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Outlast: Whistleblower is a welcome return to the asylum

Matt Martin returns to Mount Massive Asylum to find DLC wrapped in dirty rags, gore and internal organs.

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Like all good horror movies, Outlast: Whistleblower starts strong with shocking violence and simple storytelling.

There's an instant link to the original game - you're playing the role of Waylon Park, your first action is to press send on an email to investigative reporter Miles Upshur - and then it's quickly into an experiment-gone-wrong, a slap around the face and, horribly, a tongue in the ear. You're employed by the sinister Murkoff Corp and attempting to leak secrets does nothing more than bring you a swift kick to the ribs and… worse.

No time is wasted as you're thrown back into welcome, familiar and generally unpleasant territory. Grab a camcorder to run for your life, creep through the shadows and avoid the cannibals, the killers, the insane and the supernatural.

The same rules apply as they did in the original Outlast. You have no offensive tactics here, you must run and sneak and outsmart your foes. If in doubt, hide. Creep around the rooms slowly. Always take a mental note of where the hiding spots are and run like hell when you're discovered. And don't forget to look up if you feel like you're going around in circles because there's really only ever one way through each section of the game.

The mechanics of Outlast are still the same, then. You need batteries to power your camcorder's night vision, which allows you to spot enemies and work your way through the darker locations, but in Whistleblower it feels as if batteries are less abundant and they don't last quite as long. In a game full of horror and revulsion, the insistent bleep of a low battery warning is just as disconcerting as the howling wind or far-off screams of pain.

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The camcorder also has a zoom function which you'd be foolish to overlook in favour of night vision. It's just as important for tracking your hunters when you're crouched under a desk or peaking around corners and allows you to scope-out areas before planning your routes (you'll miss signposting if you try sprinting around rooms and down corridors).

Locations may feel constrained but that allows developer Red Barrels to manage the horror more effectively and make sure you keep walking into shock confrontations, with the fear factor magnified by such a well-realised and vile setting. There's the obvious revulsion to be found in blood spattered walls, entrails across the floor and desecrated corpses, but there's also real beauty in the paint-peeling walls, the cracked glass and the looming shadows.

"Character models may be repetitive but they're no less disturbing, wandering around with their cocks and tatty beards, wearing gore like clothing."

Whistleblower is still as creepy as all hell, with piercing sound effects, jump-scares galore and those horrible stalking enemies whose eyes reflect dead light back at you when you catch sight of them with your camcorder. Character models may be repetitive but they're no less disturbing, wandering around with their cocks and tatty beards, wearing gore like clothing, or sporting dirty rags around their eyes and gags in their mouths. Whistleblower has lost none of Outlast's unpleasant charm.

If you surrender to it you can cut the atmosphere with a cleaver, allowing Red Barrels to make your heart pump and the hair on your arms stand up. Enemies stalk you viciously as you slowly, clumsily, make your way to a much-needed key or valve before sprinting to an exit. You run with a sense of relief that you're a few more steps closer to freedom, and because sometimes it's good to know the enemy is chasing you - at least this time you know where he is.

As this is only DLC and not a true sequel it's inevitable that some of the locations are overly familiar, especially if you've only just played the game since it was released earlier in the year on PS4. But there are new locations to explore too, including fog-thick outdoor grounds where it turns out having more room to move isn't any more comforting than the claustrophobic corridors, and a fenced-in exercise yard complete with inmates playing basketball with severed heads.

Some enemies are out to stalk and eat you, but some will watch as you pass, muttering or shouting obscenities. It adds to the tension when you're not sure who's there for the atmosphere and who's a genuine enemy. You'll only really find out if you get too close and they decide to shank you in the gut.

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Outlast: Whistleblower may feel familiar, but that's not a criticism as it allows you to be dropped right back into a crazy, messed-up world. There's not a big story to tell with this game, but what it has is told very effectively. The atmosphere is a triumph once again, only occasionally broken by load screens and player death, and it has some of the most repulsive characters in a game I've come across since Silent Hill's nurses or Pyramid Head.

You'll find no major surprises but you will find shocks and scares, and in a horror game that's exactly what I'm signing up for. Outlast: Whistleblower is a great extension of a smart concept, well-realised and with genuinely frightening gameplay.

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