Monday, February 10, 2014

It's just a small complaint, really

Spoiler curfew is up, time to talk about Outlast.

I really don't want to rip into Outlast. It's a good game, especially since it appears to be the first title that Red Barrels has produced. Being scary is not easy, especially when you take into account that different things scare different people, and this is precisely where Outlast and I have a bit of a falling out. Jump scares annoy me, they don't frighten me. They are a cheap way to get a reaction and the early parts of Outlast lean on them a bit too much. Once I could predict them with reasonable accuracy it lost most of its punch.

Secondly the game's setting and theme never really resonated with me. Crazy guys in dark hallways aren't scary because you know exactly what they want to do: kill you. There is no unknown and the unknown is what I find most frightening. Ghosts and the supernatural will always get more of a reaction out of me for reasons that I myself do not understand. I know that there isn't going to be a giant inmate who has peeled off his own lips waiting around the corner when I go up the stairs at the end of the night. I know that there isn't a ghost there, either, but somehow the ghost feels more plausible. This is why Fatal Frame left me a mess and Outlast did not, it just never pressed the right buttons.

Up until the last hour I was still enjoying Outlast. It was definitely a moody, intense game that kept playing a wimpy protagonist from getting old. The first time I saw the Walrider I did get the shivers because the game didn't explain what it was. Then in the last hour the game explains exactly what the Walrider was in far too much detail. No ghosts, no spooks, no monsters or demons, just World War 2 era Nazi experiments with nanomachines.

Fucking nanomachines. The last level abandoned the dark hallways of the asylum for brightly lit corridors that would have been right at home in Resident Evil or FEAR. Only Resident Evil stopped trying to be frightening years ago and FEAR was nice and scary because of Alma (at least the first one was, anyway). I have talked about the third act collapse before. This is right up there with the worst of them in that is lessens the effect of everything that comes before on subsequent playthroughs.

Here's how you fix this: as soon as the Father immolates himself on the cross turn the game off. Just turn it off. There is nothing worth seeing after that. Some sense of mystery will be maintained. If you need more closure pretend that the two naked guys who stopped chasing you long enough to hold the door to the crucifiction room open cut out your spleen when it was done.

Anything is better that nanomachines and a set piece right out of Minority Report. Ugh.

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