the concept in question. There are documents that can be found hidden in the game, and also some notes that are unlocked when witnessing certain events while the camera is on. Two types of collectibles, if you want to call them that, used to tell the story of the asylum and the game.

Outlast dosen't have the production values of some other survival horrors, despite having quite good graphics. The gameplay is somewhat limited, without any character progression or in-game actions, and the AI kind of breaks the concept. Still, it's one of the few current games that is genuinely scary and it's well worth the £14.99 that it costs on Steam. Whether it be the PC version, which is already available, or possibly even the PlayStation 4 port, Outlast should be seriously considered by fans of the survival horror genre.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+ Genuinely scary moments + Atmospheric night vision mode + Decent visuals
- Predictable and simple AI - Can't defend yourself - A little on the short side
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Ricardo C. Esteves

Gamereactor Portugal's Ricardo C. Esteves has survived the horror of Outlast. Was it a runaway success, or is it a game best hidden out of sight?

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