Release Date: March 27th 2018
Price as of Article: $29.99 USD, £26.99 GBP
Game code provided by Red Barrels for review
Outlast 2 is rated 18 by PEGI and is graphic and scary – not for the faint of heart!
Game provided by Red Barrels for review purposes
Outlast 2 follows the story of Blake and Lynn Langermann, investigative journalists on the trail of a murdered pregnant woman known only as Jane Doe. Right at the beginning their helicopter crashes over the Supai Region of Arizona in the South of the United States.
As Blake you wake up to find your wife missing and the pilot horrifically skinned and crucified, armed with just your camcorder and its night vision to see with.
You head to the nearby town of Temple Gate where you stumble upon a cult led by Sullivan Knoth, referred to by the cult members lovingly as “Papa”. Knoth believes that the end days are upon us and has convinced the whole town to sacrifice their children to prevent the coming of the antichrist.
The story unfolds slowly at first as you try to rescue your wife whilst largely just running and hiding to stay alive, the tale quickly escalates and we are introduced to a second twisted cult know as the heretics. These two groups fight and you get caught up in their evil, often times you are scared witless and can miss some of the story that unfolds but needless to say the plot involves demonic forces, brainwashing and an uncomfortable look at religion.
This all plays out in a run down, open area which sits in stark contrast to the first Outlast game.
There is a second plot intertwined with the first cleverly at times when Blake passes out or takes a knock.
Here we unwind a tale of Jess, your childhood friend whilst in attendance at a Catholic School with you, this plot is a reprieve from the main plot – or so it seems at first.
Both stories are excellent and the use of footage which can be watched later and will be accompanied by Blakes ever increasingly unstable commentary works well.
The pacing of the chapters is not quite right as the first chapter takes us through over half of the game with the following 5 taking up the other half, but this can be explained with the escalation of events towards their climax.
In Outlast 2 you never feel safe and whilst there is a plot developing that involves you finding your wife as well as other, sinister things – you could be forgiven for wanting to just escape these terrors on your screen.
Horror doesn’t work without tension being built through the use of audio and Outlast 2 delivers. Tension is built from the get go and it works exceptionally well in conjunction with the limited field of vision due to the dark.
There is nothing more scary than not being able to see other than not being able to see whilst ominous string instruments build, you can hear your own breathing racing and cracking and then all of a sudden, silence.
Outlast 2 has jump scares aplenty and often teases them out as opposed to jamming them down your throat, Red Barrel uses audio cues to really draw out this build up to the point of terror.
One clever addition this time around is the microphone on your camera, as you are a professional journalist you have a top of the range camera fitted with a long distance boom mic that can pick up sounds in a straight line very well.
Some parts of the game thrust you in total darkness where even your cameras light cannot save you and all you have to rely on is your mic, either to follow towards relative safety or to avoid enemies.
The voice acting here is of a high standard, creepy child like voices and clearly deranged cultists are aplenty. The sheer terror from victims screams had the hairs on my arms standing on end. One of the standout performances is your character himself, like the first game the use of our protagonists breathing is a master stroke that ratchets up the tension. As he gets scared he will whimper, swear and his breathing will become more and more erratic.
As you get further into the game and the horrors he sees obviously play havoc with his mind he begins to ramble, his sanity frayed – something that evoked more dread in me than any ghoul could.
Visuals & Performance
Outlast 2 was only released on other platforms in 2017, as such its visuals are better than the original game as you might expect. Through most of the game you will be seeing everything through your handheld camera with night vision. This doesn’t disappoint and the shaky-cam style fits the open world and tight spaces really well.
Outlast 2 uses visual cues as waypoints, often you are surrounded by darkness and as the terror rises you will half see a light that you run towards before being set upon and finding the next place for a breather.
The use of shadows, flickers and water are all really well done as is the shifting moon light colours that beam down upon you.
The game is incredibly horrific and graphic but oftentimes you are in too much of a hurry or its too dark for you to fully realise what you have just seen.
The games pace and style work really well and whilst the visuals are not of the highest standard they are certainly good.
