It’s going to be hard to talk about Outlast without comparing it to Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs.
After all they came out within days of each other, and they’re both first person survival horror games that involve you running and hiding like a massive wimp, rather than headbutting the horror in the face and nonchalantly asking the abomination if it even lifts.
There are differences though.
Whilst A Machine For Pigs delivers verbose eldritch dread by the bucketload, Outlast is a bit more… well, stupid really.
Not that stupidity in horror is a bad thing, there’s a guilty pleasure to be had in watching relentless gore-fests like Hatchet after all, but A Machine For Pigs had scope and ambition; it wanted to leave you feeling sickly and in need of a shower after you played it, which it absolutely did.
Outlast – VHS Horror
Outlast is a bit more like, say, The Conjuring. It’s a tense ride whilst you’re experiencing it, but after it’s finished you kind of forget about it and wonder what the fuss is about (insert ‘a bit like sex’ joke here). Outlast is pretty simple plot-wise.
You’re a journalist who receives an anonymous tip that some bad nonsense is going down at an asylum.
You choose to check things out at the spooky looking old asylum at the dead of night, because checking apparently abandoned asylums at night when you’ve been told creepy stuff is happening is super smart.
When your chap infiltrates and finds it looking like something from an episode of Hoarders (with more body parts) he decides to explore further. Either he’s dedicated to his craft or he’s thick as two short ones. Either way, it’s his first step into a maelstrom of gore and terror. Yippee?
The most noticeable abut Outlast is its looks. There’s a really nice film grain effect which gives it a suitably dingy VHS quality (Blu-Ray and DVD purists can bugger off, VHS is THE format for horror).
It looks even better when your chap is holding his camcorder up, giving it the blurry, cheap (in a good way) appearance of a found footage horror film.
There’s a good physicality to it too that’s reminiscent of the Riddick games, the way your characters hands can be seen, as well as how they interact with the environment.
Outlast vs A Machine For Pigs
It’s immersive and undeniably effective, but it does kind of poop itself in a few areas.
Firstly, the baddies. They’re basically muscly nudey men. It’s a bit of a worry when one is chasing you, but when something that looks like a slightly decayed Brock Lesnar starts slapping you a bit it stops being really scary. It’s panic-inducing, but compared to what’s been seen in other survival horrors it’s a let-down.
Secondly, gameplay concessions ruin the, eh, fun. A Machine For Pigs was fully focused on the story and horror, and there was no mucking about trying to find oil for your lantern. In Outlast, you always have to find batteries for your camcorder, and it’s a pain in the hole.
On a related note, A Machine For Pigs was fairly smart with its puzzles and obstacles. Outlast just asks you to flick three switches or something before you can finally progress. It’s the plot that lets it down though. A Machine For Pigs really went for it in this area. Outlast seems simplistic by comparison, and what starts off as intriguing turns into a load of hokey old toss.
It’s a shame really. On any other day, Outlast would seem pretty exceptional, and in many ways it is.
But it’s come a few days after what is arguably a masterpiece of the genre. It’s like watching Paranormal Activity after watching [REC]. You’re just not going to be as impressed are you?
Version Tested: PC