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Outlast Review

  • First Released Sep 4, 2013
  • Reviewed Feb 11, 2014
  • PS4
Robert Handlery on Google+

Run like hell.

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Outlast isn't really a game of skill, and as it turns out, that makes sense. You're not a cop or a soldier or a genetically enhanced superhero. You're just a reporter. And as a reporter, you don't possess many skills with which you can fend off the hulking brutes, knife-wielding stalkers, and other homicidal maniacs who lurk in the halls of the dilapidated Mount Massive Asylum. You can't shoot them, or punch them, or rip pipes from the walls to clobber them with. You can only run and hide. You're always in danger, and when that danger is nipping at your heels and all you can do is flee, desperately hoping to shake off your pursuer, Outlast is a terrifying roller-coaster ride. Unfortunately, the pacing stumbles in a few instances when Outlast stops coasting forward on its own momentum and requires you to go hunting for the track yourself, but these are small setbacks in what is usually a deeply unsettling experience.

Drawn by an anonymous tip, you come to Mount Massive to investigate allegations that an unscrupulous corporation is doing horrible things to mental patients in the pursuit of profits. You move through Mount Massive in first person, and your weighty movements make you feel physically grounded in the environment. And what an environment it is. Mount Massive is supposed to be a place with a long, dark history, and as you make your way through it, you come to believe that it has been home to many horrors over the decades. You can almost feel the damp, moldy air infesting your lungs, and every shadowy room fills you with apprehension, since you never know when someone might be waiting to leap out at you.

There are plenty of effective jump scares in Outlast, but they don't feel cheap and opportunistic. The atmosphere of Mount Massive is so cohesive and so convincing that the horrors lying in wait for you feel right at home in its pervasive darkness. Luckily, you can penetrate that darkness with your trusty camcorder's night vision, which lets you see your immediate surroundings but doesn't make them feel any less terrifying, bathing objects in an artificial green glow and doing nothing to dispel the darkness.

Mount Massive's crumbling walls and bloodstained floors successfully create the illusion that you're in a once-functioning facility where unspeakable horrors have occurred, but the path you must take through the asylum is rigidly linear. You might occasionally venture off of your narrow route a bit to find batteries to power your camcorder's night vision or documents that shed a bit of light on what has taken place at the asylum, but you won't get far; there's only ever one way forward, and as you bump up against the game's restrictive nature, you're reminded that you're in a video game after all, one designed to usher you from one terrifying situation to the next.

There's nothing wrong with that when the situations are effective, and in Outlast, they usually are. You're hunted through much of Mount Massive by a massive man who doesn't hesitate to rip your heart right out of your chest if he gets his hands on you. Seeing his silhouette in the darkness ahead or hearing his heavy footfalls somewhere nearby is enough to make your pulse quicken, since you know you have no recourse against him but to flee and to cower. When he does spot you--and he will--you can only run, hoping that you might shake him off by finding a locker to hide in or a bed to slide under. He's so threatening that in these situations, your own breathing might become as ragged as the shallow breathing of your character.

Hey buddy, can you help me push this object in front of this door? No? You'd rather kill me? OK, carry on then.
Hey buddy, can you help me push this object in front of this door? No? You'd rather kill me? OK, carry on then.

But Outlast runs into a bit of a problem. Your encounters with the hulking brute and the other homicidal denizens of Mount Massive are terrifying because your opponents are so lethal and because you can't defend yourself against them. But when you fail to elude them and meet a grisly demise, and then have to face the same situation a second or third or fourth time, the tension dissipates, as if you're watching a scene in a horror movie you've seen before and you know exactly when the killer is going to strike. When you need to repeat scenarios, Outlast's gameplay takes on a rote feeling of trial and error; you know that what you did last time didn't work, so you try something else, until you find an approach that does work.

In the end, though, Outlast's few weak moments are overshadowed by the effectiveness with which it so often gets inside your head and scares the hell out of you. You sometimes end up feeling like you're just going through the motions the game requires you to go through, but when the ride is as well designed as this, the best thing to do is just get in and hold on tight.

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The Good
Expertly crafted atmosphere
Thrilling, terrifying chases
Makes you feel grounded in the environment and extremely vulnerable
The Bad
The tension evaporates when you need to repeat sections
Restrictively linear
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Outlast

About the Author

Carolyn isn't quite sure why she sometimes enjoys scaring herself silly, but she does. The games that have haunted her dreams include Eternal Darkness, Dead Space, and Condemned: Criminal Origins. Carolyn played the PlayStation 4 version of Outlast to completion in the empty GameSpot offices one lonely, spooky Sunday.
41 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for mr_azim

@Shadowdanc3r @Static_C lol what a load of garbage..... you think it's all of that because you want to perceive it that way just so you can criticize the game. Can't you play it for the sake of enjoying a game and not nitpick and incorrectly translate EVERY premise of the game into the negative context your fallible mind created?

