I am struggling to remember a horror game that had such an impact on the genre as Outlast did. It seemingly came out of nowhere and now pretty much every modern day horror game is using its features in one way or another. The infamous camera/night vision mechanic seems to be a part of every jump scare game going now (every one that isn’t a FNAF or Slenderman clone that is). With the commercial success of Outlast, developer Red Barrels has decided that the time has come for a sequel. I introduce you to, Outlast 2.
Red Barrels much anticipated sequel has a lot to live up to with the original game becoming a true staple of the horror genre. it was a rare being, a horror story with a decent story and not just “this person died here, therefore it’s now haunted” or “person x was abused as a child, therefore is now crazy”. With all of that being said how will Outlast 2 fair? Will it live up to the high bar which the first game set? Let’s find out…
The Story of Outlast 2
In Outlast 2 players take control of Blake Langermann who is a cameraman for his journalist wife, Lynn. Whilst searching for answers to an “impossible murder case” the helicopter that the couple are travelling in crashes. During the crash the couple become separated and your goal is to reunite with your partner in crime. Throughout the many hours of game play you will have many (too many for me) flash backs to Blake’s days in a very unusual catholic school. As the story unravels, the memories of the school seem to warp and become a lot more outlandish than Blake originally remembered.
Personally, I found there to be a bit too much back and forth with the flashbacks. As I felt I was really getting somewhere with the story I seemed to be thrown back in time and it interrupted the flow. When I was thrown back to the present I often had to remind myself what it was that I’d just done. I do understand that it was done to give it a richer backstory but the flashbacks are so hit and miss that you would need to create your own personal storyboard to stitch it all together.
The real MVP for Outlast 2 is the world that it’s set in. The original title was set in a very tight, closed off asylum but for Outlast 2 Red Barrels have opted for a very open world feel to the game. You would think that this would make the game less scary but for me it only adds to the tension. When you see the path that you want to take become closed off, only for you to then redirect and that path also becomes slowly closed off it creates an unbelievable amount of tension. Having an open environment also makes for a lot more sounds. You always hear a subtle breath of wind (without really realising it) and then it goes silent and that is when you know sh*ts about to go down. It is Outlast 2’s use of both silence and darkness which give it a really ominous feel throughout. You can’t play this game without feeling on edge.
The game plays with a very familiar feel to those of us who played the first Outlast game. Armed with your trusty night vision camera and your wits you have to navigate through dark, cramped, eerie places; all whilst trying to remain in control of your bodily functions. One thing that Outlast 2 does incredibly well if f*ck with your mind through its light and darkness mechanic. Many time I found myself stood in a dark place in a debate with myself whether to use my night vision camera or not. Do I want to see what’s about to kill me or do I want to play the ‘ignorance is bliss’ card?
Hiding is the one element that is much improved from the first Outlast. When I say improved, what I mean is easier. As the world is much more open than the asylum in the first game, there are a lot more places to hide from your pursuers. The downside to this is that it is also much harder to see them coming. There must have been 10 occasions where I thought I’d successfully hidden only to jump out of cover and get one-banged by an opponent stood directly in front of me.
That is another thing that slightly irritates me; there is no kind of fight back feature. I know obviously if you can fight your enemies is completely removes the element of hopelessness from the game but my issue is that there are so many enemies now who can kill you in one hit. There should, in my opinion, be a button bashing section just before a killer blow is delivered which allows you to stun your opponent or evade an attack just long enough for you to do run away from the clutches of death. A little hopelessness is fine but when you’re useless against even the weakest of enemies it can become frustrating; I know if I was in a similar situation, if I was about to be taken out, at least I’d go out swinging.
One element of improvement over the previous game is the functionality of the camera. You can now record key footage (for story purposes) and watch it back to review what has happened.
While Outlast 2 is still in its own right a good game, it falls short of its predecessor. Maybe it just feels a lot more predictable as over the years since the first game, we have seen the same horror elements regurgitated and we have become desensitized to them. That isn’t to say that Outlast 2 is a poor game. I still required several pairs of underwear to play it, just not as many as the original game. There was another horror game released this week, Little Nightmares, which personally I preferred and you can check that out here.
As first person horror games go, it is still the king but with games like The Evil Within 2 reported to be in development, how long will it hold onto that crown?