It’s about Time
There have been a few horror games to come out on the Nintendo Switch, but none with quite the profile of the Outlast series. Thankfully, Red Barrels has finally come through and brought one of their scariest games to the hybrid console.
As a preface, this is my first experience with Outlast. Knowing that it was coming to the Switch, I purposefully waited to play it. Now that it’s out and I’ve gotten through the five-hour campaign, how does it stack up to other horror games?
A Deadly Hubris
Outlast opens with you in the shoes of a journalist driving to a place called Mount Massive Asylum. There are some interesting events surrounding the building, so it’s up to you to investigate and put together a great story for the papers.
From there, the game does a nice job of easing you into its mechanics while taking the time to build up suspense. It all leads to the first time you enter the asylum and immediately realize that there is something terribly wrong.
It’s not long before Red Barrels throws all kinds of shocking imagery at you. Hanging bodies and dying guards will litter the hallways. Before you know it, you’re face to face with the deranged members of the asylum, some who will try to kill you and others who will pay you no attention.
Right away, Outlast is fantastic for giving you a constant sense of unease. You never know when a crazy person is going to turn around and run at you. Will they kill you? Will they run past you? There’s really no way to know. I was constantly running for my life as my fight or flight response was triggered.
You Can’t Fight Back
Outlast wastes no time in telling you that your only option for survival is to run. You cannot fight back. Red Barrels uses this as a great way of giving the player a sense of feeling constantly vulnerable. Lord knows that I sure did.
All of these pieces come together to create an experience where you never feel safe. It’s not just the atmosphere that delivers on the premise of the game either. There are some truly frightening moments where I was frantically scattering through rooms desperately trying to find any means of escape. Once the music triggers that I’m being chased, I was instantly running for my life. As someone who is fairly immune to traditional jumpscares and horror experiences, it says a lot that there were moments in Outlast that made me scream.
The only piece of equipment you have at your side is a video camera. With the press of a button, you bring it up to your vision, and you can also switch it to a night mode. This is the only way you’ll be able to navigate dark areas. However, using night vision also consumes your battery life. You must find more if you want to see. This mechanic is used well and batteries are easy enough to find that I never felt like it was an unfair way of increasing the tension.
That said, Outlast does a suffer a bit in some of its sections where you’re required to find a few different objects and use them to complete a certain objective while a crazy person is trying to kill you. Without any clear direction, I died a lot in these set pieces, which led to me being more frustrated at the game than scared of it. Thankfully, those sequences didn’t last long, and I was quickly back to checking all of my corners.
The story in Outlast is all in the subtext. In order to really understand what’s going on and what you’re seeing, I would recommend grabbing all of the documents hidden around the asylum. They give you better context than the actual story.
There are a lot of developments in the game that kept me intrigued. I genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen next. On a side note, it was extremely satisfying to see my tormentors get what was coming to them.
Unfortunately, the story goes off the rails in the final act. When Red Barrels had set up an intriguing and sinister tale with religious undertones involving an insane asylum, I was excited for what the eventual payoff was going to be. That said, I was completely underwhelmed by the ending.
It is worth noting that Outlast comes in a package that Red Barrels is calling the Bundle of Terror. For $24.99, you get Outlast as well as the Whistleblower DLC, which actually comes out cheaper than if you were to buy them on Steam.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Outlast was provided by Red Barrels.