Avatar image for stickybun

Played this last night. I quite enjoyed it. Still early on… but some real jump out of your seat moments.

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

I finished this game, and honestly, I found it to be misandristic and sexist towards both men and women. From what I've read about the DLC, it's even more misandristic. Where's the article on that, GS? Caro, you cry foul about the sexualization of women, but what about the butcher twins in this game with their elongated "knives" with thick handles?

Avatar image for Static_C

@Shadowdanc3r Misandrous or misogynistic for male and female respectively. That's a shame tho as sexism in games always turns me off. Care to elaborate a bit more?

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

@Static_C You play as a reporter who receives an anonymous tip to investigate an asylum. That premise makes the gender of the character interchangeable, but the reporter happens to be male, that in and of itself is not what's sexist, I'm getting to that.

The game has no combat mechanics whatsoever, this also would make the gender of the protagonist interchangeable. It would have been just as, nay, more believable to have to a female reporter who doesn't fight than a male one, but that's not the sexist part.

There are also no female characters at all in the game, there are only mentions of a few in text documents that you find. That wouldn't be sexist, except for the fact that there is a female ward, but no female NPCs. There is a reason for that in the story, but I think it's just a cop out.

No doubt the dev team deliberately didn't want to depict nude female killers or female victims whether clothed or unclothed. And I'd bet the reason why the protagonist is male is because of something in particular that happens to him, it's beyond violent, it's sadistic. Without giving it away completely and writing backwards in case you don't want accidentally glance at the answer, he gets...detalitum. Misandry.

If this had happened to a female protagonist or if female NPCs were depicted nude with breasts as big as Ellie from Borderlands, as opposed to the male NPCs with dongs as big as the man from Nantucket, GS and other sites would have had a field day.

Why is female nudity offensive or objectifying but not male nudity? Why is violence and sadism against women in media considered misogyny, but against men it's not considered misandry? The GS or Livefyre spell check doesn't even recognize "misandry" as an actual word.

The game singles out men for violence and nudity. Sexism. It's sexist towards women because it sends the message that women simply couldn't handle a situation like the one in Outlast. I don't care if one could or not, what I'm looking at here is the inconsistency of the feminist and White Knights in sites like this. They're saying women are equal but they need special treatment. That's not equality.

Avatar image for Gankstar_VX84

I agree with everything you said Carolyn, it's exactly how I felt I bought this for pc at release date, didn't even get as far as the doctor. I took my time played slowly and died, and I was thinking it was 1 life per playthrough sorta thing. (Like the final difficulty) but it wasn't, so when I died I got horrifically bored and just gave up.

although when it came to ps4 i finished it 5 times orso and 100% it. Amazing game, bring on whistleblower, not long now!

Avatar image for 4quarters

Best of all FREE for PS+ subscribers!!

Avatar image for deactivated-5cf9b97def93e

I just played this on my friends PS4. What an incredible game! This is the REAL survival horror experience I've been waiting for.

Avatar image for gsbliss

Thanks for not inserting your feminist bs into this review, Carolyn.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

"The tension evaporates when you need to repeat sections"

Well, that happens pretty much with every scripted horror game out there, doesn't it?

Avatar image for ecurl143

I can only imagine what a game like this would do to your mind if played on the Occulus Rift.

Avatar image for Grishrak

She really has NO idea about the game and shouldn't have reviewed it.

"But when you fail to elude them and meet a grisly demise, and then have to face the same situation a second or third or fourth time, the tension dissipates, as if you're watching a scene in a horror movie you've seen before and you know exactly when the killer is going to strike."

I disagree because when you die it doesn't get boring you start to think faster on where to go. I can bet you never played any of the Clocktower games which you can't kill people but you have to run and try to escape from them. It gets your heart racing and you start to look for places to hide faster so it doesn't get old or make the tension any less but more IMO. I want games like this to be hard that I'm going to die I don't want one so easy that it's not scary and I can just walk through it without any frustration!

Restrictively linear

Again ALL survivor horror games are like this. Dead Space, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, Rule of Rose, etc. It keeps you going because most horror games some people find it too intense so if they went off the path they would never beat the level or game. I say that because I hear a ton of people saying Dead Space was scary to them so if they played Fatal Frame, Rule of Rose, or Siren Blood Curse they would have a heart attack.

I hope Gamespot does a re-review from a fan of horror games so they know what they are talking about.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@Grishrak You know this website reviews are just opinions, right? No need to get so fired-up

Avatar image for OneStrong2

I was sooooo going to watch this review, until Carolyn Petite started talking....

Avatar image for nazgoroth



Avatar image for pip3dream

This game is awesome, and terrifying - its pretty stressful to play. It feels like willfully water boarding yourself. I got about 30mins and to a particularly fucked up scene and was just like YEAH, NOPE. *UNINSTALL*

Too scary.

Avatar image for press-play

looks like the game brings the fright back...something tha has been lacking in the horror genre

Avatar image for Diegoctba

This game is terrible!

