Outlast 2 review – Catch me if you can!

Outlast 2
Horror is a tricky genre to tackle, especially in video games. Either the game is based solely around jump-scares like Five Nights at Freddy’s, or it provides an uneasy atmosphere like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Like any art form, fear is subjective. But I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say the best pieces of horror are the ones that blend the two elements of setting and atmosphere perfectly. This is something the first Outlast by Red Barrels achieved. And it is still one of the scariest games I’ve ever played because of it. As a result, I was very much looking forward to the sequel. Outlast 2 is not a continuation of the first game’s story. However, it contains the same heart-pounding adrenaline rush that comes from being chased in the dark holding a night-vision camera.

The sequel puts you in the unfortunate shoes of Blake Langermann, a journalist working with his wife Lynn to investigate the murder of a young pregnant woman. The helicopter they’re in crashes in the Supai region of Arizona, where they luckily land near a village. Did I mention the village is home to a psychotic cult who believes Lynn is the mother of the Antichrist? The village setting is a direct contrast to the tight corridors of the first Outlast‘s Mt. Massive Asylum. You’re introduced to a dirty and colonial environment that has been closed off from society for who knows how long. The residents are insane, there are rotting animal and human corpses everywhere, and one part in the beginning shows you a burned pile of dead children!

However, these grotesque moments would only be more effective had they not been overused for the entirety of the game. Sure there were quite a few gory moments in the first title. But Outlast 2 relies way too much on these slasher-film tropes. For this rason, it wore off on me halfway through this 5-hour run. There’s even a recurring foe who looks like a rip-off of the grudge. And she talks like she has something lodged between her vocal cords. She also likes to drive her pickaxe through your groin every time she catches you. (It isn’t so shocking after the tenth time.) And just when I thought there couldn’t be anymore, I landed in an area where blood was literally raining from the sky for some reason.

As a matter of fact, the scariest parts of Outlast 2 come from a series of “flashbacks,” if you can call them that. During specified moments, Blake finds himself thrown into a Catholic school, representing the one he went to as a child. There he encounters twisted visions of a creature that’s stalking him, along with hints of tragic events that occurred during his childhood. These moments fill you with a sense of unease, even when there isn’t anything necessarily wrong. It’s just a typical school at night time with some lights off.

There are still times when blood comes out of the wall or a strange freak of nature is chasing you down an empty hallway. But these moments filled me with more tension than any area of the village whatsoever. Even the part where the monster is chasing you is made freakier thanks to the sequence’s eerily calm music.

Presentation

Which brings me to the game’s stellar presentation. Red Barrels stuck with using Unreal Engine 3 again instead of upgrading to UE4. But I honestly thought this game was running on UE4 this whole time because it looks so good! Granted, it doesn’t take the newest engine to make some incredible visuals, and Outlast 2 proves that. Despite exceeding the recommended requirements on PC by a large margin, there are times where the framerate would chug along during some crowded chase sequences (there’s a lot of them in case you couldn’t tell) and overcrowded areas. Thankfully it didn’t kill the overall experience.

What I loved about the first Outlast was the music, and the sequel delivers on that once again. As I mentioned before, my favorite composition is the one that plays when the monster in the “flashback” area appears. It’s not a loud screeching track, but a subtle one resembling that of a heartbeat. I got chills every time that track played.

Your Camera and Equipment

You’re equipped with a camera, a microphone, and some pockets that hold bandages and AA batteries for the camera. Red Barrels took some more creative and clever liberties with the camera this time around. It makes use of the recording feature to get a deeper look inside Blake’s collapsing sanity. When key moments strike, you can record them for a few seconds and play them back to listen to Blake’s commentary. His dialogue goes from stating the obvious to losing his damn mind near the end. It’s an interesting feature that was utilized well for some minor character development.

The microphone on the camera is another handy tool used to listen in on how close someone you’re hiding from is. If their voices get louder- as indicated by the soundbar on the left- that means they’re getting closer. I’ve used the microphone during cat-and-mouse situations, which are pretty rare seeing as you’ll spend most of the game running.

Chase Sequences

This is where the first major problem of Outlast 2 lies, you will be doing a whole lot of running. I’m not talking about getting caught after a failed sneak and then booking it. I’m saying there are planned moments where your only option is to run. Most of these chase sequences had my stamina fully deplete before it was over. As a result, it led to my death and being respawned halfway through the sequence. I mean, that helped me get to the end at least.

When being chased in the open air, it can be especially hard to find the right path as they are not so obviously indicated. For example, I ran from a crazy nutjob all the way to a locked gate. Little did I know I had to move to the right to find a blood marking on a wall which had a reachable ledge on top. I almost died trying to figure that out. There are times when trial and error make a game fun (see Hotline Miami), Outlast 2 is not one of those games.

Story’s Conclusion

Finally, the biggest issue I have with Outlast 2 is the story, more specifically, the conclusion. From the very beginning, the plot builds up to the mystery of what this cult really is. Supernatural elements occur in this village, like the Catholic school flashback scenes, a bright light that shines at the center of town which changes the behavior of the citizens, and there are even more questions brought during the last hour or so of the game.

After all the running, suffering, and emotional turmoil Blake (and the player) go through for the past 5 hours, it all ends with one of the most unsatisfying conclusions in gaming history. When the screen faded to black, I prayed to Red Barrels to not roll the end credits. Alas, my prayers were not answered. Some would argue that ambiguity is okay, especially in horror.  But there needs to be a payoff when it comes to video games, especially if the journey leading up to the end left a lot of things to be desired.

Final Reaction

Outlast 2 is good… and disappointing. It contains the key ingredients of an Outlast sequel: creepy night-vision camera shots, a defenseless protagonist, and chasing. So much chasing that playing ultimately feels like a chore than an actual game. Top it off with a horrendous payoff loaded with unanswered questions and you have yourself a sequel that doesn’t live up to the original. Thankfully, the school segments of the game prove that Red Barrels still have great horrific talent up their sleeve. But I feel they should keep their focus set on more tight and close-off environments like asylums and less so on open ones like a village in Arizona. If there is an Outlast 3 in the future, I hope Red Barrels takes these criticisms to heart to make it a better game.

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

This review copy was provided using a download code from Red Barrels.

About author

Joey Ferris
Joey Ferris 260 posts

l love to play games and write stuff about them. I can't play something and not tell anyone how I feel about it. Call it a sickness, because it is.