7 Reasons Outlast Is the Horror Game You Need

By Daniel Link in Daily Lists, Video Games
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 6:00 am

3. Most of Your Enemies Are Victims

Red Barrels

Though the mentally ill are far and away more likely to fall victim to violence and abuse than perpetrate it on others, they get a pretty bad rap in fiction, especially those who reside in mental hospitals. Outlast isn't incredibly progressive in this regard - many of Mount Massive's residents are more than willing to kill you - but through the documentation found in game it becomes clear that most if not all of these patients are victims of the hospital administration's inhumane experiments. One such patient, self-proclaimed "Father" Martin, was finger-painting to his heart's content until the administration took away his art supplies just to see how he'd react. You could almost forgive him for turning to blood as his medium.

Red Barrels

Actually, the basic setup of the game bears some striking similarities to a young Geraldo Rivera's investigation of the Willowbrook State School for the intellectually disabled, where he exposed the staff's horrifying neglect of their wards (snippets of the exposé can be seen in the excellent documentary Cropsey). Rivera's piece went a lot more smoothly, however - much to the chagrin of those who can't stand him today.

2. It's Unnervingly Immersive

Red Barrels

Outlast features full body awareness, which is a fancy way of saying you can look down and see most of your body - arms, legs and all. When peeking around a corner, your free hand grasps the edge of a doorframe to brace yourself as you get a better look; the other hand is can be seen holding the video camera when it's not currently in use. Your torso and legs can appear pretty stiff, but compared to most first-person shooters, who treat the player like a floating head and pair of arms, it's exceptionally immersive. And boy, do the developers ever turn that against you.


Roughly a quarter of the way through the game, the player is captured by Richard Trager, a Mount Massive Asylum executive who lost his mind during the phenomenon that triggered the initial incident and now mixes Josef Mengele-levels of medical depravity with a friendly bedside manner. In a largely non-interactive sequence, Trager uses a pair of massive shears to sever Miles' right index and left ring fingers. After escaping your bonds - and being party to a brief, first-person vomiting sequence - you will spend the rest of the game occasionally glimpsing Miles' bloody, mutilated hands, and it's never not painful to look at. It's rare for a developer to feature amputation of a player's in-game body parts, but Red Barrels rubs your face in Miles' vulnerability in a way that only serves to heighten the horror of the game.

1. It's Pretty Much the Scariest Part of [REC]

Filmax International

Yeah, this reference was pretty much unavoidable.

The Spanish found footage horror movie [REC] - remade as the less than stellar Quarantine in the United States - features hands down one of the scariest scenes in movie history. At the climax, the last two survivors are cooped up in the attic apartment of a tenement that has become infested with swift, zombie-like Super Rabies victims over the course of the movie. In the absolute darkness of the room, they have to rely on their video camera's night vision, only to discover that they're not alone: a hammer-wielding infected tenant is but a few feet away, emaciated, wraithlike and listening for the merest hint of prey. As the wretch searches every corner of the room, the survivors are forced to stifle even their slightest breaths.

With Outlast, Red Barrels took that sequence and made an entire game out of it. Way to go, you beautiful, sadistic jerks.

Previously by Daniel Link

5 Reasons Ground Zeroes Is The Best Metal Gear Game Ever Made (And 3 Ways It Isn't)

7 Lessons Game Designers Can Learn From Telltale's The Walking Dead

7 Reasons We're Going To Miss Jeff Lemire's Animal Man

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