Developed by Canadian studios Red Barrels, the first Outlast was an instant hit with gamers, bringing back good ol’ horror and suspense vibe that most others were failing at, without the need of fancy graphics or even technical power, just pure play on your emotions and fears. Three years later, after a decent expansion called Whistleblower, the studio is back with a brand new sequel, promising to be as dirty and morbid as the original Outlast, fitted with new features supposed to make it scarier.
Away from the insane Mount Massive asylum, yet retaining some small ties with its predecessor, Outlast 2 start on a fresh slate, yet still embodies a journalist armed with just a simple camera. The adventure starts in a helicopter as reporter Lynn Langermann, alongside companion and cameraman Blake Langermann (the game’s hero) are heading to Arizona to investigate a dark subject. By dark, we mean the discovery of a young Jane Doe on the edge of a road, pregnant, covered with dirt and murmuring verses from an unknown book, before hanging herself. Blake, who is in charge of investigating the origin of this behavior, doesn’t sadly reach the premises, as their their helicopter crashes within couple of minutes from the beginning of the game, and wakes up to the sight of their pilot skinned alive and impaled on a cross, with Lynn nowhere to be found. Faithful to the first episode, Outlast 2 does not bother with complex mechanics, and our hero is not some sort of superman, and must hide or run to hope to survive. Like the previous episode, the game is played from the angle of the hero’s camera (reminding me of the Blair Witch Project), which will help you as well film important clues and elements in the game for your coverage (you’re a journalist after all). This same camera also has a system with amplify brightness to be able to see better in the dark, if you have enough batteries, and a stronger microphone array helping you to better catch sounds from afar and spot enemies ahead of time.
On the technical front, the first thing you notice when you set your eyes on Outlast 2 are obviously the highly enhanced engine thanks to a switch to the modern Unreal Engine 4. The textures have a nicer finishing, and if the game does not offer the best rendering, it nevertheless has great light and shadow effect that are worthy of this generation, on top of the VHS effect used on the entire game. Note that Outlast 2 is also less linear in terms of level design, thanks to the wider scenery of this dark Arizona valley, without being a open-world game. Gameplay wise, Outlast 2’s linearity has only one goal: to serve the purpose of the game and push you to the brink of intense scare and suspense. This aspect is largely compensated by the general mood of the game, and scary moment in Outlest 2 are more shocking and frightening than in the first game, thanks to level designs that will bring shiver to your spine but also the actual evil of the story. Our reporter will soon enough discover that all this horror is the work of fundamentalist Christians divided into several sects, which the strongest one is known as The main is the Testament of the New Ezekiel, led by a guru called Sullivan Knoth. Without going into details, they believe in a book that prophesies the coming of the Devil in the form of a newborn, which pushes the believer to massacre all newborns and foreigners which could potentially “impregnate” their women. An excellent morbid story, that sadly Outlast 2 finally put very little attention to, dedicating almost none of its few cinematics to expand on it, and forcing you to put pieces together by reading collectible pages along the way on your adventure.
If the horror element is indisputably present, the fear factor remains confined to novelty. If the first opus killed it with repetitive mechanics, Outlast 2 falls in a similar problem. Several phases of the game – including a bloody hide-and-seek part in the cornfields – are quite difficult, especially as the more time the player spends, the more perspicacious and effective the enemies become in their hunt for Blake. This applies to numerous other part of the game, that literally turns them into a very frustrating trial and error system, which removes the fear factor once you memorize enemy patterns. Like its predecessor, Outlast 2 ends relatively quickly (roughly 8 to 9 hours of game time, less if you are used to the previous game mechanics) and does not really have any sort of replay value. Small point of permissiveness probably added by the developers who, too, had to galley: now we have bandages to heal. Overall, and with a few frustrating passage, the adventure remains excellent and will bring nightmares among the most emotional players.
Outlast 2 was reviewed using an Xbox One digital code of the game provided by Red Barrel Studios. The game is also available on PC and PlayStation 4 in digital stores. Outlast 2 is also included in the Outlast Trinity bundle, which included the original Outlast and the Outlast: Whistleblower expansion. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The awesome Outlast morbid and scary mood
• Enhanced graphics with better light effects
• Great soundtrack
• Bigger and more open level design
• A better story than the first game
• Too much relying on trial and error
• Really short of a game with no replay value