If Telltale Games’ adaptation of the popular comic The Walking Dead, can do anything, it’s deliver. The first five-episode season won Game of the Year in 2012 (beating my personal favourite, Dishonored), went on to sell well over one million copies over three gaming platforms, and was only the fourth video game to ever make me cry (and believe me, I’ve played A LOT of video games).
But unfortunately, I felt a little deflated by Season Two, especially towards the end of the run. Everything started off well at the beginning of the season - you are thrown straight into the action and are left on a cliffhanger at several occasions, and are also left asking a lot of questions - the answers to which are slowly unravelled like a ball of wool as the game unfolds, whilst adapting to the choices and the decisions which you the player, in the role of Clementine (the returning heroine from the first season) have to make.
Are some of them hard decisions? Why of course. Are some of them unfair or unjust? Definitely. Are some of them completely pointless and have no effect on the story whatsoever? You bet your sweet arse on it.
Unfortunately, the latter was the biggest downside of the game for me – it was like after roughly halfway through Episode 4, the writers just couldn’t be bothered and all downed tools and went to the pub, leaving the remaining part of that episode, and its concluding finale in Episode 5, to the juniors and the interns. I lost all empathy for all of the support characters by this point and at the very end, I even found Clementine unbelievable.
Of course I am aware this is all fictional and I am willingly playing a video game and not a re-enactment of a real life event, but that metaphorical hold which Clementine had over me throughout the entire first season was loosened – I cared about that kid as if she were my own flesh & blood whilst she adventured across America with the hero of the season, Lee, but when she found herself on her own and eventually a part of an ever changing, ever evolving group of both friends and survivors, I found her attitude had changed for the worst – in the same kind of way that Lara Croft became a seasoned fighter after roughly four kills in the popular 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. The last two scenes of the game didn’t make me cry or feel any empathy towards the very few remaining characters, it was like Episode 5 was just building up and up to something which never happened.
Despite all the criticism I am firing at the game, it did have some solid, positive aspects – all of the characters and their backgrounds were varied and well thought out, and I liked how a large part of the cast were represented by POC, a refreshing change in many “whitewashed” video games. There were two, perhaps three, genuinely good plot twists which I did not anticipate at all, the cameos from the characters that appeared in the 400 Days DLC mini-episode were a nice thought and definitely a worthy addition to the storyline, and the voice acting, as in Season One, was absolutely fantastic as well. At the moment we are unaware as to whether Telltale will be making a third season of the franchise, but if they do, they need to put that spark, that fire, back into the plot, the one which shone in Season One, but had all been reduced to embers by the end of Season Two.
Overall, this title is worth a play – but please don’t get your hopes up too much.
This unlicensed, free, Earthbound-esque, rap-em-up game lets you do everything you’ve always wanted to do in a video game: be Kanye West. It all starts out simply enough, you need to put on your Kanye Vest and get Kanye Dressed. I’m not being clever, those puns are all made on the first screen of the game. After you get (Kanye) dressed you need to take out the trash and that’s where everything turns a little odd. You get pulled through a wormhole to the year 3030 where a clone of Based God rules the world, and you encounter clones of Eminem, Dre, ODB, and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. The soundtrack in the game is short snippets of Kanye West songs in piano form, which is a fun little addition.While the game is free, you have to download the engine for the game as well, which is linked on the games download page: http://kanyequest3030.tumblr.com/download
When Chucklefish announced Starbound back in February of 2012, I started bristling with excitement. It looked like Terraria in space and according to Steam, I’ve put 401 hours of my life into Terraria, so you can understand my excitement about a 2D building sandbox with spaceships and aliens. Finn “Tiyuri” Brice, formerly an artist for Terraria and now the lead developer for Starbound, said it would be ready for public release by the end of 2012, then later announced it would be ready by the end of 2013, putting off final release, stating that the studio did not want to release a game that wasn’t finished. Chucklefish eventually released the game on December 4th 2013 on Steam’s Early Access, a section of the Steam store designed specifically for games that are in a playable Beta, charging as much as $99 (around £58) for a game that is unfinished. Starbound currently feels just that, unfinished. Many features that were promised are still not implemented in the game, and tooltips for some items are missing. At the time of writing, the game still has no concrete release date.
