Outlast 2 Review
As the credits rolled on Outlast 2, I was shaking. With my nerves threadbare and my mind disturbed, I tried to formulate some thoughts on what I had just played, but all I could see was the horror of those final moments – those lasting images from the things I’d seen, and holy shit, did I feel affected. For the game’s ten hour campaign, I’d seen so much gore, violence, and sexual depravity, along with suffering through countless chases and pitiless attacks that I kept wondering why anyone would choose to play this. Why would anyone want to put themselves through this amount of stress and torture?
There is no asylum this time around, and the claustrophobic terror felt in the original has been expanded to the Arizona desert, as you investigate the disappearance of a missing pregnant woman. You play as Blake Langermann, a cameraman and investigative journalist who’s left alone following a helicopter crash that leaves you separated from your wife, Lynn. Not only are you on your own, you’re at the mercy of an evil, murderous cult, the members of which have no quarrel with slicing your throat or stabbing you a hundred times over with a rusty knife. You’re also thrust into various flashbacks at a high school in the 90s, unclear how it relates to the main story until the end. The more you play the game, the more these flashbacks become as terrifying as the occurrences in the main story thread, as the school you find yourself in goes full on Kubrick, and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues.
Outlast 2 delivers on survival horror in every sense. From the very start you’re terrified, alone, and completely vulnerable to everything. You have no way to fight against these religious fanatics, and your only option is to run and hide. With the environment being bigger, and with Blake being so exposed, you’re much more on edge knowing one of these freaks can attack from any direction. Even when the game becomes more enclosed towards the end, you’re still easy pickings for the murderous foes. You can hide under beds or in wardrobes, but there’re also oil drums, confessional booths, tall grass patches, small rivers, and cornfields which you can find a shred of refuge in. Even though you have these places to use to your advantage, you never truly feel safe in them, and when the clan of psychos walk past you, peeking out can still result in them spotting you, and that’ll mean death, but not after having to watch yourself bleed out.
In order for you to survive (apart from the whole running away from killers), you must keep a supply of batteries for your camera, and bandages for your wounds. They are scattered around, but they are also in short supply, so it is wise to rummage through the various buildings you come across. Your video camera is used to collect evidence of the activities within the cult, whether that’s a snapshot of a letter or extract from their ‘bible’, or a short video clip of a certain location. I did find it odd that some of the scenes kicking off didn’t require any capture, and there’s no way for you to film any footage you think might be important, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It’s also cool that you can use the camera’s built-in microphone to listen to nearby enemies as a means to know whereabouts the threats are, but like the camera’s night vision, it eats up batteries so use it wisely.
Throughout the entire game, I felt uneasy, stressed, and unable to relax at any point. It didn’t matter if I was wandering around one of the abandoned houses, exploring (with trepidation) the eerily quiet woods, or running away from one of the savages in the underground mines or caves; you never knew what was coming. Saving is generous, but there are times when the game saves at the exact time one of the many chases begins, and you’re left to replay it a handful of times before you manage to escape. This ended with me having to step away from the game a few times, heading to the kitchen to make myself a coffee and finding sanctuary on social media for a couple of minutes. I’ve not been this anxious playing a game since Alien: Isolation (which I still haven’t finished due to this), and if it wasn’t due to me reviewing, I probably wouldn’t have finished this either. Once you’ve run away from somebody, you can press a button to look over your shoulder, but this is more of a curse than a blessing because, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather imagine they weren’t following me instead of knowing they were right behind me.
Red Barrel’s greatest achievement with Outlast 2 is also its most unsettling: the depth in the detail of this cult is impressive, but it’s also harrowing, with some of the things I saw and read being even too much for me. I like to think I’ve got an appreciation for creative interpretation regardless of subject matter, but even I think it goes too far, and the only real purpose for it is to solidify the cult’s barbaric and outrageous reasoning, which I’m not sure was really necessary. In one scene, I walked into a house, and there were five open coffins with five dead children inside, decomposing, and in the corner was a woman holding another seemingly dead infant in her arms, singing about children going to heaven. You may feel differently, but this seemed a bit excessive.
I won’t say I enjoyed Outlast 2 (much like I don’t enjoy Schindler’s List even though it’s a great movie), but it’s an astonishing game, and those that love survival horror will be in their element. You’re constantly on your toes, and never comfortable. Very few developers manage to create such a harrowing experience, but Outlast 2 nails this completely. The visuals are rather impressive, especially in the flashbacks, giving almost photo-realistic school halls and classrooms to explore, and the music is filled with unsettling touches, such as broken cellos and out of tune piano tinkering. It’s also a great achievement how the dev doesn’t insult your intelligence with arbitrary jump scares and tried and tested horror tropes, instead preferring to build up the fear and terror, and injecting it into your eyeballs at a constant pace.
I can normally form a disconnect with the subject matter in horror games, especially when it deals with the taboo, and for a good while I managed it. But the thing is that Outlast 2 delves deep into child murder and sacrifice, never mitigating the shock factor or giving you any kind of respite. Once you partner that with the intensity of running away from a psycho with a pitchfork or a woman with a huge cross she uses to plunge deep into your chest, it’s difficult to switch off, and forget about the things you’ve seen. Outlast 2 will stay with me for some time, and even as I write this, the events are still playing on my mind – play at your own peril.
Gets survival horror 100% right
Great design and musical score
Some of the detail goes too far