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ghost review: Outlast/Whistleblower

Posted May 10, '14 at 6:33pm

ghost782

ghost782

44 posts

Outlast

The immediate hook that drew me into Outlast is that Miles Upshur is just a journalist chasing down a mysterious lead. Hes a normal guy. Hes not an action hero. He doesnt have a stock of guns adorning his body. He cant even punch. In Outlast, your only options are to run, hide, or die, and youll be doing all three quite a bit.

Before I even loaded up the game I made sure that the lights were off and that my surround sound was at a decently terrifying volume. Outlast is still a scary game in the daylight with the sound turned down low, but the true Outlast experience comes when you give up the nice comforts of lighting and reasonable volumes. The opening sequence has you semi-innocently finding your way into the Mount Massive Asylum through an open second story window, just to investigate an anonymous email. It reminded me of my high school days, sneaking into abandoned scary places. It felt more real and grounded to me than many other horror games do, which helped the psychological terror dig into me.

The dark room you stumble into introduces you to the night vision mode on your video camera, which is the only way to see in the dark. Theres no cheating and turning up the brightness here. Unfortunately this has the adverse effect of draining your battery life, and batteries are a rare commodity, especially as you increase in difficulty. This constant hunt for batteries effectively keeps your attention divided. While your thoughts are on what you are possibly going to do when that next pitch black area comes around, you wont be expecting the figure that runs across the hall ahead of you or that suddenly grabs you from behind. The lightbar on the DualShock 4 is tied to your use of the camera, glowing white when you are in normal camera mode, and changing to a shade of green while youre in night vision. It will also flicker along with your camera as the batteries die off, which helps to infuse the mood all around a darkened room.

Both corpses and the living insane inhabit the halls of Mount Massive, with each new encounter wearing on the sanity of Miles. The ambiance of Outlast is what truly drives it to terrifying heights. The music is not over-relied on to convey a sense of fear, as some horror games have a tendency to do. It is a well placed background to the circumstances and never foreshadows too much or feels like too little. The lighting is also well done, not revealing too much, and throwing shadows to really make you wonder if that particular hallway or room is safe to traverse or not. The atmosphere chips further into the psychological terror with what the inhabiting crazies say and do. Not everyone in the asylum is an enemy, but I wouldnt call them friends either. Even that guy sitting in the corner can have the psychological effect of furthering the fear, without ever looking up at you. Small details like the bloody footprints left when walking through a pool of blood, or Miles hand reaching up to the wall as he approaches doorways and corners are just a few more touches that help sell the ambiance of Outlast. The one spark of ambiance that deeply affected my playthrough, however, was Miles breathing.

Thats right, breathing. The breathing effects in Outlast are some of the best in any video game ever, and Im not even being sarcastic or facetious. I often wondered if Miles had tapped directly into my emotions. The pace of his breathing quickened when I turned a corner to see a mutilated corpse, or a watched a shadowy figure disappear into a door on the other side of a room. While hiding in lockers from things that wanted nothing more than to see my insides on the outside, I feared that his panicked breathing would give me away, and I would try to hold my own breath to stop him from making a sound. Time and time again, my overall Outlast experience came down to the incredible work that was simply done with when and how much to make a guy breathe.

Anyone privileged enough to be playing this on a surround sound system is in for a treat. All of these ambient effects are expertly done in 5.1 surround sound, with the echoes of the sounds made in the asylum finding their way to all of your speakers, surrounding you and drawing you deeply into the experience. From rushing water, to chains, to the roars and moans as I was being chased, I felt like I was inside Mount Massive myself. I would highly recommend playing with either a surround system or headphones to get the full intended experience.

Nearing the tail end of Outlast, I found myself feeling a little bit like I was getting used to the scares and ambiance, often leading me to making more reckless decisions to run through areas rather than hiding and sneaking. This is something that seems to happen with all survival horror games as they drag on. Fortunately, Outlasts relatively short length is a blessing in disguise, as the game concluded before I felt that I got too exhausted of its tricks. Depending on how much running, hiding, and/or dying you do, Outlast will take roughly five hours, which felt like the ideal length without wearing the intrigue too thin.

Outlast comes with the Insane mode, which is the obligatory one life, no checkpoints, highest difficulty mode that a lot of horror games are including (notably the Dead Space games). While I felt that I could experiment on my normal playthrough, as death did not have too terrible of a consequence, Insane mode would require me to entirely rework the way in which I played. I would consider Insane mode to be the �true� Outlast experience, with death holding a much heavier consequence. Unfortunately, cloud saving and backing up save files has ruined this for any players that want to circumvent the system and restore old save files rather than playing the way that the developers intended.

