I know not what happened this last September. It’s a month not typically known for its contributions to horror, and yet here we are, knee deep in viscera and a curious crimson ichor. I suppose it is irrational to question the origins of these generous bestowals. Forthwith I shall examine our subjects with utmost meticulosity.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC, Mac, Linux)
Developed by The Chinese Room, Published by Frictional Games
The stark scent of familiarity immediately fell upon me. I had been here before. No…rather, I had felt this before. Awakening in an a strange place, with naught but faint memories drifting from my mind. These two instances were separate events, and yet, they felt the same. These parallel nasencies are appreciated, as they formed a distinct grist to our so-called amnesiac mill.
I felt a slight perturbation when I rose; my body was not moving as I anticipated. Admittedly, this may have been mine own failing, as the machine with which I was operating this entire masquerade seemed to face troubles that I could not so easily resolve. As soon as I had gathered myself, I began to explore my lavish milieu. Promptly I discovered I was comfortable in this realm, despite my ominous surroundings.
And what surroundings they were! From an exceedingly sumptuous manor, to a caliginous, clockwork machine, I found myself in awe of my immediate environment. This was a world in which the much-maligned greys and browns were acceptable – no, appropriate – and made the sanguine splashes all the more sickening. At times I marveled at why the owner of the manse was so fond of the same portraits to the point where he paraded them in every corner, but that is neither here nor there.
The processes involved had been simplified in more than just these regards. One of the most harrowing memories I have of my previous encounter was that of conservation. Darkness was once a threat comparable to the creatures contained within this machine. I could taste the silken shadows as I cowered in them. But here? Shadows were merely a temporary obfuscation, easily remedied by the inexplicably limitless lantern I hold. While I am thankful for its usefulness, the tension I so relish had all but vanished.
Those creatures that I mentioned so furtively…they had become an obstacle easily circumvented. Never did I feel threatened by their presence, nor did they seem to interested in mine. Most times I dashed right past them without fearing that they would harm me, as the few glancing blows they landed to manage did very little to deter my progress. It is a saving grace that the machine itself held more of my interest than did these monstrosities.
Manipulating the objects around me was again a delight, though I wished for more devious applications of this ability. Oftentimes an enigma that I fancied would call for all sorts of shrewd trickery was rather simple in its solution. At first I thought this to be an unfortunate decision, but in hindsight, I have come to believe that the narrative is well-served by the actions at hand.
This haunting adventure was one that will stay with me for longer than presumed. This is a tale of love, hate, guilt, and responsibility. To say any more of that would be to pilfer possible pilgrims of a journey best left experienced personally. The beautifully eerie melodies that accompany this tale enrich the story, making you feel what you see deep in your marrow. Though some of what made my previous struggle so gorgeously macabre was lost in this iteration, it has found compensation in an enduring experience.
September 13th, 8:00 PM- Outlast is ready and waiting for me. Time to dig in, see what I can find out about Mount Massive. Taking my camera with me, just in case.
Outlast (PC, Mac, Linux)
Developed and Published by Red Barrels
September 13th, 8:02 PM- It’s beautiful. Sun is setting. Wind is tearing its way through the trees. Something isn’t right here, I intend to find out what it is.
September 13th, 8:05 PM- I’m inside the building. I had to climb up some scaffolding to get here. Luckily, I’m a pretty fit, agile guy. I’ve always had a good sense of movement, and it’s really coming into play here.
September 13, 8:10 PM- Everything is happening so fast. I’ve found blood, organs, bodies. I am not alone here. Night vision function on camera coming in handy.
September 13, 8:15 PM- I just watched a man DIE. Have to get out.
September 13, Time Unknown- I was thrown down by….something. I just woke up, no idea how long I was out. Journal entries will be tricky from now on.
I ran into a few inmates. They…didn’t even notice me. They were staring at the white noise on a television. I almost shat my pants when I walked into the room. I’d almost feel better if they chased me.
