The horror of Mount Massive asylum is back and more terrifying than ever. Indie developers Red Barrels’ original Outlast was one of, if not the, best horror survival games that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. That was until I played Outlast: Whisteblower, a petrifying amalgam of fear, blood and piss-your-pants-moments.
In the original Outlast you played as Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who was tipped off about strange events and highly questionable treatment practices at Mount Massive Asylum, by an anonymous person who was simply referred to as the “Whistleblower”. In Outlast: Whistleblower, the prequel to Outlast, you play as this “whistleblower”. You are Waylon Park, a software engineer hired by the Murkhoff Corporation, the disturbingly devious owners of Mount Massive Asylum, to update and maintain their computing systems while being legally obliged to turn a blind eye to any unsavoury events taking place. But then you can’t take it anymore and you find yourself writing the very letter that was first opened in the original Outlast. And then you are caught.
“Will you willingly submit to forced confinement?” they ask and answer for you. What follows is a journey into a weird and bizarre world of mentally deranged and esoteric madness, accentuated with a very large amount of bone-chilling fear.
Outlast: Whistleblower’s style of gameplay is simple yet still remains as a breath of fresh air (well not exactly) in the gaming world. You are no hero armed with an arsenal of hi-tech military equipment or arcane powers. In truth, you have no way of defending yourself at all. The only things you have is your night-vision camcorder and your will to live. In the game you will either be tiptoeing around every corner or hysterically sprinting away from mentally twisted madmen in total darkness as you search for a hiding place (beds, vents, closets).
Your camcorder’s night vision isn’t unlimited and you’re going to have to keep an eye out for any batteries, which are rare. Let me tell you this is not an easy task when you are running around in constant fear of losing your life. This game is not for the faint-hearted and I consider myself an avid, hardcore gamer. I played it on “Hard”, which is the second choice of four difficulty options, and I still found it extremely challenging. Although once you get into the bloody flow of things, you will find yourself approaching situations from a very tactical angle.
The graphical quality of this game is outstanding, especially as it comes from indie developer Red Barrel Games. Every scene and horrifying sound is masterfully put together to brilliantly strike your inner chords of fear. Some of the moments are so scary and intense that you’ll find your gaming character and yourself hyperventilating. J.T. Petty, the game’s lead writer, has done an outstanding job crafting the narrative and the Unreal Engine 3.5 paints a sick, yet beautiful world. It carries so much depth and intrigue that you will forget that there is a life beyond your screen as it expertly weaves into the original Outlast, giving you a truly well-rounded gaming experience if you played the original, plus a bit of fear-ridden nostalgia.
Verdict: There is not a single dull moment in Outlast: Whistleblower. I don’t think this is a game for everyone as it reaches seriously high levels of gore and disturbing content. But if you are a fan of terrifying horror survival games (think Dead Space, Amnesia: The Dark Descent) then this game will satisfy your every frightful need.