Developed by Red Barrel Games
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
The original Outlast is one of those games that people wear like a badge of honor. And rightly so. No matter what you think of the general trend of hide-and-seek games, Outlast did its best to turn the fucked up meter to 11. It’s a delightful spectacle of gore and insanity. If you can get through Outlast without being genuinely uncomfortable, then you played a different game.
That being said, I tend to find these kinds of games frustrating. I’m a fan of stealth, but stealth generally has some kind of empowering component to make it all more than just hiding under some beds. Outlast’s gameplay is basically just hiding under beds. There’s no combat, no deployable distraction items, no teleport or detective vision to get you through. It’s just you, a camera, night vision, and a microphone. It makes things tense, but also frequently bullshit. There’s only so long I can huddle in a barrel before I get bored.
With Outlast 2, Red Barrel Games has done their best to simultaneously ramp up the insanity and diversify the gameplay, all while keeping the soul of the game intact. The result is truly and wonderfully terrifying. Clocking in at just over six hours, there’s not a minute that isn’t steeped in tension and horror.
Playing as cameraman Blake Langermann, you and your wife Lynn are investigating the murder of a Jane Doe. Chartering a helicopter to take you to Supai, Arizona, a blinding light forces you into a crash landing. You quickly recover, but find that your wife is missing and pilot flayed and crucified. Things only get worse from there, as you encounter a fanatical religious cult with a legacy of murder and infanticide. Then there’s the Scalled, a group of diseased wretches who think your death, resurrection, and consumption is the only way to cure their horrible affliction. They are both at odds with the heretics, who are two parts sex demons, three parts pagan beasts, and also want to kill you. That’s not even mentioning the towering monsters like Marta and Laird. Together, they make sure that Blake has a very difficult night.
Outlast 2 is less straightforward than its predecessor, as you’ll swap between the hellish town and flashbacks to your childhood Catholic School. One minute you’ll be crawling through a window, and the next you’re in the labyrinthine sterile halls. It’s unclear exactly what is real and what isn’t, and how you travel between these flashbacks, but that’s part of the charm. And don’t worry, the flashbacks also have monsters that want to kill you.
Similar to Outlast, there is a scientific explanation behind what exactly is happening. However, what is and isn’t real isn’t explained entirely this time around. A lot is left up to interpretation, courtesy of the drama being seated in Blake as a character. Throughout the game, Blake is plagued by the looming death of his childhood friend Jessica. The circumstances surrounding her death, as well as Blake’s guilt and involvement, are never completely explained. This unreliable narrator casts the events of the entire game into doubt, which when coupled with the eventual plot twist makes the game stick with you way past the end credits. I finished it about a week ago, and am still talking to some friends about what I think actually happened. This is the kind of symbolism I like, where the imagery adds up to a vague package that you have to unravel yourself.
That package would be perfect if not for the gameplay. This is something that is going to be understandably contentious. As I stated before, I don’t really like these kinds of games. I get why people do, but I prefer being able to shoot my shambling horrors. What Outlast 2 does right is mix up the enemies. Not all of them are initially aggressive. Some of them just want to lie in bed and be left alone. Others crawl around and just nibble at your ankles for hardly any damage. And some are towering monstrosities that tear your nuts out with a pickaxe.
At one point I walked into a town, and found that as long as I just didn’t try to break into anyone’s house they just left me alone. It makes the enemies more than just roadblocks, and more like living beings to which you are the strange and dangerous thing. The character design, story, and world are all fantastically realized. There are so many moments where you can flick on your night vision or microphone and be propelled to the edge of your seat. You’re always on your toes, ready to break into a sprint and lock a door behind you.
And yet it still all boils down to the same run-and-hide bullshit that winds up feeling so stale. There were so many times that a pre-scripted spawn required me to learn some exact pattern of waiting that I just got bored during some of chases. This isn’t helped by the most successful tactic being generally to just sprint away. If you try to be clever and hide, you’re either eventually be found or stuck in a loop of trying to sneak past and being seen by some asshole behind a door or corner. Most of the landmark moments in the game I got through by just sprinting, dying, and trying again until I got through. At this point, the game just loses its tension.
That aside, I was beyond impressed by Outlast 2. It’s the perfect blend of viscerally shocking, mentally disturbing, and just plain scary. There were a few jump scares here and there, but actually managed to heighten the tension and not feel cheap. The encroaching shadow hands that vanished when I turned were pure genius. If you love these kinds of games, there is absolutely no way you should miss Outlast 2. If you don’t care for this kind of stealth, still give it a shot. It should be sure to tickle at least one of your many dark and horrible fancies.
- Twist Of Kane She received a paycheck for doing the new Halloween also. Let's not pretend she did it solely for the fans.
- One-Eye ROAD GAMES is great. Although it's no secret Curtis had a bad experience shooting in Australia, so I guess that colours her memory of the film.
- Christopher Parker Howard I'm curious what people found so scary, or even original about this film. It's a 2 hour family drama with 15 minutes of supernatural horror all at the end. There was some great disturbing imagery for...
- Andrew Lyall I love stuff like this, keep em coming!
- Dread Central I kind of need to read this now.
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