Granted, with the purchase of the unfinished game on Early Access, you also receive the finished game, if it gets finished. Earth: Year 2066 was put up on Early Access, before being deemed too unfinished to be sold. The game was removed from the Steam store, and people who purchased the game were offered a refund for the $19.99 (about £11.90) that the game cost. Earth: Year 2066 was so far in beta, that you could not die, you often shot up into the air for no reason, the textures would glitch into each other, the game would often crash, and it looked like a poor man’s Fallout New Vegas, if it were released on the original PlayStation. How finished does a game need to be for it to be eligible for early release, how is that measured, and who gets to decide that? These are questions Valve and other online stores will need to ask themselves if they plan on continuing to sell games before they are finished being developed.
Created by Supergiant Games, the same studio that developed the critically acclaimed action RPG Bastion, the recently released Transistor is a fantastic futuristic turn based sword-em-up with so much polish you could blind someone just by showing them a minute of gameplay.
In Transistor you play as Red, a young singer in Cloudbank, a brightly lit city, connected by bridges and highways. As this flame-haired protagonist, you come into possession of the titular Transistor, a talking sword that has the ability to do all sorts of nifty and damaging tricks when equipped with certain functions that you find throughout the game. Red is fighting the Camerata, a group responsible for the disappearances of high profile persons in the city. The whole game feels slightly Orwellian, with The Process, the main enemy in the game, present at every street corner and down every alley. The Process run the gambit of the generic videogame enemies, with seven or eight categories of them, but only two or three who do anything worth mentioning. For the sake of time and possible spoilers, I won’t go into what each enemy type does, though the combat is where the game shines. By pressing space you can effectively freeze time and plan out your next moves, using abilities or moving. During this time between turns, each action you take fills up a bar near the top of the screen, which when full, you can hit space and execute your move. Each ability can be modified with other abilities, and the whole system is sort of confusing to me so I won’t get into it much.
The music of this game is amazing, and it’s presented at just the right times. The art is unique, everything in the game bearing a hand painted look to it. The dialogue, most of which is given through a talking sword, is charming and humorous. The only point at which this game falls short is in variety during combat.
FIFA World Cup 2014 will, inherently, divide fans. It will, on the same virtue unite detractors of EA Sports’ FIFA Football franchise, who will say that EA will use any excuse to release a £40, reskinned version of the same video game to spin money. And they’re not totally wrong, either, it does seem that in the current gaming climate it would make more sense to release the world cup games as downloadable content, or accessible immediately in this case in FIFA 14.
Nonetheless, EA went ahead and they made it anyway, and somehow I ended up getting it. The game sits at a hefty £40 in most retailers and offers a few things different to the most recent iteration of the franchise. The game is a bright, Brazil-themed simulator of the upcoming World Cup, so the developers have added more of a festival atmosphere. An updated, more party-centric soundtrack of vaguely recognisable pop songs backs up the menus which are splashes of paint and bright colour and in some cases an improvement on FIFA’s sober, brushed white interface. It does feel a little passé however and much more of an afterthought than the crisper menus on the non-World Cup edition, closer to a 2006-era tournament game than 2014.
The game features a few gameplay tweaks, presumably to appeal more to the casual gamers who perhaps have no interest in FIFA’s massively popular Ultimate Team, but are more interested in a party game to celebrate what will undoubtedly be a thrilling World Cup. Some of the purer controls of FIFA 14 have been nerfed in place of a more forgiving, more automated feeling set of player controls, making movements and dribbling less autonomous - sometimes this works in the player’s favour, allowing players to feel as though they’re playing like the real Brazil national team, though at other times it can jar the gameplay and prevent players from doing exactly as they intended - which seems like a massive step backwards for a sport game. Shots move with a little more fizz and longer passes feel more refined however which makes for more spectacular goals.
The most interesting and attractive part for me personally and perhaps other football fans is the prospect of being able to play as all 204 of FIFA’s football federations from San Marino to Belgium, from Sri Lanka to Suriname. This is a fresh perspective on the yearly iteration, whose selection of national football teams is restricted largely to the more glamorous licensed squads, though the omission of teams like Japan, Croatia, Serbia and a few other relative big teams is felt sharply every year, and it’s nice to be able to play as the full host of international sides (it also helps that you’re by and large able to use more of your favourite team’s more abstract players - even England’s Adam Johnson makes the cut).
