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PAX EAST 2013 | “Outlast” Demo Thick Of Frights And Tension

Posted on March 25, 2013 AT 03:55pm

After playing through Zombie Studios’ Daylight I thought I was in the clear from any other terrorizing games. Boy was I wrong, as Red Barrels’ debut game Outlast nearly made me run out of the booth screaming for my life. Of course, it didn’t help that I had to play it in pitch darkness, but I digress.

Outlast has you searching through an abandoned mental institution for clues regarding a story you’re working on. In the demo you start off trying to break into the asylum, which requires some climbing and a couple of timed jumps. The first room is dark, so in order to see around it you need to look through your infrared video camera. The battery drains quickly, but fortunately you can find more around your surroundings.

One inside you scourge the rooms, each one as deserted as the last. Something seems off, though, as bookcases and other items are thrown all over the floors. Then, at the first sight of blood, a curling chill starts to tickle your spine. You hear noises in the area, but they seem distant enough as to continue searching. All seems quiet, until you open a door that has a decapitated body swinging towards you.

The reporter panics as he looks around the dark and bloody room, with a few bodies of soldiers impaled on spikes. One of them, barely alive, warns the reporter of an imminent threat before he gasps his last breath. Mere moments after hearing this, the monstrous threat finds and throws you off the second floor hallway to the ground floor entryway. Before you black out the asylum’s priest finds you, and wishes for your safety.

You wake up in what looks like the basement, and after finding a few batteries in some dark rooms you try to make your way out. However, the monster enters the basement, which you can either hide or make a run for it. There is no fighting back in this game; he gets you, he hurts you. This aspect of Outlast is what makes it more scary. I wound up dying three times in a matter of minutes before I had my fill of frights for the day.

It’s weird seeing two similar titles back-to-back at a convention. On one hand Daylight at least gives you a sliver of hope that you’ll make it out alive, whereas Outlast taunts you with the notion that you are going to die no matter what. Perhaps that’s what makes Outlast the better of the two. The notion that your character’s death is imminent is a refreshing take in the horror game genre, and with the added lack of survival skills it gives you that feeling of your heart lodging into your throat.

Using the Unreal 3 Engine to create the game Red Barrels has so far made Outlast both look and feel threatening. The corpses, the monster, and even the attention to detail in the dirty toilets have helped make this game a true contender for one of the better-looking games of the year. The controls are pretty good on a keyboard, although I’ll admit I prefer using an actual controller than the ASDW setup.

Outlast is due to be released this summer on PC, with possible ports to consoles depending on both the game’s popularity and/or demand. If this was just a taste of what to expect from the full game, you can bet that Red Barrels will have a top contender for Horror Game of the Year.

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck

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