Monday, January 2, 2012


I have yet to find a browser game that's really scary. Granted, I've watched a lot of horror movies so that's difficult for a work of fiction to DO, but there still hasn't been one that's really tugged at my nerves. (Gyossait comes kinda close, but it's more unnerving than outright scary.)

Outpost:Haven still doesn't quite hit that level of fright I'd love to see in a browser game. It does, however, come far closer than anything else I've played.


Outpost:Haven is sci-fi horror in typical good form, and part of a genre I've enjoyed for many years. If you like futuristic monster movies, you can probably predict the plot: something has gone wrong at a space station, marines are sent in to deal with the problem, they discover a whole lot of alien nasties. Time to get the hell out, discovering in the process what happened to the original residents of the station via journal entries and abandoned communiques.

Outpost:Haven's story is solid. It's not really original, granted, but the fact that there IS a story behind what could otherwise be an excellent no-brain shooter is much appreciated. The writing could use a bit of editing - there are some unsuccessful attempts to use 'big' words, and the script is fraught with typos - but none of these bothered me too much.

Story aside, Outpost:Haven is a bird's eye view shooter. You move around the darkened space station with a gun, limited ammo and the desire to not open the next door, because there are probably aliens waiting to swarm you on the other side. What fun!


Because the aliens show you absolutely no mercy in Outpost:Haven, it pays to have some solid controls - and so long as you're using a proper keyboard and a mouse, you'll be fine. The keys control the movement of your character and the menus, while your mouse covers direction and firing your weapon. The combination works well, and the fact that there are no less than three different sets of keys for moving your marine is much appreciated, as not everyone wants to use arrow keys or WASD. My only beef with the controls stemmed from one of the menus popping up whenever I tried to take a screenshot, and covering THAT base isn't the concern of the programmer. Two thumbs up.


As an overhead horror game, Outpost:Haven is at a natural disadvantage compared to first- or third-person games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill for generating scares. Monsters just aren't as frightening when you're seeing them wiggle towards you from a great distance, and especially not if you can see them before you even go into a room.

That said, Outpost:Haven still achieves some rather amazing things in terms of scares, thanks primarily to its setting and tight control over lighting. Most of the space station is plunged in darkness, and the lights that DO help you wander around are... limited, to say the least. Consequently, you really don't know what's coming in most cases until it's almost on top of you...

... and the times that you DO know something is there, it unnerves the hell out of you, 'cause you can't do anything until you get close enough. (Yes, those are eyes. Yes, they follow you as you move around. That's freaky, man.)

What especially impressed me about Outpost:Haven's visuals was the attention to detail. The space station was meticulously constructed, with tons of little environmental and atmospheric details thrown in to help hide the aliens. For example, you might run across a burst steam pipe in the halls - and while you're busy looking at it, you'll be ambushed by monsters. Excellent diversionary tactic that ups the difficulty a notch.

My primary problem with the game's graphics lies in the aliens. They ARE unnerving as they wander around in the darkness, but once they come out to play their static nature renders them less-than-impressive. A bit more animation in the enemies, especially if they're given writhing, bizarre limbs that reach out to grab you, would really increase the freak out factor.


Spooky though your surroundings may be, it's the sound that really makes Outpost:Haven a worthwhile horror experience. Like so many good horror games in the past, Outpost:Haven doesn't rely on background music - instead, it uses ambient sounds and the bloodthirsty snarls of aliens to bring the game to life. You KNOW enemies are coming when you open a door and hear them growl... you just don't always know where they are.

I would, however, caution players against having their speakers set too high before playing. Between the roars and the gunfire, Outpost:Haven is VERY loud during moments of action.

Challenge Rating

Outpost:Haven is neither too difficult nor too hard. It does skew a little towards challenging in that you can have your health drained rather easily, but there's enough health and ammo strewn about the space station that it's hardly an insurmountable adventure. There are also stations where you can purchase new ammo, weapons and upgrades, so keep your eyes open and you'll be fine.

There is one problem I have with the difficulty, however, and it works more in the player's favour. Because the levels are covered in moveable objects - crates, chairs, desks, that sorta thing - it's easy to take cover from aliens... and, in some cases, to get them stuck on said cover as the baddies to scramble over to you. Get a clear shot while an alien's jammed on the edge of a box and killing the thing will be a piece of cake. I wouldn't mind seeing a little more path finding programming that guides the enemies around obstacles in a more intelligent manner.


Outpost:Haven is an excellent browser game with problems that can PROBABLY be addressed easily in subsequent releases. There aren't many browser games that are anywhere near this ambitious, and consequently I'd highly recommend giving this title a whirl. Its attention to proper horror storytelling and game play is too delicious to miss.


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