Outlast Whistleblower Review: A bit of the old ultra-violence
If you're looking to play Outlast's new Whistleblower DLC, it's safe to assume you're probably a fan of the game. I’d planned to review Whistleblower under that assumption, especially considering I wasn’t a huge fan of the base game. I figured that if people are considering this DLC, they probably didn’t mind Outlast’s issues as much as I did. But I didn’t really have to deal with those issues again, and this expansion ended up being something I can safely recommend to both fans and detractors of Outlast alike.
You are Wayland Park, a programmer working on the secret projects hidden within Mount Massive Asylum. Disturbed by what he witnesses -- sick experiments in brainwashing and worse -- he decides to send a message out to reporters, hoping to blow the doors open on the truth. If you’ve played the main game you know the main character is one of the reporters who receives the message. This creates a cyclical narrative with Whistleblower, making great use of what you already know from the main game.
If you don’t finish Outlast before starting Whistleblower, you’ll probably be pretty confused. It’s definitely more of a “filling in the blanks” story designed with fans in mind, so I wouldn’t go as far as recommending it to people who gave up on Outlast partway through. But if you finished the game and it left you a bit cold, Whistleblower might be a pleasant surprise.
So what issues does Whistleblower address? For starters, the overall flow of the game is much smoother. Stealth sequences are largely unpleasant for the right reasons this time around. The environments offer more dynamic hiding spots and much more interesting designs. If you do get caught, it almost never feels like a huge deal, as you can usually find your way out while running from the enemy.
In the original game I felt a disconnect between my main character’s complete inability to fight back and the size of the enemies he was faced with. Often the enemy I was taking hits from seemed like something a capable man would at least attempt to fight off. This isn’t the case at all in Whistleblower -- each enemy is either armed with something you wouldn’t want to go near, or they’re twice the size of our hero. When confronted by regular-sized, unarmed psychopaths, they’re always outnumbering Wayland in an imposing way. It was a nitpicky issue, but it’s something I really respect Red Barrels for addressing.
Another key improvement is in the horror department. The cheap-to-effective scare ratio is far more favorable here, with those larger enemies imposing a constant sense of dread, and the jump scares catching me off-guard consistently. It’s also a more graphic experience, with a more disturbing mix of guts, gore, and unsettling sexual violence. If seeing screwed up things isn’t your idea of a fun horror game, you might want to try something else. For my money it pulled a couple punches where I would have preferred that it went for the jugular, but this DLC still offers the most graphic imagery I’ve ever seen in a game.
Whistleblower hits far fewer snags than the original Outlast in its attempt to scare the bejeezus out of you. It’s a brisk, enjoyable, genuinely scary experience, and a great supplement to the story of the core game. If you already liked Outlast there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll love Whistleblower. And if you only sort-of-liked the original, well, there’s good news for you here too.
Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!