I said, look behind you.
The original Outlast was something of a revelation.
The developers at “Red Barrels” were mostly unknown until their first title made gamers across the world clench their butt cheeks and scream in terror. It released around the time when “Let’s Plays” were really starting to take off, and games in the horror genre were particularly popular on that platform.
I too was fortunate to have played Outlast when it first released, and found the experience to be quite exceptional. The interesting story, tense atmosphere and the fact that this was one title that didn’t shy away from all the gore, violence and disturbing imagery made it certain that I would not soon forget what I had played.
With the sequel, the fine folks at Red Barrels don’t set out to reinvent the formula, but instead opt to refine and expand on what made the original so memorable, with excellent results.
Platforms: PC, X1, PS4 (Digital Only for all platforms)
Demo Availability: Yes!
Length: 8~ hours
On the trail of a fantastical story, two journalists, Blake and Lynn Langermann, ride a helicopter to a location in order to uncover a great mystery.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with helicopters in video games, it malfunctions and they crash in the middle of the woods with civilization far, far away. Separated from his wife, Blake desperately searches the mountainside and discovers that he is not alone.
The story and overall plot in Outlast 2 is steeped in religious themes and imagery, so much to the point that even though I personally don’t find such things offensive or in poor tastes, I could very easily understand if someone else did. More interestingly, I found the constant shift between the real world and the nightmarish visions that delved deeper into a traumatic event in Blake’s life to be appropriately jarring and quite effective.
There is an overwhelming sense of dread that permeates from the very beginning, with very little breathing room in between the various intense set pieces, and I found myself having to stop and take a break every two hours or so, which speaks volumes on the game’s brilliantly dreadful atmosphere.
The visuals were improved significantly from the original, especially in the use of lighting. It’s just a shame that I was more or less relegated to using night vision most of the time, which put a bit of a damper on how gorgeous the environments looked.
The use of sound design also deserves special mention, as I played through the game with my headphones and every single snapping of a branch in the distance or a soft growl in the dark sent shivers down my spine.
As far as the gameplay goes, it is more or less what one would expect from the sequel to Outlast. There was no combat or any way to defend myself at all, as I only really had two choices to work with in my journey through hell.
Run or hide.
I found myself doing the former much more often, and made good use of the button that allowed me to quickly look behind me for dramatic effect. One defining moment of the experience for me came when I managed to duck under the floorboards and found myself under the house. As I took a moment to collect myself, I was interrupted by torch wielding enemies crawling towards me from the very hole I dropped down from.
With an audible “GAHH!”, I continued on forward with the new found knowledge that where I can go, so can the enemies.
Given that getting caught meant instant death most of the time, I found myself dying and reloading quite often, but luckily the process is very quick and the checkpoints were generous enough that I didn’t feel cheated when I died.
What did make me feel cheated was when I would be hiding in a place where there’s no way the enemy could have seen me only to hear the baddies yell out and beeline towards my exact location.
While this only happened a handful of times, it results in many deaths which felt wholly unfair, and made me feel as though hiding just simply wasn’t as effective as running away most of the time.
In addition to the trusty night vision function on the camera that still sucks up battery life faster than a taser, there is a directional microphone which picked up sounds wherever I pointed the camera, which worked even through walls. It was a nice addition, as I was able to detect hidden enemies in bushes and behind doors that were just waiting to pounce the moment I got near them.
Even though I didn’t use it all that much the more I progressed through the game, I could see how it might be useful in a harder difficulty run as I played on normal mode.
Without redefining the foundations of the original, Outlast 2 weaves an intriguing tale- paced expertly through environments that breed a sense of tension and paranoia only the best in the genre can muster.
Fun Tidbit – I lost over an hour of progress thinking that the game auto-saved my progressed and just quit the game without using the “save and quit”. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.