H.P. Lovecraft, the foremost creepy racist shut-in of our time, once said that “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” It’s evident in his stories, about vast unknowable terrors from beyond the stars blindly crushing humanity.
His point is that something is the scariest when you don’t understand it, can’t see it, and stand no chance against it. Horror is about returning you to that moment where, hunched under your blankets, all you can do is wait for the serial killer’s machete to fall.
There are moments in Outlast’s opening hour which trade heavily in this kind of mind melting madness. Creeping along the hallways of the ruined Mount Massive (what?) Hospital, it’s hard to not be overcome by the oppressively stagnant atmosphere that developer Red Barrels has meticulously crafted. Patients stalk the shadows, doing terrible things to each other, their beady eyes highlighted by the blurry nightvision filter on the handheld video camera that frames your experience.
Then you’re hiding in the dark, waiting for the same fat ugly naked psychopath you’ve seen for the last hour to patrol by again so you can go hit another switch. Eventually you just start to run past enemies, getting punched in the face but hey, that’s better than sitting in the dark for another twenty minutes. And look, there’s another head in another toilet.
Suddenly, it’s just not scary anymore. You’re no longer that kid under the blankets, desperate and terrified. No, you’re the crafty victor, darting from shadow to shadow, using your cunning to conquer your previously unstoppable foes. It’s like Splinter Cell, just without guns. Your camera even makes that annoying bwueeeeee noise.
But when you’re creeping through the dark, your ragged breathing your only companion, Outlast is great.
Screenshot gallery after the bump.