Careful what you wish for. They’re after me now. Ran through a puddle of blood and left footprints. Somehow, they didn’t follow the trail that led into the locker I was hiding in. Well, they’re patients an asylum, so I don’t know why I expected more.
Every time I take break, the noise I hear after getting up scares the living hell out of me. Where is it coming from?
Messages left in blood. I figured that only happened in dumb horror movies. And yet here it is. Who’s rubbing their bloody stump on these walls?
So glad I brought my camera. Most of these rooms are PITCH BLACK. Not movie darkness where you can squint and see everything. I’d be screwed without it.
Some of these patients are completely disfigured. I don’t know how some of them are still alive.
This is getting ridiculous. I can’t even breathe here. I’m running down halls gritting my teeth in fear.
A couple times when I’ve been fleeing, the patients will just start staring at corners, like they’ve completely forgotten about me. Wait…am I…complaining?
I’m finding it odd that some of the patients are identical. They’re disfigured, sure, but is there a clone factory somewhere in this building too?
As terrified as I am by everything here…I feel like I’m enjoying myself. What’s going on here? There’s something new to see around every corner. There are pieces of the puzzle just out of reach. Even with these guys (things) chasing me, I’m having the time of my life. Not exactly what I signed up for as a journalist. Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work.
And now, the comparison…
This one is tough. While Amnesia has a haunting soundtrack that intertwines very well with its story, I feel like Outlast’s music is a bit more kinetic and therefore enhances its scares. Amnesia’s soundtrack could probably be enjoyed on its own, whereas Outlast’s would be a bit tough to listen to without context. I’d say they are tied.
If you had asked me about this before I played both games, I would have told you Amnesia would be the clear winner beforehand. With its industrial aesthetic (and name!) it’s a Trent Reznor wet dream, and the Nine Inch Nails fanboy in me was drawn to it right away. And yet…upon completion of both titles, though the machines were interesting in Amnesia, there were many bland spots in between the highlights, and the actual engine of the game seems a bit dated. Despite my initial impressions, Outlast wins this one.
Outlast, hands down. Amnesia feels sluggish, and a bit like you’re just a floating camera observing everything. Outlast feels very tactile, with a fluid grace that most games seem to lack. I’ve heard many comparisons to Mirror’s Edge, which is actually…pretty accurate. Bonus points for being one of the only first-person games where you can look down and see your body, and bonus bonus points for being able to see your full body and not just your legs.
This is where Amnesia shines. Gameplay systems were sacrificed with the narrative in mind, and it’s quite obvious. While I am hesitant to say that I enjoyed it more than the original, the plot is the definite highlight. While Outlast’s story is well-executed, it still feels a bit cliché compared to Amnesia. The last couple hours in particular started to fall a bit flat for me.
Amnesia has the benefit of environmental manipulation. It is unfathomably under-utilized here, which is unfortunate. The puzzles are all of the simple variety, which was disappointing to say the least. Outlast does even less with its puzzles, as they’re all the gofindthekeynowputinthekey variety. It makes up for this by having unnervingly tense chases throughout the game. Compared to Amnesia, where you can easily run right by each oppenent, Outlast is a deadly dance with even the most generic enemy. Both games suffer a few rough spots with the AI, where they’ll just lose interest in you after awhile. Outlast’s camera is also an incredible mechanic; it gives you more to play with (zoom and night vision) and lets you experience the game with an undoubtedly unique lens (HAR HAR!). Overall, Outlast feels like an original outing while Amnesia treads on the same old ground, albeit with a shuffling limp this time.
In the end, Outlast was the clear winner for me. I was ecstatic for September to come, with two heavy-hitting horror developers releasing their titles. Horror isn’t exactly a safe bet anymore, even though there is a clear demand for it. I can only hope that there was a positive enough response to both games that we’ll see more coming our way soon.
Outlast: 9/10 Fear Belches
Amnesia: 8/10 Shifty Sideways Glances