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Outlast Review

Outlast Review

But Outlast doesn't just leave horror to external factors, it also, brilliantly, uses its systems to create conflicting urges within the player. This comes in the form of the video camera Miles brings with him to record evidence to support his investigation. Pressing the right mouse button brings the camera up to Miles' face and starts filming. It's important to do this, because filming scenes and events in the mansion causes Miles to write notes commenting on his findings. Filming also means you have to look in a particular direction, leaving you vulnerable to ambush, or watch as something incredibly unpleasant happens, or get close to something you don't particularly want to get close to. It pits your urge to run away and hide against your desire to find out what exactly is happening, and that is very clever game design indeed.

Outlast Review
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In addition, the camera has a secondary function, night-vision, which acts as your torch. But it simultaneously obscures as much as it enlightens, making the picture fuzzy and reducing your view distance. It also drains the camera's battery, meaning you have to search rooms to replenish them. Unfortunately, batteries are too liberally spread, meaning a low battery stock doesn't cause as much worry as it should, because you know if you keep a lookout you'll probably find some.

Outlast Review
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There are a few other problems too. The writing is for the most part pretty good, with a few particularly outstanding moments. You'll remember the character known as Trager for a long time to come. However, Miles' notes taken from the camcorder footage read more like the rantings of a Teenage Youtube commenter than a professional journalist. Also, the majority of the narrative explores the history of the place, the actual plot is sort of held off until the last half hour, at which point everything is suddenly unveiled and it's all a bit silly and unconvincing, which is a shame.

The only other issue that lessens the impact of the horror is it that Miles is clearly a fun-runner as well as a journalist, as it's sometimes possible to run rings around whatever might be chasing you. Red Barrels seem to have cottoned onto this later in development, adding more obstacles to the environment, but this is one of the rare occasions where a stamina limit wouldn't have gone amiss.

Outlast Review
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These niggles aside, Outlast is an extremely strong debut from Red Barrels, managing to successfully induce scares through its mechanics as well as its scripted events. It's also very satisfying to play, involving you in the game without ever resorting to weaponry or other first-person crutches. There have been a spate of experimental first-person games released lately, and all have their merits and their drawbacks, but Outlast outdoes them all because it is the most well rounded, and the most engaging.

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