Ultimate Team is gone from FIFA World Cup, as you might imagine, and the game modes “Captain Your Country”, “Story Of Qualifying”, and “Road To The World Cup” are in place of the more familiar game modes. Captain Your Country allows you to create and train your own player to reach the world cup finals with any country of your choice, as well as being able to play four-player competitive co-op to get the captain’s armband. Story Of Qualifying offers a “Madden Moments”-esque one-shot attempt at changing the history of the teams that ultimately reached the World Cup finals this year, and Road To The World Cup is a simple career mode in which you can fight your way to the World Cup, and is one of the big selling points for the game (taking Scotland to the World Cup final goes down as one of my proudest moments, virtual or not). Another feature, “Story of Finals” will commence with the beginning of the world cup and will update regularly as the matches of the World Cup are played, letting players relive scenarios of the World Cup as and when they happen.
Though the price tag is almost completely unjustifiable, FIFA World Cup offers enough entertainment to justify picking up a pre-owned copy when you can, and for occasional users of the FIFA series this wouldn’t be the worst instalment of the game to pick up.
To borrow and paraphrase the slogan of a famous Danish beer company, Studio Ghibli don’t make video games, but they did, they’d probably end up a lot like Child Of Light. The download-only RPG from Ubisoft ticks off so many boxes of the typical Miyazaki movie; a young female protagonist? Check. Disconnected from family? Check. A strange magical world which may or may not be reality? Check. Sparse, plaintive orchestral soundtrack? Check! A cast of quirky secondary characters to help the protagonist on her way? Checkaroonie. There’s also a hell of inspiration drawn from other sources, from the blatant Legend Of Zelda shout-out in glowing firefly-esque helper Igniculus, to Pan’s Labyrinth, Sleeping Beauty and even Adventure Time, the inspirations behind Child Of Light are clear and plentiful, but not derivative.
Child Of Light centres around Aurora, a young Austrian girl in 1895 who suddenly becomes ill and falls into a deep sleep. Upon awaking, she finds herself in the fantasy world of Lemuria, a mythical land in which the sun the moon and the stars have been stolen by the Queen of Night. Aurora is soon given the quest of retrieving the celestial bodies in the hope that it may help her to reunite with the her family once more. If that sounds like 90% of the fairytales you’ve heard, it’s because that’s basinal what COL is; a big interactive fairytale. Other than the incessant twee rhyming dialogue, there’s not a huge amount of innovation or twists and turns plot-wise, and whilst that does hinder the game, it’s not the major selling point. Neither is the gameplay itself, although that is highly entertaining and at times, especially in the “boss fights”, rather challenging, despite being typical RPG fare; levelling up, crafting weapons, etc. The combat system is pretty fun however, similar to the Active Time Battles of Final Fantasy and Grandia II.
No, the major selling point is the utter beauty of the gam. The world of Lemuria is so wonderfully realised in a delicate watercolour style, with each are given its own distinctive feel and palette. It’s magical. The next time a debate breaks out over whether video games count as art, direct the naysayers to Child Of Light; if they don’t change their mind, they’re likely blind.
However, that level of heart-swelling beauty isn’t enough to elevate the rest of the game past average, and it really feels like after reaching the conclusion, you’d never play this again (at least not for a good five years, when nostalgia usually sets in) unless you’re an absolute completist and need to gather every minor side-quest and trophy. The few true flashes of brilliance are what make this a worthwhile experience, especially if you can look past the generic conventions so prevalent throughout.
The blockbuster game seems to be an increasingly less enticing property as video games seem to grow along with me. It’s exciting that the most impressive simulation experiences I’ve enjoyed in recent times have been for the most part indie games or developed by much smaller developers - the sheen of Bungie, EA, Rockstar Games, and Activision still hold a reasonable commercial pull, but smaller budget and more well devised games challenge the player in a way that big budget shooters and sports games do. The chiefest of these success stories being Minecraft, but other remarkable achievements such as Hotline Miami, Starbound, the recent masterpiece that is Goat Simulator and countless others. Games that are not valued as highly based on replayability, but on style, invention and artfulness.
