Playing Outlast can be a pretty creepy and intense experience depending on your sensitivity to this kind of material. Although, I'm not myself easily disturbed by horror content, there is simply no downtime from the tension created in this game. There are no safe spaces here and I found that I could only play it for so long before needing a break to unwind. It's far from what you'd call a relaxing game.
You play as Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who receives a cryptic email from someone at the Mount Massive Asylum who claims that inhumane experiments are being conducted there. That person will turn out to be the protagonist of the DLC, Whistleblower. The Asylum is located in the forests of a Colorado mountain and is a private psychiatric hospital once abandoned but now owned by the Murkoff Corporation which re-opened as a highly secretive research facility. Once Miles infiltrates the complex, he is met by a grisly scene and finds a dying SWAT member who informs him that the inmates, known as variants, are loose and killing all the staff of the facility. When his escape route is cut off, Miles decides to press on to unearth the true story of the research that was being conducted here.
Throughout your investigative journey, asylum areas are populated by these variants, some of whom are passive and some who will attack on you on sight. This is actually a brilliant horror strategy. Some people criticize the game for using jump scares, but it does rather more than that. Unlike most horror games, you never know if the enemy will attack or not, thus keeping you consistently on edge. Sound effects are used to great advantage here as Miles heartbeat goes through the roof and his breathing goes into hyper-ventilation.
Somewhat similar in style to Amnesia The Dark Descent, you have no defences and running or hiding is your only option. I think what makes it so creepy is its over-the-top suspense as once the nasty variants get a whiff of you, they will keep hunting. This means that you cannot always determine a set path of escape as they will keep roaming the area. Some enemies don't just kill you, they torture you with sharp instruments and buzz-saws. The bosses are the worst, one of which dogs you throughout the whole game, and although shadows are your friend, there is no guarantee they won't find you cowering under that bed or hiding in that locker. This is what gives the game it's tension as you can never, ever be sure you are safe. However, you can use the environment to find hiding places and the game features a peek around corners mechanic as well as allowing you to dodge around them. Eventually, you can find an area that they cannot pass into. So, run!
Your equipment consists of a video recorder, which doubles as a light with night vision capabilities. Most people agree that there is little reason to ever turn this off, although having it on gives the visuals a grainy overtone. It's too bad in a way as some of the effects of the good graphics, textures and lighting are lost. However, if you turn it off, you could miss the collectible notes that only show up if you are recording. The other atmospheric content is also good with sound effects, music and even the sound of your laboured breathing. There is blood everywhere and when you step in it, you can see your own bloody footprints.
Gameplay is basically linear with a few side-trips for finding replacement batteries and journals, which tell a story based on real events surrounding MKUltra experiments conducted by the CIA in the 50's, 60's, and 70's and is still shrouded in secrecy. The controls are good and you can re-bind the keyboard keys. The game will save wherever you quit, but if you die, you will be loaded at the last checkpoint. You cannot save in the middle of specific objectives, which is one of the game's annoying features if you have to repeat an area several times. I honestly don't know why developers think this kind of forced repetition is challenging when it's just plain irritating and actually removes your immersion in the game. This is not a good fit with a game that's primary driving force is to maintain the suspense.
If you like the horror genre, Oulast is one of the best to date and there is not much to complain about. The graphics are good, the controls are re-bindable, and it has a decent story. There are one or two minor complaints, but basically, it's a home-run for this small independent studio.DLC - WHISTLEBLOWER
Whistleblower, the DLC, is the story of the software consultant working for Murkoff Psychiatric Systems who sent Miles Upshur the e-mail. After being caught in the act, it tells the story of his escape attempt after the inmates get loose. It was a disappointment, offering nothing much new over the main game. It was also more frustrating with much darker and maze-like environments that made it easy to get lost. Finding access into the next areas could be pretty frustrating and obscure at times. The video recorder night vision wasn't much help as some areas were covered in a miasma of fog that gave off a blinding glare. It was also a lot more grisly, often exchanging suspense for blood and gore. It does round out the whole story, but it's not as good as the main game.
Red Barrels originally pursued finding a publisher for their game, but for one reason or another couldn't settle on a deal. They eventually turned to the Canada Media Fund for financing after landing a distribution deal with Steam and went on to finish development of the horror game called Outlast. Released in 2013, the game garnered positive reviews and within 3 years had sold over 4 million copies.
Although the going was rough, staying independent allowed Red Barrels to develop a sequel called Outlast 2, which became available on Apr 25, 2017. Reception is somewhat varied among users, but overall most scores land on the positive side.