Halloween Special: Outlast

To celebrate Halloween this year, I picked up a few horror games on the Steam sale to tide me over. Not that I’m a fan of horror games, but one night of jumpscares a year is enough. Last year, I tried Five Nights at Freddy’s but ran out of power at 4am on Night 2, with two animatronics advancing on the office, and noped the hell out of there.

Thankfully I’ve played a bit more of a horror game this year – in fact I’ve played more of 3 – so here are some of my thoughts on Outlast.

The premise behind Outlast is very interesting: you are an investigative journalist, poking around a mental asylum with only your trusty video camera by your side – this comes with a handy night vision setting, so you can use it to look through dark areas. You can’t fight back, you can only run and hide. It’s unsettling to play a game where you can’t really do anything, when you would usually expect to have a Glock and a steady hand. 

Exploring the asylum is nerve wracking, fearing what might be around the corner and running at the first sight of trouble. Just what you’d expect if you were actually there. 

You’re on a timer when you’re in the dark, as the camera battery will drain out so you’re relying on memory and hope that there isn’t something waiting for you in the corner. Batteries are scattered around, but they’re tiny and easy to miss. You are expected to ‘reload’ your battery as well, another clever twist on the usual format.

The story is dripped to you piece by piece as you explore and point your camera at different bits of intrigue and record something. Only once (in my playtime) was something jumpscared into my notepad. It would be nice if there was a little more direction for what you’re meant to be recording, because my camera was up and down all the time – but, in the thick of it, how would you know what’s important?

Outlast is a tense and confined experience, forcing you to stare through a camera lense to see where you’re going to hiding in a locker when a patient is on the prowl. It turns a number of usual concepts on their head to present the story to you, taking the player out of their comfort zone – but, for this experience, it works. You are just a reporter looking for a big scoop, all you have is a camera – even in America you’d be pushed to lug around a gun for protection, let alone finding ammo in a hospital.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

In the world of nerdism, you’d be hard pushed to place anything above Lord of the Rings as ‘the nerdiest thing ever’ – a rich, detailed world that essentially defined fantasy genre, that has entertained generations of readers. It should be the perfect setting for a game, probably the best fantasy game you can imagine, but designers have stumbled while bringing Middle-earth to life. Lord of the Rings Online was, thankfully, the last time I had a go at becoming a Hobbit and going on an adventure.

In September 2014, Monolith Productions took a shot at the Middle-earth mythos with Shadow of Mordor. The first that a lot of people saw was a gameplay video that was very reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed, with a focus on stealth, sneaky kills and free-running; there were some other controversies there as well, through some shady actions on Warner Brothers’ part, but we’ll leave that to Google to remember.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum

In 2009, Rocksteady gave fans around the world the chance to don the mask of the world’s favourite billionaire superman with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Having captured the Joker in unknown circumstances, you bring the Clown Prince of Crime to the ‘best’ institute for the criminally insane; the titular Arkham Asylum. In one night, things rapidly spiral out of control and you’ll need to use your skills and gadgets to set things straight.

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This should have sold you already.

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is the latest offering to the main Assassin’s Creed storyline, set in Victorian London because of course it is. London is great. So great, in fact, that I moved to Manchester. The game is the second in what I’m calling the “Pre-Modern Trilogy” in the series, following Unity, but I’ll get to that later. Set in 1868, you play as Jacob and Evie Frye and set about liberating the City from the Templars. All in all, nothing has changed but everything is different.

Syndicate was the first entry to the series that I’ve been genuinely interested in since Revelations, way back in the cool Ezio Trilogy. I’ve played every game in main series so far, and that’s including Unity. Syndicate is what Unity could have been, if they’d bothered to finish programming the game. There weren’t any game-breaking bugs, everyone’s face stayed firmly in place and everything from the controls to story felt more refined. Having said that, apparently the DLC skipped past that sort of quality control and is quite poor.

The new gimmick for this game is the Rope Launcher, a handy addition to your Hidden Swiss Army Blade that you can use to create makeshift ziplines between rooftops or grapple immediately to said rooftop. This made movement through London’s streets a lot quicker and easier, but felt like it was taking giant strides away from one of core elements of Assassin’s Creed. It’s not as rewarding to synchronise your viewpoints, when you can just stand on a nearby rooftop and fire a grappling hook at the peak.

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You don’t want to associate with the common muck, walking on the GROUND with their FEET.

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