Game Review: Outlast: Whistleblower DLC
By Ross Wildish - 15th August 2014
The recent spate of jump-scare horror games has been filled with indie developers cashing in on the trend. Quickly cobbled-together titles have been lapped up by YouTubers, who have recognised the market for face-cam freak-outs. As expected, many of these titles are poorly made; they’re rushed together simply to try and make some money while the genre is still hot. However, there have been some successes.
Released in late 2013, Outlast was a shining example of how to make a horror game that doesn’t just rely on cheap jump-scares, but also on tense atmosphere, gritty visuals and immersive gameplay. Now the story continues with the Whistleblower DLC, which is a semi-prequel to the main story.
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)
You play the character of Waylon Park, a software engineer working for the shady Murkoff Corporation. Waylon was the anonymous source from the first story, leading Miles Upshur to Mount Massive. This time, we see things from Park’s perspective both slightly before and after the main storyline.
As chaos begins to fall on Mount Massive, Park is faced with the many twisted individuals tortured by the Murkoff Corporation’s experiments. Cannibals, schizophrenics and genital-mutilating serial killers are but a few of the colourful individuals you’ll meet roaming around.
Whistleblower is completely unforgiving in its violent and disturbing imagery; wandering around the Mount Massive Asylum, you see all manner of lovely things - such as a man masturbating over a pile of corpses. You are surrounded with events like this, some interactive and some not, that give you a sense of how insane these people really are.
You are never quite sure just whether people are actually dangerous in Outlast; some individuals will threaten to cut out your liver, but not actually hurt you, while others will seem all but dead until you walk past them. The constant uncertainty keeps you on your edge, forcing you to view every individual you meet as a potential threat. This is probably an acceptable way to behave in an asylum full of murderers and rapists.
Probably the most important character in Whistleblower is the asylum itself; dark corridors, walls covered in blood, smashed windows and body parts scattered about—Mount Massive is as close to a man-made hell as it is possible to imagine. Each area of the asylum has its own feel, while still seeming to be part of the same building. The sheer size of the place would make it fun to explore if it weren’t for the many dangers.
There are a few games that have tried to change the way we interact with environments and they’ve all had varying degrees of success. Outlast continues the use of the camera as your only defence. Batteries run out quickly, and using night vision too much could result in you being left fumbling around in the darkness. It has the interesting effect of making the game feel both more realistic and cinematic at the same time. You are seeing things through the eyes of Park but you are also documenting events, watching drama unfold.
The great thing about games is that they place you directly in the action rather than simply being a witness, invoking much stronger reactions. Whistleblower takes full advantage of this, creating the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had from a horror game. Hopefully this DLC is just the first of many for Outlast, as this story clearly has a lot more to give.
Outlast and Outlast: Whistleblower are available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.