The most recent such game comes in the form of FRACT OSC, a Phosfiend Systems creation and one of the most inventive video games released in the past few years. On the face of it, FRACT seems like a colourful first-person exploration game, but as the game grows and you grow into it, it becomes more of a puzzle game and in places a rhythm action game, though one more sophisticated than your Guitar Heroes and your Rock Bands.
The world of FRACT is alien, with smooth geometric landscapes pierced by fractured glowing pyramids and luminous tentacles. Dark, gloomy vistas open up before you from the get go and are never too far from your line of sight. This isn’t a Gears of War game, however, with neon lines and shapes floating in and out of view. The world feels endless, too, with platforms and shapes everywhere you look. A sleek fast travel system allows you to take in massive vistas of the world as you float over the world in order to return to the home hub or any fast travel station you choose.
Without a word of dialogue, and (to my knowledge) not a single bit of text on-screen after you’ve completed the tutorial introduction, the story or motivation for FRACT is simply left to you, but from what we know, it’s a quest to fix the damaged world of the broken synthesiser that you’ve found yourself in. Glowing crystals and giant orbs emit deep analog synth noises the closer you get, and Mogi Grumbles’ phenomenal soundtrack evokes a TRON-esque electro landscape, paired with the neon lights and ominous technology that populates the world makes for a truly brilliant environment to explore.
Controls are limited to movement and interaction - a right click brings a VHS static over the screen and an icon you can move around as in point-and-click adventures, but also reveals hidden consoles and head-up displays around the world. Fiddling and tinkering with the consoles will inevitably create bridges, platforms or move around parts of the machine. There’s an immense satisfaction to fixing the machine, as oscillations and rumblings return to the sometimes quiet world of the synthesiser.
Exploring the world is a joy of its own - massive caverns, structures and and land bridges are the main landmarks of the world and evoke the massive open world of Halo at times - a world created by who knows what, populated by who knows what - and wonderfully dilapidated. Parts of the machine lie idle amongst the structures and mechanics that still power the massive machine - one room in particular comes to mind, with massive holographic neon cubes activated by a simple left click that you have to move around to reactivate a large, synth powered elevator. The room is peppered with spare parts and additional elements of other cubes. It’s this attention to detail that really deepens the experience of FRACT OSC, encouraging your mind to wander as to the origins and downfall of this mysterious analog world.
In addition to the game’s main “story”, there’s also a Studio Mode, which is possible to enable from the beginning or unlock as you complete the main game, where in the opening hub you can explore a sort of music studio and synth maker, with glowing colours and extremely high levels of customisation. It may prove to be a little confusing if you’re unfamiliar with music production software, but is incredibly easy to play around with on a basic level without jarring you completely.
There are occasional moments where you can find yourself following a breadcrumb trail only to find yourself at a dead end with no interfaces or puzzles to solve, although these can be just as rewarding partly down to the impressively beautiful visuals of the game. It’s recommended before you play this to check out the specs of your sound card, as if you’ve underestimated your sound card there could be a fair amount of audio tearing due to the game’s massive low end audio and sound-based gameplay. The audio design however is truly inspired and sounds and songs flow seamlessly into each other. At a reasonable enough £10.99, it’s well worth the money and it’s unlikely you’ll have as unique a playing experience as this all year.
South Park might be a comedy institution, but it hasn’t had much of a glowing reputation when switching media away from its native television. Sure, the feature film was great, but it’s now fifteen years old (bet that makes you feel old) and sort of dated, whilst the show’s history in gaming is spotty at best. From terrible tower defence knock-offs to kart racers to 8-bit platformers to the infamously poor N64 adaptation, the fictional town’s name has been dragged through the virtual mud thanks to console gaming, which, along with numerous delays, is why The Stick Of Truth hasn’t had a huge amount of gamers on tenterhooks for its release.
With poor past form like that, it’s not saying much to say The Stick Of Truth is the best South Park game to date, but it genuinely is. It’s essentially a massive interactive episode, a semi-sequel to the recent Game Of Thrones-aping Black Friday trilogy from Season 17, right down to looking impressively exactly like a real episode. The universe of the show is wonderfully realised, from the key locations to previously unseen spots, and even a 16-bit version of Canada to roam around. It’s likely nearly every living character on the show features at some point too, even long-unseen names like Big Gay Al, ManBearPig, and the Moo aliens.
