Outlast is the most terrifying game I have ever played. Where other horror games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or ZombiU give you weapons to fight with, Outlast gives you legs to run with. The sordid tale of an asylum gone mad is cliche but riveting, the gameplay simple but gripping and the art direction beautiful but harrowing.
Outlast casts you as a normal man, Miles Upshur, a journalist, investigating a disaster that has occurred at an allegedly corrupt mental asylum. Inside lie the many dead, watched over by monsters who vaguely resemble men, and the broken few who remain, not yet monsters but also not quite human. It isn't one of the best games I've ever played but in terms of it achieving the atmosphere it wants to it is near infallible. Blood soaks every nook and cranny, the dead litter the rooms and the monsters haunt you every step of the way.
The soundtrack haemorrhages insanity, the walls drip with despair and the ragged, petrified breaths of Miles wait with you as you peek round a corner, flinch with you as a monster swings a club in your direction and pauses every time you splash in spilled water. In this game you do not play as Miles Upshur, you are Miles Upshur. The atmosphere is simply incredible.
Others have criticised the gameplay as being too simplistic, run and hide and that's it they say. Some have said tasks like switching on generators for power are dull gaming tropes. I say the running and hiding is terrifying and is engaging because of that and I say in a dilapidated mental asylum you may well need to switch on a generator and the all pervading fear the game inspires makes this task the most engaging thing you may have done in a game. It demands every ounce of your attention because if you make a mistake someone, or something, will cave your skull in.
The beauty and detail of the world only adds to this sense of dread. Look down and, as in real life, you can see your entire body below your neck line. Peer round a corner and your hand will hold onto to what you are leaning around. Step in water and it will splash and make a sound. Run too quickly and your heavy footfalls will arouse attention. Perhaps it is too detailed for its own good because you notice the fact that enemies, for some reason, can't hear your breathing. A mechanic where, when hiding in a locker, you could cover your mouth or hold your breath would have been a fantastic touch.
Likewise, as I discussed in my piece on Monday, at times you will yearn to be able to sneak up on someone and bash them around the head with a hard object, it's a real instinct, one you may have in real life, and not being able to act on it is occasionally very jarring.
Still, criticising this game with much seriousness is tough, it's so good at putting you in the shoes of Miles, making you afraid of where you are, what you see and what might see you, that you can easily overlook it's shortcomings. This is simply one of the best games to hit the PS4 so far and is yet another astonishingly strong reason to sign up for PS Plus. This is an utterly fantastic game and it's an experience that will stay with you for a long time after you survive it.