Horror-head Toby McCasker is very excited to discover Outlast.
By Toby McCasker on April 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm
A lot has been said of survival horror’s horrible lack of survival, some of which has come from me on those rare* nights I lose hope and hurl whiskey bottles at my gaming machines. I grew up on this stuff. The first Resident Evil was a big deal for me. When someone told me Capcom had scanned a real dead human eye for the zombo on the promo boards I thought, “Cool.” Silent Hill, too, really got to me in a way I’d never experienced.
Both these franchises kind of suck now, but it’s not franchise loyalty that makes me sad and drunk: it’s the death of fear in gaming.
I always, always wondered why there wasn’t more in the way of first-person survival horror. Bits and pieces here and there. The closest I think I’ve come to nodding along on that front was Condemned, but it was missing something. You were too safe.
The essence of being scared is vulnerability in a strange land. There are plenty of strange lands in gaming, but gaming’s status quo also demands of the medium itself a certain power trip that runs counter to freaking the crap out. That’s why Irrational call Dead Space “action horror” now.
Outlast does not look like action horror. It looks like survival horror the way I’ve always wanted. I’ve been obsessing over it ever since I stumbled over it this week. I had to stumble over it, ‘cos no one’s really talking about it. Why would they? It’s not an EA presents deal and is, in fact, being put together by an entirely new and untested studio called Red Barrels.
Maybe “untested” isn’t that fair: Red Barrels do count alumni from the likes of Ubisoft (hmmm…) and Naughty Dog (hmmm!), so that’s reason enough to start caring in my necronomicon. On paper, it’s a first-person horrorthon where instead of a gun you’re only armed with the night vision of a battery-deprived video camera, made by guys and gals who know games. Reads good.
Then I saw it in action.
Awww yeah. Best thing: It’s a PC-first production and yeah, that does mean that there trailer is actually running in realtime. Highly scripted for sure, but there’s some more gameplay footage out of PAX East that gives you a firmer idea of just why I’m so firm over this right now. I mean, the fact Red Barrels are being so transparent about everything is awesome enough.
The setting might be cliché as hell (“long-abandoned home for the mentally ill”), but I get the feeling Outlast will eventually take Amnesia-like descents into madness and that, friends, is something that has never properly been expanded on until it is naught but a new sub-genre of annualised FPS. For shame. Kind of. Don’t read that last part, corporate people who’ve run out of ideas. I don’t want to handle one firearm in this game. Not one. Guns are the antithesis to my fever dreams. It’s all about the Blair Witch vision, and I pray: Please don’t suck, obscure but promising herald of good scary times.