If the game is good, they would launch for Xbox One.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@Diegoctba You are no longer funny. your simplistic trolling doesn't even make you annoying. You should find something else to do with your life.

Avatar image for Grishrak

@Diegoctba The game is good everyone that has played it other then the reviewer knows how great it is.

Avatar image for pip3dream

@Diegoctba derp,derpderp,aderp?

Avatar image for 001011000101101

@Diegoctba Stahp...

Avatar image for jaimenm

Free on PS Plus ;)

Cheers Sony, keep 'em coming!

Avatar image for 001011000101101

@jaimenm Well us Xbox 360 Gold users got Dead Island last week! Take that! Dead Island!!!

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@001011000101101 @jaimenm Dead Island has been on sale and free since... forever?
I'm surprised the didn't give it for free on PS+ already, would be funny to have all 3 versions of the game.

Avatar image for Grishrak

@001011000101101 @jaimenm Oh yeah I played that a few years ago when it was new.

Avatar image for jaimenm

@001011000101101 @jaimenm Lol I’m happy for you – enjoy!

Avatar image for fernandofan08

@RedWave247 @Zombie8814 Horror games allow you to defend yourself. Whether your successful or not doesnt matter. Just look at silent hill; if your being chased by someone or hunted, youd grab a brick or anything you can use as a weapon to temporarily incapacitate your pursuer.

Thats why I hated Shattered Memories; it was terrible. Im not a fighter but id pick up a blunt weapon to just buy myself some tie to daze my attacker.

Avatar image for RedWave247

@fernandofan08 @RedWave247 @Zombie8814 There's the whole idea of Fight or Flight, which is an evolutionary theory. A cornered animal might fight, but most times, the instinct is to run in order to save yourself. That's the whole idea behind horror games like this. It's not about fighting or overcoming a monster. It's about surviving. Hence: Survival Horror.

Avatar image for Zombie8814

You can't fight or kill anything? All you can do is hide or run away?

Sorry, but that sounds incredibly lame.

Avatar image for Grishrak

@Zombie8814 Play Clocktower 3 and say that. Horror games are being destroyed because you CAN kill it takes all the fear out of them. Oh look a zombie, lets see what gun I should use to kill them? This game is harder then any horror game that you can kill in.

Avatar image for press-play

@Zombie8814 yae it does i agree..should have had some combat action at least.

Avatar image for pip3dream

@press-play @Zombie8814 No it shouldn't of had combat. It's not that type of game. Not every fucking game has to be COD to be fun and engaging. Don't we have enough shooters??

Avatar image for RedWave247

@Zombie8814 It's a horror game. Being a badass with a gun doesn't exactly make things scary if you can defend yourself. If all you have to defend yourself is running and hiding, then that can be incredibly scary.

Avatar image for glacius_x

Horror being my favorite genre in gaming, movies, etc., the score seems fair, though I felt it was more of an 8. I agree with having to replay a part and the same thing happening again and again takes much away from "tension'.

Pretty good review for a more than pretty good game to play. Now bring on "The Evil Within"!

Avatar image for Pyrosa

Modern Dragon's Lair (but slightly less funny). Worth playing once or twice.

Avatar image for balrogbane

Jess needs to play this on HoH

Avatar image for NTM23

The game's good, but in a sense, it's forgettable. Not the story or events that take place, but just the other day, I forgot to even consider it as the last game I beat because I had other games on my mind. It's not one that stuck with me, where I would think about it even when I didn't play it. While I enjoyed the atmosphere, the game largely wasn't scary, saving for only when you get chased as the intense moments, while everything else is simply going from one place to the other with little fear as to what will be around, until something actually happens.

While it's scary to run away from them, when you actually die, the fear is gone. Not as in, the fear is gone in subsequent tries, but when you're face to face with the guy, you simply accept the fate and try again, I just wished it would be scary to actually be caught. The scariest moment was the entire doctor chasing you section, and probably my favorite part of it, aside from when the music swelled and you had to run away from three dudes and push doors to block their way. I would play on extreme (or whatever the hardest difficulty is), but the fact that it says it'll start you over from the beginning if you lose once doesn't interest me.

I don't know if it happens on harder difficulties, but on the easier settings, you'd always get a chance. For instance, the big hulking guy, if he caught you, he'd simply pick you up and throw you away from him, hurting you in the process, but still giving you a chance to get away, and I would just laugh at him, thanking him for giving me a chance.

Avatar image for RobDev

got this with PS+ last week. Gonna give it a look.

Outlast More Info

  • First Released Sep 4, 2013
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Hell is an experiment you can't survive in Outlast, a first-person survival horror game developed by veterans of some of the biggest game franchises in history.
    Average Rating594 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Outlast
    Developed by:
    Red Barrels
    Published by:
    Red Barrels, Limited Run Games
    3D, Action, Adventure, Survival
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language