The most priceless moment with any kind of art is when you already got your ticket to the imagery world and stopped for a second at the gates. That moment is unrepeatable, when you're already observing a game launcher icon and just imagining, where this journey would take you. There are uncountable billions of possibilities what to imagine, while in fact you're observing your own personal expectations and dreams. And even if you're staring at the facade of the abandoned asylum, which you have visited for hundreds of times in all those mental hospital theme stories with uncontrollable doctors, experimenting with unfortunate patients, there are still thousands of possibilities what to expect.
Outlast would not present you with anything, but absolutely standard abandoned asylum far-long burned-out campfire horror story. There's no gold in the depleted mine of brutal medical experiments, which turned the place of the highest benefaction of healing people into the church of pain and tears. Are those persistently hunting you mumbling crazies, no way distinguishable from the skinny zombies, everything you've been afraid to face? Haven't you already met those fanatically suicidal pseudo new religion sectarians somewhere else? Are those desolated interiors richly decorated with blood splashes of past murders, blood painted pseudo intriguing phrases and shimmering lights of electric lamps and candles is anything, but an annoying cliche? Endless rain and thunder... Ubiquitous shadows of never-escape barred windows... Infinite night darkness... Perpetual empty cabinets of personnel with never-stop-working monitors... Is this really everything you could imagine, while you were staying at the gates and staring at the ancient abandoned asylum somewhere in the remote mountainous terrain at the gorgeous dusk?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the usage of any specific genre cliches, such as a haunted castle or mansion, an abandoned asylum, holy grounds of a gothic cathedral, cemeteries, etc. That is the indescribable magic of art, that allows you to approach the Last Supper scene for thousand and first time and fantastically it would not ever become truly the last one supper. Outlast impertinently offers you to enjoy the same old carte with a set of predictable mental hospital dishes all along the playthrough. And some people, quite a crowdy audience of pretty thankful consumers, do like to visit the same restaurant and munch good old predictable bloody steak.
Cinematography, theatrical performances, literature and comic magazines allow to control our attention all along the storypath with an intrigue at the beginning, with a set of unexpected plot twists and finally with a disclosure of secrets at the very end. Everything is under control, where to look and what should we memorize unconsciously, when should we rise our attention or vice versa make a pleasant sigh of relief, eventually even the rhythm of our heart beating is under control. With the games everything is contrary nearly uncontrollable as long as the whole magnetism of computer games is based on interactivity and freedom of choice. And as a result for a game developer the most effective way to share his story or vision with the people and make it memorable are game quests. The rule is truly that simple, that a game quest is the only way, most effective way to momentary rise our "freedom-of-choice-attention" and push our thoughts and presumptions in some certain direction. And therefore the game story should be told at most through the quests sequence in order to create a truly interactive and highly immersive story.
Outlast developers didn't bother to chain together plot twists and game quests. To find a key in order to... To find the rusty valves in order to... To find a pack of electro fuses in order to... in order to proceed to a new area. Search for something and that's all about quests. And while your protagonist is always searching for something in order to... there is always an enemy searching for your protagonist. You search, they search, you search, they search, you search, they search... Somehow that gameplay circle does build the atmosphere of the real mental hospital with daily, weekly, yearly, forever and ever repeating hypnotizing procedure of healing and being a patient. It would not be surprising to face McMurphy somewhere in those corridors of that abandoned asylum or simply discover his name in the patients list.
Outlast storyline is not just overused and thus predictable, but also boring and primitive as long as there are no significant plot twists. Outlast is just about entering an asylum, collecting documents about experiments and finally stopping that out of control experiment. That’s all about the storyline, there’s nothing more in the basement. As a result there were simply nothing in the storyline to chain with quests and they’re predictably just as boring and primitive as the storyline itself.
Interactive story telling is not just about quests sequence. Not to mention that reading documents surely isn't the best way to disclosure plot secrets and mysteries. As long as games decorations are open for free exploration by the player, unlike cinematographic decors which are under control of the director of photography, the game environment alone is a really amusing way to share your story without any quests or characters and dialogs or notes collecting. Explorations of the detailed interiors and interactions with dynamic objects could tell a lot more of what happened and in a lot more effective way, immersing a player into the imagery game universe, ready to whisper its chilling story.
Outlast abandoned asylum meets you with a couple of derelict formidable military cars and that's a very simple, but still effective way to warn me, that the situation here is truly out of control, so much out of control, that personnel of the hospital had to invite soldiers to take situation back under control. But while I am standing near the main entrance, there are no voices, no shots, nothing but silence. And thus I may realize, that the situation is still out of control and worst of all seems like weapons have not helped at all. Frightened quite a bit with trying to imagine the fears I would face by entering that forsaken place I am bravely continuing to search for a way to sneak inside of the abandoned asylum. It does not take a minute to discover the scaffoldings outside a hospital wing. Silent observation of those scaffoldings gives me the clear understanding that somebody decided to reopen far long abandoned asylum and began to restore the ancient building. What is the reason for reopening far long abandoned asylum? As long as I have already seen military tanks and heard no sounds of life I am free to presume, that someone and probably a greedy corporation was interested not in healing, but in continuing some yet mysterious for me experiments. And... And that's just the very beginning of the game without any quests, notes or dialogs. That's how Outlast could tell me the whole thrilling story, at least some parts of the mysterious story of the abandoned asylum. And that's something that haven't happened. There are some places, that did whisper some details of the story, no matter of how simple and predictable those details of the story were, but in fact there are only a few, woefully few of such silently-speaking parts of the environment.
Outlast level design is just professional, which is surely admirable. There is nothing really interesting to highlight and celebrate with a special attention. Everything is polished like a diamond, a real visual pleasure. Meaningless and pointless, but nevertheless a real visual pleasure. Outlast level design is absolutely linear, all areas or locations are isolated one from another completely. Therefore it's impossible to arrange a free-roaming-exploration tour throughout the ancient abandoned asylum in order to admire the detailed models and photorealistic textures, eye-catching well-thought-out combinations of colors throughout all of the interiors, lights and shadows efficiently working on each other, etc.
There is a widespread belief that the first person view is rising the immersion, the effect of the presence in the imagery world. And that is where Outlast does shine upon the entire game developers and game players undividable worlds. That is where Outlast is presenting an unprecedentedly impressive first person view experience, rising the immersion to the tops of the mountains, surrounding that cursed abandoned asylum. Outlast offers not just a clumsy model of your protagonist body, it offers the widescale set of lively animations for just about everything you could do within the walls of the mental hospital. And your protagonist could do a lots of things, it would not be a surprise to notice that he can walk, run, crawl, crouch and jump, but also and that's a bit more surprising he can pull on his hands for example to get into the ventilation, he can hang on the hands and move on the parapet just outside the windows, he can squeeze through narrow passages, he can slowly move along the wall on residues of the collapsed floor, etc. Most memorable Outlast developers touch is that lively animation of leaning and looking into the dangerously silent hall through the door, while one of your hands gently rests on the doorframe. With no doubts the first person view offered by the Outlast developers is just outstanding. And in general in conclusion that is the only one absolute victory of the Outlast. Everything else and truly everything could be praised or criticized.