From a performance perspective other than a slightly long load time, which only happens when you boot up the game – not on every game load thereafter, I experienced no problems.
The game ran very smoothly while docked and was still impressive whilst in handheld mode.
With the first Outlast very few people expected much and its success was a very welcome surprise.
This time around however our expectations are high, the developer could have chosen to take the series in a new direction adding in action or changing the behind a cam style to something different.
Instead I think they made the right choice, stick to what worked the first time and try to build off of that platform.
You control Blake through a terrifying journey and you cannot fight back at all. Instead you must evade enemies using stealth and you can crouch, run, jump, walk, vault, slide and climb.
Like in the first game you will need to hide from the horrors that will chase you and this can be done in long grass, lockers, under beds, in barrels and many other areas.
Flight or….. Flight
You are constantly fleeing for your life through the games 6 chapters, each new area has you wanting to look away and yet keeps you glued to your screen – the sign of a good horror.
Some of the flight sections are traumatic and as I fled its 100% possible that a high pitched shriek escaped me. Who knows what my neighbours thinks happened!
In Outlast 2 you tend to be in one of two states, either running for your life through a typically specific escape route that needs to be figured out and looks something like this – jump over this desk and then turn right, dive under this bookcase and squeeze through a crack – get into a room and bolt the door shoving a book case in front of it to keep the monsters out but a hand reaches through and you carry on running on the edge of your seat in the real world.
These sections are both the games best and worst – the worst are those in which you cannot figure out the escape route, its not always obvious and typically getting caught means death and starting again. In a few of these sections in ended up doing them 15 or 20 times to figure out the route and by that point the fear effect has worn off.
On the flip side, the ones that my brain caught on to quickly are epic chases where you are always on your toes and narrowly escape evils clutches.
Sneaky does it
The other type of scenario is where you are stealthy, you are not yet seen and these tend to be in more open spaces – a village or a cornfield. In these sections its about sneaking your way past enemies by planning your route, peeking round corners and hiding in houses or ditches. Part of the horror is you may not yet see the enemy – sometimes they have flashlights for you to figure out their pattern but other times they are lurking in the darkness.
The game mixes these two states and throws in a few puzzles along the way, the puzzles are never particularly complex – this is not Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Instead its things like turn off the power or move a cart in a mine down a path so you can jump up on it to reach a ledge.
As well as visual cues such as lights in the distance you will be guided by subtle blood stains letting you know where to jump, these don’t show up too well with the camera’s night mode meaning you need to turn it on and off quite regularly.
Camera batteries are you main resource and they are limited, if you dawdle for too long, bathing in the glow of your camera you will find yourself without any batteries which often leads to death. This is well done and keeps things moving along at a pace that stops you from getting too comfortable.
Pick up a hammer!
Aside from the annoyance of some escape routes my other issue is with our protagonist. I like that he is terrified and runs away however there are a couple of points along the way where this level of non-violence in Outlast 2 is a bit unbelievable. For example there is an enemy with their back to you and a large pair of shears is there just behind them – I wanted to take the enemy out here instead of having to run past them. There are other points where he makes some athletic moves – leaping a large gap or scaling a large fence but at other times, areas that you would expect to be able to jump over or climb are objects that you cannot interact with. This is usually coupled with death.
Aside from these issues the gameplay is decent, the game lasts 12 hours this time around as opposed to the first games 5 hours and unsurprisingly the fear does start to wane towards the end as the gameplay is rather repetitive.
That said I was committed to escaping and figuring out the story and I wanted to finish the campaign.
At £26.99 in the UK and $29.99 in the US this game is a bit more expensive than the first and a bit more than on other platforms. That said this game offers around 12 hours of campaign, full voice acting and genuinely terrifying moments. That in my mind puts it up there close to AAA titles but for a lot less cost which I would happily pay.
In terms of replay ability I personally wouldn’t pick it up again but there are collectibles throughout which can be read or watched, filling blanks in the story in order to help you get a complete picture. There are also a bunch of difficulty settings and whilst I wouldn’t play through again alone I would definitely sit down and watch a friend play.
Terrifying and engrossing
Frustrating at times
Repetitive towards the end