You play as The New Kid, a recent arrival in South Park, who moved due to mysterious circumstances and is dropped straight into a huge city-wide LARP war between the humans (led by Cartman and Butters and the Elves (led by Kyle, Stan and Princess Kenny). But as is wont to happen in South Park, things soon spiral out of control.
The game as a whole is possibly the greatest achievement of the show since the Imaginationland episodes. It’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone at their puerile, ridiculous, controversial, inventive, hilarious best, taking aim at, well, everything. It’s specifically their shots at the tropes and cliches of video game culture that land best; silent protagonists, pointless filler audio logs, useless trophies, the overuse of Nazis and zombies as antagonists. It’s both a well-done RPG and an on-point satire of the entire genre.
However, despite the numerous things to love about The Stick Of Truth, there’s an almost equal list of flaws. There are a number of glitches and bugs, with stutters, freezing and loading problems throughout; after such a long-delayed release, it’s ridiculous to find such basic issues still embedded in the game. And despite the massive depth of the game and that it delves so deep into the show’s continuity, this is a pretty short experience. Including the side-quests, Stick should probably take up at most 15 hours of time for the average gamer (it took me a little longer personally; despite gaming for probably sixteen years, my skills are casual-level at best), which is fairly brief for any RPG.
The gameplay itself is also finds itself in the cons column. The turn-based battle system ends up frustratingly repetitive and fiddly, lag often screwing you over at important points and an oddly low level cap meaning you hit the ability ceiling fairly fast.
However, the sticking point for many may come from the game’s script. Now, if you’ve never been a South Park fan in its 18 years of existence, you’re not going to buy this game regardless of any review or any rating, but to those who at the very least like the show and would consider playing Stick, it’s likely it’ll push your sensibilities to the max. Along with the usual expected toilet humour, there are sequences and elements which probably just go that bit too far; in fact a number of certain scenes involving abortion and anal probing have actually been censored in Europe and Australia (replaced by, respectively, a facepalming Statue Of David and a koala bear, as well as a snarky description of what would be happening in the uncensored version), whilst somehow the use of Adolf Hitler’s voice goes through unchanged. A lot of other gags really depend on your comedic taste and general tolerance for “offensive humour”; what is and isn’t okay to joke about. Perhaps it’s just my views on life and comedy haven’t aligned with Parker & Stone’s as I’ve grown up with the show; both it and this game are very funny, just often in ways that I usually feel guilty about laughing at.
Hmm, well, I’m not really sure about this one. Usually I make a snap decision about a game and spend the rest of the time playing it trying to convince myself to be objective and form a well-rounded opinion.
For those of you who don’t know, Fable Anniversary is a remake of the original Fable, to celebrate its tenth anniversary; see what they did there? I always thought that the first Fable was my favourite out of the three, and I still think it is… I think. I’m just not sure anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, this is very much an improvement on the first game; the graphics, lighting and overall smoothness of the game is obviously improved. But that’s pretty much it. To me, they’ve basically given it a complete aesthetic make over, but then just gone “Well, it looks prettier, fuck it”.
I just feel like they could have done more with it, like, the ability to dual wield magic in the later games was awesome, so was the fact you could have a dog, and kids, and so many things. I understand it would have been a task, but if they could have adapted all of the improvements they made in the later game into the original, I think the whole experience would have come off a lot more nicely. And yes, I’m sure some purists love it the way it is, and that all the new things they put into the Fable series as the years went on were awful, but fuck them, they’re essentially wrong.
I’m not stupid; I understand what a re-make is. I just think they could have made a little more.
I get that you’ve got to stick to the bones of the first game, and avoid just making Fable 4 (which wouldn’t be awful to be fair), but if you stick to, say, the bones of your ex, and build them from the skeleton up to be a lot more attractive, they might still have that really annoying voice or still might be a total dickhead. Regardless of how much you might change how they look, sometimes you’ve got to go a little bit deeper than that.
