When I played the original Outlast, I discovered quickly that I could never play it alone. As a solution, I roped in a friend to face the gory horrors of the asylum with me. Although terrifying, it was a memorable experience. Upon hearing that developer Red Barrels was planning a sequel, I was instantly excited.
Outlast 2 ditches the claustrophobic asylum hallways of the original and shifts to more open environments set in the Arizona desert. You play as an investigative journalist, camcorder in hand, who along with his wife looks into the mysterious murder of a Jane Doe. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, it is bloody, disgusting, controversial, and features more of a psychological tone than the previous installment. Here are five ways Outlast 2 captures mind-bending horror.
Early on in Outlast 2, you find yourself in a secluded town cut off from the rest of society. Upon rummaging through documents and examining your surroundings, from homes adorning several religious symbols to a pit of corpses, you realize something ominous is afoot. These grounds are the home of a religious cult hiding unsettling secrets. The cultist inhabitants are far from friendly, and most attack you on sight with machetes in hand. All you can do is run or hide, whether that be under a bed, in a wardrobe closet, or in a barrel (sometimes filled with blood). Through the entirety of the game, you traverse the Arizona desert and meet different factions of this cult who, more of than not, deem you unwelcome.
It’s Gory As Hell
Outlast 2 is incredibly gory and not for for those with a weak stomach. Whenever I was caught by cultists during my playthrough, I was stabbed ferociously. I witnessed my character experience graphic castration, saw tortured humans stuck in iron cages, and pushed a contorted corpse wrapped in barbed wire out of my way during an escape. Outlast 2 doesn’t just rely on jump scares and gore to terrify you, though.
Psychological Twists Mess With Your Head
Red Barrels co-founder Philippe Morin explains that while the first Outlast focused on taking your physical integrity away, this second entry centers on playing with your mental integrity. With the original Outlast having a narrower budget and a more condensed development cycle, many of the ideas Red Barrels wished to touch upon were left unexplored.
With Outlast 2, the team had more freedom to explore unique tones and story beats. Many of these include messing with your head, such as using creative transitions from one location to the next. For example, as I examined a well during my playthrough, large tentacles rose out of it and dragged me inside. As I tumbled down, the walls morphed and the setting changed magically, transforming into a vent inside a school. In another scene, I stood in a school hallway with a young girl in the distance. Soon, a tsunami of blood came crashing into the room in a manner reminiscent of The Shining. When I asked Morin whether these sequences in the school were dreams or reality, he shrugged and laughed, saying it was up for interpretation.
You Record And Document The Horrors
One of the most iconic features from Outlast is its night vision camcorder, which returns for the sequel with some new functionality. Now, your camcorder has a microphone feature, and displays audio levels on-screen when in use. This is used to monitor enemy whereabouts. For example, if you notice the audio levels heighten, it’s best to stay hidden until they lower once again.
Similar to the first Outlast, you are prompted to record certain events. In the first game, when recording something significant, the protagonist would jot down the scene in his notepad so you can read it later. This time, the exact footage you record is stored in your digital camcorder, ready for your perusal whenever you want. It’s a fascinating and effective way of keeping track of creepy events.
Bigger, More Diverse Environments
Outlast 2 is a linear game, meaning that although the environments are larger this time around, you still have a straightforward path to follow. The bigger areas, however, allow for more varied experiences and create a disorienting effect. Certain areas require light environmental puzzle solving, such as moving crates while enemies are chasing you down to reach a higher level in time.
The first Outlast did a terrific job with building an unnerving atmosphere, and this is present once again. You come across all sorts of different terrains, including sliding down muddy hills and evading enemies in a sprawling cornfield. At one point, I was knee-deep in a river, slowly wading my way through the water, and all I could think about was whether something terrifying would drag me under.
Outlast 2 is one of our most anticipated horror games of 2017. It releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 25.