Outlast 2 REVIEW – Horror goes very dark
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Genre: Survival Horror
Release: April 25th, 2017
Review copy provided by Red Barrels (Xbox One)
utlast 2 opens up its theme and the mystery buried deep underneath it right at the beginning of the game. Like its predecessor, there is a central question that screams to be answered, but here you immediately get the sense that there is much more to unravel.
The game starts with the journalist couple Blake and Lynn Langermann in a helicopter on their way to investigate a story about a Jane Doe who was found dead while pregnant in the Arizona desert. Moments later Blake gets separated from Lynn finding the pilot skinned and tied to a tree. Blake wakes up in a world where religion and cults reign and a mysterious Father Knoth is the leader of a cult called Temple Gate.
DARE TO PICK IT UP
The developers did not compromise one bit on showing you what the world they built has to offer. Right at the beginning you document important events with your video camera. This game is gory. Well, extremely gory. From blood fountains, skinned and naked bodies to horrifying enemy design, some elements will stick with you without a doubt. Especially the overarching mystery is a tough pill to swallow once it becomes clearer bit by bit. But let’s start with some of the mechanics of the game since this is the main foundation for a survival horror game without weapons.
Outlast 2 often puts you in situations with one or two enemies, a small space to work with, like a village, and it’s up to you to find the right approach without any knowledge of your options ahead. Due to the extreme darkness this can sometimes result in a trial and error loop and some frustrating moments. It is a thin line to get this right, because the whole point of the game in the first place is to keep you on your toes and force you to discover an exit/hideout/solution while running scared.
Outlast 2 has this down more often than not. Places seem bigger at first and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to solutions. A generous auto-save system let’s you explore and fail without too much backtracking as well which is a big relieve in many situations.
CHASE THE THRILL
The drive to keep moving forward also comes down to the great pacing, which gets increasingly frantic towards the end. You do get time to reset and collect yourself after intense chase scenes. Sometimes a chase continues immediately after a room of silence and this is what Outlast 2 does so incredibly well here. Throwing you for a loop when you least expect it, which always keeps you guessing what the next door might hold, but it is held back often to not overuse it. Same goes for cheap jump scares that would lend itself for easy chills at any given moment. Don’t get me wrong the game has plenty throughout, but they are spread out very well just to make you guess one at any corner.
One thing that took some patience was the enemy AI and their behavior. It can be a bit confusing and while this adds to the fun/horror of a new scene, it sometimes results in some frustrating moments when you approach areas for the first time “I swear i did hide in the barrel before he saw me”. Again, these are minor cracks, usually the dark and your batteries work in your favour (I did play it on normal) and you will have the upper hand in most scenes, even if it took you a couple tries.
MORE DETAIL FOR THE DEVIL
Great care obviously has gone into polishing the graphics and the lighting of the scenes. This can be make or break for a game as dark as Outlast 2, always trying to hide the obvious threat giving you just enough detail and light to jump start your imagination without leaving you completely lost. The night-vision mode on your cam proves to still be one of the scariest filters in horror games and when you are in pitch black underground, it’s only you and a few feet of green creepy environments. Outlast 2 also adds a directional microphone to the cam. You can make out voices and noises when you turn it on.
LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS
Aside from the simple makeup of the school sequences, the glossy floors, lockers and surrounding details are amazingly well done and give you a bright normality for a few moments.
Another showcase of the amazing play with light in this game are the fields. Multiple enemies with flashlights are looking for you, breaking the darkness through the large crops and making the shadows disappear around you. When i played this for the first time i was stunned and scared but did sit there for a while just to soak this in. Great lighting in a game can do so much and improve simple scenes, let’s hope we see more of this in upcoming games.
Outlast 2 is a thrill ride from start to finish. The frustrations that come with a pitch black game in the first place are handled very rewarding with great pacing and a goo feel and use of the night vision. The game manages to keep the balance of tense moments and soaking in the world extremely well as well. The central mystery sticks strong and will keep you on top if you have enough batteries. The story that unravels slowly and cryptic at times is gory, horrifying and uncompromising. Hats off to everyone who plays Outlast 2 with headphones in the dark.