the quality of the *gameplay*, and Outlast certainly delivers it in high quality in the survival horror genre.
I just played Outlast for the first time and so far I'm about 30 minutes in. I'm not seeing any great gameplay. It's mostly a glorified Walking Simulator with a very good visual presentation.
And the gameplay is made terrible by the awful checkpoint system. For example, I am stuck at a part that says my goal is to "start two gas pumps and the main breaker." I start one gas pump, and then an enemy kills me. Then I lose that progress and have to restart from the last checkpoint.
So I reload and the next time I somehow manage to start two gas pump, then the same enemy kills me again before I can find the breaker switch. Again, I lose all my progress and have to reload.
So I reload again, start one gas pump and the enemy kills me before I remember how to get to the second gas pump. Yet again, I lose all my progress and have to reload. This process is going to repeat many more times before I eventually figure out how to overcome this section.
Consequently, this an awful gameplay experience. I'm not dying because the enemy is smarter than me or because I did some stupid error. Rather, I am dying simply because I don't know where the "correct" pathways that I am forced
to take are located, and I'd need
to know that - with surgical precision
- in order to survive.
In other words, Outlast is "on the rails" to an extremely gameplay-ruining extreme, which is compounded by the devs' abysmal decision not to allow the players to save their progress properly.
I'm tempted to go on youtube to watch a "Let's Play" just to figure out where I need to go in order that I stop having to repeat this aggravating gas pump puzzle. Of course, that would completely defeat the purpose of playing the game...but so does
having to repeat the same exact section over and over and over again (which I wouldn't have to do if the game was well-designed in terms of gameplay).
Now, a true atmosphere of dread, fright achieved without jump scares, that's so much more difficult to make, and Outlast fails at that.
I totally agree with that. The best horror game ever IMO is Nocturne (1999) and it did exactly what you said. I was hoping Outlast would achieve a similar effect and it seemed like it might when I first started playing. But with Outlast, the novelty/illusion wore off for me real fast.