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Outlast’s Whistleblower DLC Review: The B-Sides Of Horror
*Spoilers Ahead For The Full Game Outlast, but not the Whistleblower DLC*
By the end of its several hour length, Red Barrel’s fantastic FPSH (that’s First-Person Survival Horror) Outlast was running a little thin. Featuring a plot which ran wild from Lovecraftian asylum horror to corporate sci-fi horror, the story kept the player’s interest where the gameplay perhaps didn’t. Running away from a solo lunatic and using the same repetitive tricks to escape their grasp got pretty tiring and the game’s new expansion, Whistleblower, unfortunately does nothing to change this.
Whistleblower‘s plot sounds brilliant on paper: we play as Waylon Park, the contracted software engineer who sent Miles Upshur the email which blew the story on Mount Massive. This is the email which the original Outlast opens with the player looking at. A clever twist, considering one of the first things we think as a player at Outlast‘s beginning is, ‘Who in their right mind would be desperate enough to send an email like this? And where were they when it happened?!’ Whistleblower gives a compelling answer. Similar to classic expansions like Half-Life‘s Opposing Force add-on, Whistleblower does a great job of synchronising the new protagonist’s journey with the old protagonist’s, leading to “aha” moments where their paths almost overlap or we see familiar events from a new perspective.
Outlast’s narrative always just hit the mark, and Whistleblower, which runs from well before Outlast‘s events to the hours after Miles Upshur’s possession by a nanomachine ghost, is no different.
However, although the DLC’s story is a nice adjunct to the game’s main narrative, the DLC’s gameplay is well-tread ground, which often feels repetitive and derivative of the main game.
Rather than provide the player with expansions upon the original’s gameplay, like larger areas, multiple opponents, or more interesting objectives, Whistleblower makes the player run another linear gauntlet of fetch quests and one-off bad guys with the occasional jump scare. The third time I had to find a key to open a door, I verbally groaned. The fifth time a bad guy came out of a locked door I had just surpassed and chased me quite slowly, I was counting sheep in the back of my mind. Red Barrels need to add a few more ingredients to their formula if they want to push the boundaries of their horror.
The stealth and evasion of your enemies is still well designed and the level design feels a little more real in Whistleblower, but it’s hard to shake the disappointment that this stuff could easily have been in Outlast’s main storyline. The psychopaths who follow you around are brilliant, particularly The Groom, who subjects the player to one of the most incredible scenes of horror I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Yet there’s no precedent, there’s no particular justification for any of this to be unique to Whistleblower. The Groom could just as easily have been a psychopath you encounter in Outlast.
Hence the subtitle of this review.
I loved Outlast and I really like Whistleblower; but while the narrative and the experience of both of these games is fantastic and atmospheric, the gameplay barely develops at all and by the end of Whistleblower things feel stale. Aside from the scattered bits of Whistleblower, which are specific to Waylon Park’s story, most of the DLC could easily be bits of Outlast which were cut. The B-sides.
The DLC took me about two hours to complete, perhaps three hours at a stretch. My camcorder clocked about 1hr 50 minutes of record time. The areas often felt smaller than Outlast’s; combine that with the length of the game, and there’s a lot less content to see in Whistleblower for a second playthrough, unlike Outlast which had a dense, detailed journey to take in multiple times.
If you’re looking for more Outlast levels and a teensy bit more good story, get Whistleblower. If you’re looking for new, improved gameplay and a significant addition to Outlast, don’t bother.