Outlast 2 Review
Other than the final 30 minutes, I found the original Outlast to be a consistently nerve racking experience, especially as not being able to fight back and instead only run, hide or die was a fairly new experience for myself back in 2013. With the announcement of Outlast 2, my first thought was how are developer Red Barrels going to up the ante and elicit the same sort of tension a second time round? It turns out their answer was a relatively simple one. Change the setting from a run down insane asylum to a remote cult community deep in the outback of Arizona while constantly barraging players with horrific imagery and sounds that put the first game to shame. Red Barrels sets the tone before you even select “new game” by warning players of the explicit violence and sexual abuse (among other things) they are about to see and cap the warning off with “please enjoy”. If this all sounds great to you, you’re in for a treat.
You take on the role of Blake Langermann, a cameraman accompanying his investigative journalist wife, Lynn, as they attempt to uncover the mystery of an unidentified pregnant woman’s murder. Before Blake can say “cut” on Lynn’s second attempt at her video introduction the helicopter they’re traveling in crashes into the woods. When Blake awakes, his wife is gone and the pilot is dead. Well not just dead, but gruesomely crucified. Outlast 2 doesn’t waste time making your palms sweaty. The story set-up is quick, simple and cuts right to the chase with big revelations coming fast and hard. It can be a little predictable at times and one big reveal is telegraphed a little early but it’s a wonderful vessel for an unrelenting, hair-raising experience and unlike the original Outlast, the final moments here are very impactful.
“Red Barrels sets the tone before you even select “new game” by warning players of the explicit violence and sexual abuse… among other things.”
How long can you survive this time? I question I kept asking myself during my 10 or so hours with Outlast 2. I wasn’t always referring to an in-game death, though. Sometimes I was asking myself how many more gruesome scenes I could subject myself to. As it turns out, the answer is many, which slightly scares me (a conversation for another day) but also speaks to the overall quality of gameplay Outlast 2 provides. Moving around the increasingly disturbing environments feels great. Sliding under porches or through broken fences and climbing in open windows or vaulting over small objects always works as intended and I like the simplicity of the core mechanics. Where these systems show room for improvement is just in how context-sensitive they are. As is, you can only vault over pre-determined objects, which in the midst of an intense and disorienting chase can leave you trapped and occasionally frustrated.
And chased you will be. Outlast 2’s various enemies which range from the standard deranged rural lunatic to more menacing and scary creatures of the night will inflict some serious pain on you if caught. Like every aspect of Outlast 2, Red Barrels doesn’t hold back on the graphic violence when killing you off. One of the more intimidating enemies in the game, who can instant kill you, never ceases in their pursuit of you and it can be quite unnerving not knowing when they’ll appear next. These moments are exhilarating at first but some may find them annoying as survival often boils down to trial and error as you learn the route to safety.
Outlast 2’s eery environments really help facilitate great gameplay overall though and are at times the real star of the show. While often blanketed in darkness or seen through the grainy green night vision of your camera, they also pack some haunting silhouettes under blood red sunsets and dimly lit trails and creepy corridors that offer a brief, if false, sense of security. The environments as a whole allow for more freedom than the original Outlast’s asylum, display a lot more visual variety and this time out, include puzzles that feel baked into the action more organically and rewardingly. Crawling through cornfields at night, slogging through bloody execution chambers and sneaking around temples with stomach-turning sights doesn’t even begin to describe the copious amounts of awful you’ll encounter. Every single area you quiver your way through is oozing with frightening imagery and if one thing isn’t clear yet, Outlast 2 is not for the faint of heart.
“Outlast 2 features audio that is constantly slithering up your spine and teasing you with a fright that may or may not pop out at any moment.”
It’s not just the thrilling yet limited gameplay and settings that push the tension factor to 11 though. Outlast 2 features audio that is constantly slithering up your spine and teasing you with a fright that may or may not pop out at any moment. String instruments are used to wonderful effect, often times getting right under my skin, not unlike the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Having access to your camera’s onboard mic, allowing you to hear through walls and such also adds an extra layer to the tension.
Outlast 2 made me jump and cower more than any other game or movie has in the past year. If Red Barrels’ main goal was to make me want to hug my loved ones the moment the credits rolled then they succeeded with flying colors. Outlast 2 is a delightfully nerve-racking horror experience that serves up some of the most horrific and unsettling images you’ll likely see in a video game in 2017. Please enjoy.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Unrelenting tension
- Diverse locations
- Horrifying visuals
- Simple but enjoyable mechanics
- Great use of audio
- Actions too context sensitive
- A couple predictable reveals