Outlast Might Just Outlast Other Recent Horror Games

The start of my horribly frightening Outlast adventure.

Outlast is scary. Very scary.

I may be one of the last to finally pick up this game, especially as a horror game fan.

Older horror classics, such as the first Resident Evil, the first couple installments of Silent Hill, and even arcade favourites like House of the Dead will forever be the reasons I check over my shoulder in every dark alley or dimly lit corridor.

Recently, horror games have not had the same effect. Over the last decade or so, there haven't really been any games that quite got to me like those did. There were even a few slumps in the series I mentioned above. Some games, like Dead Space just went the wrong direction, and horror became second to action (until Amnesia: The Dark Descent). The Penumbra series, released by Frictional Games, was also a great horror title, but it fell under the shadow of the groundbeaking new direction that Amnesia took: you couldn't fight back.

This helplessness, coupled with the great atmosphere the studio created, the grotesque monsters, and the unique plotline really created a memorable experience, and shined light on a new generation of horror games (or perhaps I should say "removed light").

A lot of games have since taken on a similar premise, but none quite like Outlast. This title, developed by Red Barrels, takes the run, hide, or die concept very seriously. What is even more refreshing is that it is incredibly fast-paced compared to a game like Amnesia. I have only played the game for the first half an hour or so, but from what I have seen from other gameplay footage as well as my own, you have a slimmer chance of completely avoiding monsters, and there is a lot more running than hiding. The running feels a lot more like running, too, as the motion causes severe blurring. The character is a lot noisier as you leap over obstacles and squeeze through perilously narrow gaps.

Not only that, but the game is not shy with graphic content. It throws gore, violence, and taboo at you from every corner. It is a very much an in-your-face, make-you-crap-yourself kind of scary. Subtlety is just not something it does, and it works.

I've seen footage of earlier versions of what parts of the game I've played, and I believe Red Barrels did a great job changing it. What happens in the final version adds a lot more atmosphere and makes the player ask more questions. The horror is as psychological as it is obvious, and I think Red Barrels has done a superb job.

It's for these reasons that I think Outlast might just be one of the few that keeps me up at night, for many nights to come.

Please make sure to read the comments, playing further resulted in me revising my opinion, and the first comment is a great read as a differing one.


I love to play horror games, and fun games! It's the ones people take too seriously I try to keep from (yet I still play way too much League of Legends, having hit Diamond 4 this season, and playing for my university team in the NUEL.)

Published Aug. 17th 2021
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    I hate to be that guy but... speaking as someone who put more than a half hour into it, it really isn't that scary, at least IMO. It's decent for an indie horror title, but it's highly scripted and there's very little reason to fear failing. By removing things like combat, it really is just you running around and waiting for your health to regenerate every so often. The enemy AI is not spectacular, mots of the levels are incredibly linear, and I often had too many batteries so I couldn't pick up more. This is with the -original- version as well, without easier difficulty settings.

    Also, your examples all feel very scattered. Dead Space was about body horror, not trusting the protagonist's psyche, and intense third person combat that required precision and speed despite playing an average joe engineer. Which makes perfect sense, because it was inspired by Alien and Event Horizon, which both had similar settings and tones. Games like Penumbra and Amnesia were much more open ended than Outlast, and let the gameplay flow much more dynamically. You also had to still manage your character and carefully use resources (the SURVIVAL part of survival horror), whereas Outlast never really requires that. Resident Evil... don't even get me started on how badly those games aged. And Silent Hill changed so much every entry it's still hard to pin down other than "horror" as the genre it resides in.

    Also, for some of us, the inability to fight back is more annoying than terrifying. Games that find a decent compromise for this, like say Silent Hill Shattered Memories and Routine, provide a much more realistic scenario. You could have a wood cutter's ax sitting right in front of you in Outlast, but you'll never use it even if it makes sense. By contrast, in Routine, you -have- to choose whether to defend yourself, keep your night vision battery full, or run.

    Options -- options are terrifying. Options make you second guess yourself. It's the same principle with Dark Souls in how so many of its scenarios can be handled differently by playstyle. It keeps you intrigued and you continue to fight, whereas knowing only one approach will win means that you get irritated. Just putting someone in an asylum alone doesn't just make a game scary -- and to compensate, Red Barrels had to script A LOT of their game to try and make it scary otherwise. There's no lasting value. It's like a popcorn flick, just interactive. One again, a perfectly decent one, but I'm not so sure it's going to be the groundbreaking, long standing example of how to do horror games from here on out. TBH, more developers seem to be taking notes from Slender, Silent Hill, Penumbra, Dark Souls, and Don't Starve/Sir, You Are Being Hunted.At least that's what I've been seeing.

    Otherwise, a solidly written piece. I did not expect to end up writing a comment at all, let alone one this long, so kudos on getting me thinking on the topic. I hope you enjoy your time writing at GameSkinny. Cheers.
  • The Shanus
    Hey! Thank you very much for the comment, especially one as long and insightful as your own.

    I have to say I agree with what you said at first - once I played through a bit further, I realised just how script-heavy the horror was, and how predictable the AI became, and I was sorely disappointed after my pre-emptive appraisal of the game. Once I died the first time, I lost any fear of failure as you said, and ultimately stopped playing.

    I still believe the article is worth keeping however, as it is one that I wrote as a "first-glance" composition, and it still works in that respect, but I'll refer people to the comment section to make sure they are aware of things you took the time to point out.

    Thanks again!

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