It has been 4 years since Red Barrels released the first Outlast to disturb the masses, and kick off a horror renaissance in gaming today. Now Red Barrels returns to the world of insanity and murderous intent with none other than Outlast 2. But first let’s take a moment to refresh ourselves on the story of the outlast series.
The original Outlast has you take on the role as an investigative journalist who receives a tip about some shady activities going on at an isolated mental health facility. Upon arriving with only his camera and wits the horror begins. Bodies are everywhere, patients walk freely and constant references are made to an unknown entity simply called, The Walrider.
Fast forward a year and we received the Whistleblower expansion for Outlast, serving as a prequel to the events of Outlast allowing the player a behind the scenes look at the experiments going on. All while still remaining powerless and being forced into utilizing stealth mechanics in order to survive your time in the asylum.
With Blake Langermann being the protagonist this time around, your only goal is to find your wife Lynn before it’s to late. As to be expected with any horror game nothing is quite that simple and things very quickly get out of hand. Have a look at the official launch trailer for the game, to get an idea as to what to expect.
The opening hour seemed very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, just as a straight survival horror game and not so action oriented. I couldn’t help myself but to imagine Leon running through the opening village mowing down the cultists while desperately searching for Ashley, but being reminded of Resident Evil 4 is never a bad thing.
Outlast 2 attempts to refine the game play of the first by adding a few new mechanics, but the majority of it stays the same from the first two entries. You are still a helpless protagonist armed with only a camera, and your wits. Patience is the game at hand here, as rushing ahead will get you killed without a doubt.
One such change is the addition of an audio microphone to be used in conjunction with the night vision functionality on your camera. Now you are able to point your camera towards a closed door or building and play your microphone to record footsteps of unseen enemies. This was a welcome addition and made the stealth more approachable.
Being able to tell if an enemy is lying in wait inside of a closed off room did alleviate some of the tension that the first two Outlast experiences had to offer, but it helps to create a less frustrating experience. The downside to using the microphone to create a plan of action is that it will drain your camera’s battery rapidly. Best to only use it sparingly, to get out any sticky situation.
Another refinement to the game play, albeit a strange one, is a small tweak to how recording special events works. In the first game simply having your camera out at the right moment and aiming at the right event, would create a recording and a note from the player character detailing what is happening around him, as well as his thoughts on the situation.
That same mechanic returns, however it is no longer instantaneous. Now when Blake has his camera out if you pan over a special event, a REC sign will appear above your HUD and a small circle will begin to form. Once it is complete you can watch what is you just recorded with a voice over from Blake detailing his thoughts on the horrors before him.
The addition of a voice acted protagonist is a nice one over the simple notebook scrawls that would appear in the first game, however Blake does seem like he loves the sound of his own voice with the amount of dialogue he delivers. Simply looking at your inventory to check your battery supply in the early game constantly has him muttering ” Find Lynn, Nothing else matters”.
A small gripe yes, but after a while it does get annoying to be counting out my batteries to keep my camera alive and hearing the same repetitive thought over and over again. And yes, the inventory system has been overhauled as well for the sequel, thankfully it is seamless and doesn’t require going into a separate menu or anything too extreme.
With the push of a button you can look down at your jacket to view the number of batteries you have collected, how many life saving bandages you have, or review footage and notes you have collected with your camera all in real time.
The addition of healing items is also a welcome change, as it allows room for error in case a poor route is chosen or an unseen enemy gets the jump on you. The bandages are there solely to keep you alive after escaping from a rough encounter, or failing to sneak past a threat.
Unfortunately the time has come to talk about the negatives that come with Outlast 2. For starters all the areas that you visit within the game are horror movie cliches by now, and feels kind of disappointing. Scary village, check. Spooky haunted school. Double check. Abandoned mine, you get the drill.
With Outlast the insane asylum cliche was forgivable because it was a first attempt at a large scale horror project by Red Barrels, and a damn fine one at that. It’s just unfortunate that all the locales are standard horror tropes, though they are all interesting none the less, and offer unique challenges as you progress the story.
Another issue i came across during my play through is that the stealth feels… less than spectacular, let’s put it that way. The stealth mechanics work as they should, they just feel jerky at times.
For instance when attempting to crawl under a bed to hide I would have issues getting Blake to fully conceal himself and would simply be caught by whatever was chasing me. It finally got to the point of me constantly adjusting myself until I felt as though I was properly hidden, and then it became much more manageable.
Other than that minor annoyance the game itself feels great to play, and with my time with it I have not encountered a single bug which is remarkable, good job with that one Red Barrels. As someone who played the demo for Outlast 2 i’m glad to see the bugs that were present in the beta build be ironed out for the full release.
Red Barrels has done it again with the release of Outlast 2 taking us back into a twisted and dark world with danger around every corner. Once again demonstrating their knowledge and skill with the horror genre and crafting a labor of love, that truly must be experienced for yourself to really grasp the attention to detail that is throughout this series of games.
And now is as good a time as any with Red Barrels releasing the ‘Trilogy of Terror’ bundle for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The bundle contains Outlast, it’s Whistleblower, expansion as well as Outlast 2. Making it convenient and easy to get into the Outlast universe and see for yourself what evil lurks beyond the edges of sanity.
Outlast 2 is a fine addition to the series, with several fixes and new mechanics that allow for a new terrifying experience, in the insane universe crafted by the developers. Always keep in mind that you are not a fighter, and the only thing keeping you from a grisly fate is your ability to think on your feet and hide when the need arises.
Be prepared for disturbing content and imagery, as you progress and tread every corner with caution. After all you never know when you will be ambushed and forced to flee for your life. Run, Hide, or die facing your fears will only end you in this grisly sequel to a much beloved survival horror game.