Release Date: May 6, 2014
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Genre: Survival Horror
There’s really no other way around it: the prequel Whistleblower DLC is even scarier than the original Outlast, if you can actually believe that. The expansion story is almost as long as the base game itself, with the main difference being that Red Barrels now gives you no time to ease into their manic, heart pounding style of survival horror gameplay. Whistleblower assumes that you’ve already played through the main game (or at least tried to), and it brings on the sense of panic almost immediately, and it brings it on hard.
This time around, players will take control of the mysterious Waylon Park, aka The Whistleblower, who had first alerted Miles Upshur about Mount Massive and the Murkoff Corporation at the beginning of the main game. Waylon begins this new expansion content in a precarious situation, and it won’t be long until things go haywire and the halls of the asylum are overrun with the maniacal inmates we’ve gotten to know oh so well. I’m sure I don’t need to reemphasize the word MANIACAL when we’re talking about Outlast here.
The software engineer controls relatively the same as Miles from the main game, with the use of a camera, battery conservation, and evading pursuers making up the bulk of the gameplay. While there isn’t all that much to the actual story, it does just enough to fill in a few gaps left over from the base game, and the alternative perspective gives some chilling new insights into the people behind the sinister Murkoff Corporation. And above all else, it serves as a fitting conclusion to what will certainly go down as one of the scariest horror games of all time.
While a good portion of the ground that Waylon covers in Whistleblower is the same that Miles traverses in the original game, nothing ever feels too redundant, and there is just as much that’s new here to set the DLC apart as its own incredibly frightening entity. A few exciting tweaks are made to the core environments, like an outdoor area that’s covered in fog, rendering your night vision all but useless in the oversaturated brightness, and a looming watchtower that stands above the grimy prison area. There are also several neat crossovers with Whistleblower and the original Outlast, as Miles and Waylon’s journeys almost begin to intersect at certain intervals.
Towards the end of the original Outlast campaign, Miles accidentally drops his camera and players have to finish out the remainder of their escape while looking through a cracked lens. In Whistleblower, Waylon suffers a pretty nasty fall, and has to outrun everything after that point with a staggering limp. If you thought fleeing from the monstrous Chris Walker and the cannibal variants was unnerving before, try doing it while hobbling on one leg. This is just yet another example of how such a seemingly simple design choice can push the player into an even deeper level of dread never thought possible.
Now as if the game itself wasn’t terrifying enough, Red Barrels also decided to fill Whistleblower with some of the most sick and twisted content that I’ve ever experienced in a video game before. You’ll encounter instances of cannibalism at every turn, with a new enemy who screams “FEED ME!” as he chases you down the claustrophobic corridors with a buzz saw. You’ll see a crazed inmate masturbating over a pile of dead bodies. And then of course, there is the confrontation with a new adversary called The Groom, which leads into one of the most unnerving and utterly shocking POV moments in the entire horror genre at large.
So for what it ultimately sets out to achieve, Whistleblower more than succeeds in carving out another jagged notch on its terror belt, providing enough scares to give you unsettling nightmares for days and days to come. It sure scared the bajeesus out of me, and it is well worth the price tag as a generous companion piece to the original story. I’ll be more than excited to see where the new masters of video game horror, Red Barrels, decide to go from here.