I think I’m making it out to be a bad game, which it isn’t, it really isn’t. I think that when Fable first came out in 2004, it was great. It was new and exciting and depending on your choices, different shit happened. It was literally a milestone for mainstream gaming (I say mainstream because one of the designers Peter Molyneux had already had one or two games with similar ideas (such as Black And White) but none before Fable had the same level of exposure and success). There’s no doubt that this game inspired many games after it, but that’s kind of the point. The Fable formulae has been developed and improved, not only by Lionhead Studios, but by game developers world-wide. From the KOTOR series and the Mass Effect franchise, all the way to the more recent Dragon Age games, choices in game have such a massive role, and a lot of that is thanks to games like this.
Saying that, just because it’s one of the originals, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Sure, I think everyone’s thankful that some Homo erectus invented the wheel, but I doubt you’ll be rocking the “stone wheel” look on your car anytime soon.
Things change, things improve, and I think there’s room for re-makes for games, but just, better ones. Granted, the new version boasts a whole new save system and - wait for it - achievements! I know, applause and awe, right? Maybe I’m just not in a very nostalgic mood, but then again, I was when the game arrived, and it seems to knock me right out of it.
I hadn’t played the original for what seems like years, (and actually might be quite close to that) but within the first hour of gameplay it went from “Oh my god, I remember that from the first game, isn’t that cool!” to “Oh, I remember that, and that, and that. They haven’t really changed much have they?” Everybody knows that once you complete a game, you should give it a little bit of time before you go back to it, or you won’t get the full effect and it’ll just be repetitive for you. I don’t know about you, but I think a few years is easily enough time before going back to a game, but within no time at all I felt like I’d been playing it yesterday, (and not in the “I remember like it was yesterday” kind of way, as in the “I feel like I’ve walked this dull path from the Hero’s Guild to the lookout point 1000 times, they still haven’t upgraded the fast travel have they? Looks like I’ll just be killing these annoying as fuck bees for a while then.”) There’s just a certain amount of improvements you have to do before you can re-release a game, and I think Lionhead studios are just below the quota on this one. Every time they released a new Fable I thought “Someone’s milking the cash cow again”, but each time it was actually an improvement (generally), and each one changed my mind… until this one.
I’ll just have to play through it a few more times and hope the nostalgia comes back in waves and hordes, hopefully then I’ll be able to find it slightly more palatable.
It’s not a bad game, it’s actually quite a good game, but I just think if you want a trip down memory lane with this game franchise, then just save yourself some time (and about £25) by downloading the first one instead. If you want to look back fondly on a game’s past, you go for Pokémon Red or Blue, not Leaf Green or Fire Red.
Some things shouldn’t be messed with, but if they are, they should be messed with sufficiently to make an adequate improvement. Maybe I’m just being narky because I don’t have plans for Valentines. Fuck the world.
I vividly remember waking up from nightmares as a small child. Peering out into what appeared to be never ending darkness, a sea of shadows that the longer I stare always seem to stare right back at me. Wondering as you watch, if you are in turn being watched, something is almost smelling you, waiting for you to stumble into the darkness and straight into it’s arms. This is how it feels to play the recently released on the PS4 (previously PC exclusive) first person survival horror Outlast.
Outlast is a profoundly and continually terrifying experience. Set in the remote mountains of Colorado, at fictional Mount Massive Asylum, we find ourselves thrust into the shoes of Miles Upshire, an independent journalist acting on the tips of a former insider at the institute. We begin the game by stepping out of Miles’ car and onto the harrowing and beautiful grounds of the asylum. It’s from this point on that our defenceless four hour journey into the heart of darkness begins. It’s a unique and brutal experience like no other. Despite having endured and enjoyed all the Silent Hills, Resident Evils (before they got all awful) and Amnesias that the world had to throw at me, nothing has chilled me, thrilled me and consistently thrown me from my chair as often as Outlast did.
