Outlast 2 ReviewPrice:
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Outlast 2 is a horrible game. It is so thoroughly, unrelentingly ghastly and grim that I wonder how developers Red Barrels created it without ruining their development PCs by constantly being sick all over them. In fact, the only way I can get through this review without having a breakdown is by interspersing screenshots of the game with pictures of extremely cute animals. Here’s a Nice Thing to get us started.
Think of the bunny, Rick. Just think of the bunny.
As you can no doubt guess from the above paragraph, Outlast 2 rattled my cage like an earthquake at a zoo. Compared to the first Outlast, which wasn’t exactly a trip to Disneyland, it is several orders of magnitude more intense and unpleasant, to the point where I genuinely found it difficult to finish. That said, I don’t think it is as good a game as its predecessor. Where the first Outlast offered a complex environmental space with plenty of dynamic hide ‘n’ seek encounters, Outlast 2 is basically a ghost train. It is a whopping nightmare bastard of a ghost train, but it is a ghost train nevertheless.
Outlast 2 tells an entirely different story from the first game. You play as Blake Langermann, a cameraman who works with his wife and freelance reporter Lynn. The couple are on the trail of a dead woman whose body washed up in a river in Arizona and have travelled deep into the desert to investigate where she came from and what happened to her. Naturally, the expedition goes hideously wrong, and the pair find themselves in the middle of a turf war between a backwater commune of violently zealous Christians and a cult of heretics seeking to bring about the endtimes.
Mechanically, Outlast 2 is very similar to the first game, with most of its systems revolving around your handheld camera. Primarily, your camera acts as a flashlight, with its grainy night-vision enabling you to see in Outlast’s cavernously dark environments. But the night-vision also reduces the distance you can see, and drains the camera’s battery at an alarming speed, forcing you to scavenge the environments for more or risk navigating in near-complete darkness.
In addition to this, you use the camera to film specific scenes and events. Playing the footage back reveals more information about what’s going on. This also forces you to look at things you may not want to look at, and in some areas getting a good shot can put you at risk of being attacked. It’s an effective tension generator, while having the playbacks commented on by Blake is an improvement upon the original’s handwritten notes. In addition, Blake’s camera comes equipped with a directional microphone that lets you track enemy movements by observing the sound levels as they increase and decrease in volume. It’s a neat idea but doesn’t work quite as well as it could for reasons I’ll explain in due course.
The main difference between Outlast and Outlast 2, however, is the setting. Whereas Outlast took place in a single (albeit large) location, Outlast 2 is set in a sprawling slice of North American wilderness. You’ll explore dilapidated farmsteads, fog-wreathed forests, and abandoned mines, all swathed in the game’s eerie, moon-pocked night. I was going to say that Outlast 2 boasts some fantastic lighting, but it would be more appropriate to say that Outlast 2 boasts some fantastic shadows. Beyond its more in-your-face elements, Outlast 2’s aesthetic is one of silhouettes, of church spires outlined against sickly skies, of flickering torchlights illuminating distant figures, of bodies dangling from knots and crosses, backlit by the moon’s pale glow.