Red Barrels seems to have crafted a character and a scenario that feels as real as the player wants to make it. Knowing that you have no way to fight, and a limited ability to see in the dark, affects your thinking within all situations. In addition, Outlast does not rely on jump scares. While there are some of those to be had, Outlast is truly shaped by the ambiance that it creates; by creating believable circumstances and enveloping you in them at a psychological level. Jump scares may have your heart racing for a few seconds, however, creeping across that darkened courtyard with your batteries running out while something out there wants you tortured and dead will have you on edge until the experience ends.8/10.

Whistleblower

Red Barrels excellent Outlast was one of the earlier PlayStation 4 indie releases, deploying at the start of the year to critical acclaim from many corners of the enthusiast press. Plotting a return to the survival horror format of old, the core campaign served up a tense survival horror affair that found you using a video camera to not only record the horrors that you encountered, but also illuminate your macabre surroundings. Now, several months on from the main release, Outlast: Whistleblower aims to take you back to Mount Massive.

The add-on expands upon the original outings fiction, putting you in control of Waylon Park, a contract computer worker who tips off Miles Upshur" the protagonist of the main game" about the inappropriate activities that the Murkoff Corporation are conducting at the Mount Massive Asylum. Cleverly, the content actually serves as a prologue and epilogue of sorts, bookmarking both ends of the core campaign, while also working its way through the games main timeline as well.
This actually works extremely well, and the plot benefits as a result, serving up a more interesting narrative than Upshurs time at the asylum. The developer has certainly responded to some of the lesser criticisms pointed at the original release, as this slice of story serves up several interesting characters, and the whole affair has a lot more meat to it than the main outing.
However, from a gameplay perspective, this offers very much more of the same" albeit in the best possible way. The abovementioned night vision camera makes a welcome return, as does the overarching sense of hopelessness. Alas, theres much more variety to the enemy encounters this time around, as the hide-and-seek sequences repeated throughout the core campaign swap out the single hulking enemy for various different antagonists.

It still grates a little, but the distinctive nature of the different foes helps to keep things feeling fresh. This is true of the fear factor, too, which relies a little less on cheap jump scares, and instead works harder to concoct slightly more creative scream-worthy scenarios. Theres one particular moment " which we wont spoil for obvious reasons â�" that had us whimpering behind the sofa for a fair few minutes.
There are a few balance tweaks to speak of, too. As with the original game, youll need to replace your batteries in order to use the night vision functionality on your camera. However, these valuable resources appear to drain much faster than in the main game, meaning that the intensity of the experience is amplified. Granted, this does mean that youll spend more time scavenging for the valuable cylinders, which can be frustrating if you want to move on with the story.

It perhaps doesnt help that youll be revisiting many of the same locales as Miles Upshur, even if this doesnt feel quite as much of a rehash as it could. In a way, this is the main game in reverse, though there are some new areas to explore as well, which tend to segue in and out of the existing environments seamlessly.
Of course, the fact that this add-on is built from the same blueprints as the main game means that the load times when you transition between districts remains a real mood killer, even if there are fewer instances of this occurring. The visuals remain comparable, too, though the addition of some neat fog effects does add to the spooky vibe, especially when it reflects the light from your camera, adding a great sense of place to the whole affair.

The audio work is similarly atmospheric, though we did encounter some occasions where it was a little out of sync, particularly towards the beginning. This actually killed the impact of one particular scene for us, which is a bit of a shame. Still, we suspect that many will be thrilled of the respite, as this expansion really cranks up the already excessive gore. It can feel a bit much at times " we have strong stomachs, but even we found ourselves turning away on occasion" so whether or not you can handle it will depend on your tolerance for horror.
Conclusion
Outlast: Whistleblower doesnt muck around with a formula thats already proven to work, and it subsequently succeeds at extending the spooky atmosphere of Red Barrels survival horror release. The new campaign accompanies the original game well, and even improves upon it in many ways. It also ups the ante in the terror department, hitting harder and more frequently, without relying too heavily on jump scares. As such, if you liked the main game, this expansion is a real scream.8/10.

These review are now going to be long and long but it explains about the game so writing the script (now i have a script, now its not just what i remember) and finding time to do this takes about 3 hours so you will now see a lot of content here.


last edited May 10 2014 06:39 pm by ghost782
 

Posted May 10, '14 at 6:48pm

Gantic

Gantic

10,814 posts

Moderator

Please do not copy and paste entire works copyrighted works by others. This was not written by you, unless you happen to be two different people. The first half of your post is from PlayStationLifeStyle and the second part is from PushSquare. This constitutes plagiarism.

 

Posted May 10, '14 at 8:30pm

sinhellsing

sinhellsing

362 posts

Short review from someone who finished both Outlast and its DLC

The best horror game I played so far. There was no horror game to keep me that tense with its atmosphere and jumpscares. If Outlast starts to scare you right after 30~40 minutes after getting in the game, Whistleblower has no mercy. It throws you right in the middle of the action, having a very catchy atmosphere that scares you more than the jumpscares should, which makes them more effective.

Would I recommend them? Of course! I'd even force people to play them because they are so awesome.

Cheers, Red Barrels!

 
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