One of the things that makes Outlast such a unique experience is the shoes you are thrown into. Miles is a journalist. Not a former marine or a super muscled Batman-esque anti hero. He’s just a dude with a night vision camera and as Outlast continues to scare the holy balls out of you, it becomes abundantly clear that Miles had no idea what he was setting himself up for when he stepped onto the grounds of this godforsaken nuthouse. Outlast is a beautiful experience, with astounding lighting that makes up much of the dynamic of the game, using darkness and shadows as places to hide but stark hallway lighting or swinging disembodied florescent bulbs as neon signs for the inmates of Mount Massive to use as a visual GPS. It also sounds fantastic. I have read reviews that stated that Outlast’s sound design falls down if not enjoyed through a headset but I can personally tell you that the ambience and effect of the soundscape is not lost on regular speakers. Running dually through my TV and a 7.1 top of the line sound bar, every creak, grunt, smash and harrowing laugh was heard to a near pitch perfect level.
Having never played the PC version (this is a port, after all) I can’t speak for the original control scheme, but the PS4 version is dead on in terms of the usability and functionality of the use of the Dualshock 4, using your limited abilities and mapping them brilliantly to the controller. I was in terror of every turn of every doorknob. Every small rumble of the controller as I waited inside a locker or under an upturned hospital bed filled me with suspense and a burning desire to soil myself and hide under my own bed. The world that is created within Outlast is one that I was yet to experience before this week and I doubt it is one I will experience again anytime soon because within the walls of that institute, I, a grown man, was reduced to a shaking & swearing shell.
Details are key within this world. Whether those details be inmate’s following you through footprints left by traipsing through a puddle of blood, or a door left open where it was previously closed before. Every detail has meaning and that meaning usually leads to turning a corner into a psychopath wielding a knife or a bat or a severed human arm.
With so many small gorgeous details, all of which fill a very well realized world, brimming over with malice and ill intent, the one thing that seems to have gone amiss is attention to detail in the enemy character models. They are downright ugly and I don’t mean because they have missing lips or a patch of skin stitched over one eye. The character models are.. average, aside from a few stand outs. Including one particularly nasty customer met later on in the game who bares a striking resemblance to Doctor Satan. Points for anyone who get’s that reference.
In Outlast, your aim is to discover the truth but you can’t do that if you can’t stay alive. There are no shotgun’s in Outlast, you can’t charge at your attackers with a knife or swing a bat at their enormous, hideous faces. You have two choices, run and hide or die and sometimes, running and hiding will get you lost or thrown into a corner or a dead end and when you turn around and are faced with an axe wielding inmate. You only have the other choice, die. Within the walls of Mount Massive, I died. I died a lot. I ran, I hid, I jumped, I screamed and most of the time, I died but in no way should this be considered a bad thing. You need to watch, learn and adapt to survive in Outlast and once you’ve mastered hiding and taking the chances you need to in order to get away, that is when Outlast is at its most rewarding.
Your saving grace in Outlast comes in the form of your camera. For Miles Upshire it’s a fantastic way to keep a record of the horrors he experiences but for you, it’s the only eye you have in what sometimes feels like a never ending stretch of dark hallways. Lined with dried and fresh blood and the parts of the dismembered men who came before you and it’s this camera that brings us some of the games stand out moments. The scramble away from a maniac as your battery dies, hunting frantically for another in an attempt to use it to find a way to hide. Or in order to find your way around the environment, avoiding conflict as best you can, just to get to the next doorway or the next lit bulb. Your camera is a gift but in those moments when it dies or for some reason is unusable, the fact you are without it becomes a horrifying burden.
Outlast is an exercise in exploration and survival, it’s an experience like no other I have ever had and frankly, it’s one I’m not sure I’d want to experience again. It’s a tense, well-written, bleak and thoroughly harrowing journey into not only the depths of a home for the depraved but also the minds of those inmates. Not to mention, in many cases, the closet maniacs entrusted with caring for them. Stumbling across diaries, documents and case studies about the experiments that have gone on within these walls and in some cases, beyond them, only serves to create a darker world. A bleaker outlook for Miles and what may lay in front of him. It’s dark, terrifying and in most cases, I find it defies description. If you have a PS4 and a PS+ account, I implore you to download Outlast and give it four hours of your life. I guarantee they will be four hours well spent. Just don’t let Mount Massive get into your head, because when you power down your PS4 and put down your controller, those harrowing screams may just keep ringing through your brain and if they do, I can only apologise and sympathise.
Eventually they will go quiet. Eventually.