Format: PC / PS4 (console release tbc)

I’d like to believe I’ve seen enough horror clichés to have built-up a defence against shock tactics and gruesome imagery. I thank this to being masochistically curious with horror films and videogames. In short, I don’t go into a game or film automatically expecting to be scared anymore.

Outlast scared me.

You control a journalist who receives an anonymous tip-off about a mental institute situated up in a very secluded mountainous area that has become hostile and corrupted. Your journalistic instincts push you to travel there one rainy night with only your camcorder, complete with night vision, and a notepad.

 photo outlast-03_zpsa1dc3ad1.jpg That’s all you'll have and all you'll ever get: a camcorder that can zoom in and out with the kind of night vision that, while effective, fuzzes up the quality of what you're seeing, like looking through some poor CCTV footage.

In Outlast you can explore without the camcorder, but since 90% of the game is in pitch darkness, it's recommended you have the camcorder up at all so you can use your trusty night vision. The ‘survival horror’ aspect comes into play when you realize night vision drains your camera’s battery life and you must search for the scarce amount of batteries littered throughout the game.

Ah, but this isn’t going to make you frightened. Never mind the ominous howling winds, otherworldly cries in the dark, the dragging of chains, the snipping sounds of a large pair of scissors, the cries of pain …or is it torment? No, none of that will scare you until you come face to face with the inmates of the mental institute.

 photo outlast-cu_zpsb5669c00.jpgWhilst exploring, the music will give a small clue when you have an enemy nearby. A deranged, violent, very fast, mutated enemy. These are absolutely deadly, and will chase you efficiently wherever you go. Your only choice is to run and hide.

Essentially, that's Outlast. It is a simulation of fear and being pursued. No other game has come close to recreating this terrible sensation, save a small segment of Bethesda’s Call of Cthullu.

Most of the time you will be hide underneath beds or in closets, tracking the movements of your enemy via sight or sound. You can try sneaking by, but enemies are pretty sharp at seeing you in the dark, so your window of opportunity to escape and evade is incredibly slim in most situations.

As you progress, you will collect documents that act as Resident Evil style lore, explaining what has happened in the mental institute. The protagonist will also jot down his own notes about what is happening if you have the camcorder raised to witness all the events as they unfold.

The atmosphere of this game is one of the best I’ve experienced in a horror game to date. The weather effects are completely believable, even if lacking visually, the audio acoustic feel of the weather effects against the creaky old mental asylum feels real. The audio in general stands out the most production wise. Voices are well-acted and very ominous, floorboards and floors are so responsive that your own footsteps can sometimes make you believe that an enemy is nearby.

Visually, the game isn't the prettiest, especially going into the next generation, but stylistically I wouldn’t want the graphics any other way as it gives the game a dark, oppressive and very violent feel. Walls and floors actually look like they have aged or are rotting, the enemies' disfigurements are grotesque and the shadows create an incredibly well designed environment of foreboding horror.

Certain little things like how the camcorder functions throughout game, or how opening and closing doors brings a sense of reality to the player, so when you get shocked and jump, your protagonist’s vision will jump all over the place like you would in real life. It’s hard to replicate that in such a realistic fashion, but Outlast did it perfectly.

 photo outlast-01_zps14b1c1b5.jpg So, what are the game's negative points? Well, it’s a bit short: I completed the game in 3 hours. That’s not to say I didn't run past a few documents while the adrenaline took over. The length isn't a completely a negative factor as a game like this that is truly terrifying will outstay its welcome and cause players to ‘outlast’ the fear, neutering the point of the game (Dead Space 3, anyone?).

However, the true negative point of the game is the protagonist. Right off the bat the main character’s journalistic note scribbling is incredibly obnoxious, immature and jock-like. Your character talks / writes like he's a ‘hardcore’ bro-dude, whose answer to everything is to ‘Fuck shit up’. This can offset any sense of horror when your character basically remedies every situation with a horrible veil of Sylvester Stallone / Arnold Schwarzenegger styled action man sarcasm.

The empatyless approach to the protagonist’s musings becomes quite irritating and I’ll admit at one point the word ‘douchebag’ came into my head. The thought of him dying didn't seem to be such a bad deal.

The ending is quite abrupt with no real sense of closure. It basically opens up possibilities of a sequel, but I wouldn’t have minded an extra titbit of info about the consequences of all the game's events.

 photo outlast-02_zps5fb9c152.jpg For anyone wanting a experience that will frighten and intrigue, they'll not be disappointed with what this game has in store. If this is what developer Red Barrels can create for us with this franchise, then by all means I recommend you support this game so that more games like it are made.

Just don’t play it in the dark with headphones on if you cherish your sanity.