There are a few things you need to do to prepare yourself when you’re about to play an Outlast video game: You need to set the volume low, turn on the light, and brace yourself to jump. Generally speaking, the Outlast games are scary. You can’t fight against your attackers; all you can do is hide and run! When the adrenaline kicks in and all you can do is run, it gets the heart pumping. And that’s the terror that connected with fans during the first game in the series. It became an indie hit that spawned a DLC and other games that mimicked the style. Surely, a sequel was going to happen – and here we are.
Outlast 2 focuses on the adventure of Blake Langermann, a journalist and cameraman who crashes in the middle of the Arizona desert while in pursuit of a story. After his helicopter pilot is killed and his wife Lynn, who is also a journalist, is kidnapped by mysterious individuals, Blake explores deeper into the desert to find her. Crazed cult members, dangerous heretics and other threatening enemies are waiting to kill the player if you get close. To sum up: the main goal of Outlast 2 (beyond simply surviving) is to find Lynn.
The plot isn’t a direct sequel from the original game. While Outlast 2 does take elements from the original (like the introduction of a cult, a powerful group, the urge to survive the night, and using the camera to see at night), the game explores new religious and mystical elements. Without giving away any spoilers, these topics became the central theme and drive for many of the enemies you encounter. I like that Outlast 2 tried something completely different from what we’d seen in the past; it wasn’t simply going to repeat the same story from the asylum and rehash the setting. We’ve already had the Whistleblower DLC that closed the asylum chapter. This was a good breath of fresh air to explore a new area, theme and horror element in a wide scale environment.
Pairing with this main story is a series of hallucinations plaguing Blake. At random intervals throughout the game, the player will be transported to an ominous high school at night in the middle of winter. Hidden away in the school is a mysterious young girl, Jessica, who slowly shares secrets of the past that Blake, as well as the player, might not be ready to hear. Oh, and we can’t forget the monsters…there will be a monster here. You will have to run A LOT!
The problem, however, with the story of Outlast 2 is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. There’s too much at play going on that’s pushing Blake at different intervals. Saving Lynn, uncovering the mystery of these enemies, a shady organization in the background, and these hallucinations all muddy up the overall story. While players may be expecting a concise way for everything to tie together and give that “ohhh” moment, similar to the original Outlast twist. We didn’t really get that and unless you followed the hidden documents or captured everything, things were a bit too vague. Though, I did like that we got a closer look into Blake’s mind whenever the camera recorded certain footage – I needed more commentary.
I think certain plot elements should’ve been removed, such as the hallucinations that Blake experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I liked playing these additional elements and getting tiny breaks from the desert. However, the school portions weren’t needed to explain his adventure now. It was essentially game filler unless it ties to a DLC in the future.
The design elements in Outlast 2 are a vast improvement over the first game. While the original focused in a confined asylum, the second game covered nature, small towns, mines and many other location elements. Each one was beautifully done and had unique elements that made them seem different from the other. You never felt like you are covering the same territory whenever you entered a new area. And having the night sky serve as the cause of darkness instead of confined spaces made it seem more realistic. I don’t know from experience how pitch black it is in the Arizona desert, but it looked terrifying.
As compared to the original game, Outlast 2 has a big learning curve. In this case, you have to be prepared to die…a lot. Unless you’re lucky 100 percent of the time, trial and error is how you’ll be able to complete a mission, discover the correct path, or locate hidden goals. The only way to do this is by making mistakes, and mistakes come with death. (In the first half hour alone, I potentially died more than five times at the same spot looking for the way out.) Even at its easiest difficulty, the chances of dying at the hands of one of the many enemies is still pretty high. There are no indicators of where to go in mid-chase and you have to rely on your wits to make very quick decisions that could keep you seconds from death. It’s realistic in real life situations. However, this ruins the fun which the original Outlast game provided. Instead of dying all the time, I could’ve found a hiding place or simply be stunned by an enemy for a short bit before running away again. I don’t know about you, but constantly dying makes me feel frustrated as a gamer.
The battery mechanic also took a noticeable hit in the sequel. Sure, resources are still scarce and it takes a while to find batteries for the camera; however, the reward doesn’t pay off much. The lifespan of each battery (while in night vision mode) is considerably short. Much of Outlast 2 is spent in complete darkness and you rely heavily on using your camera to move around/find things/escape/etc. The batteries kept dying after a few minutes whenever I entered night vision mode. This could be due to the difficulty I was on or the challenging nature of the sequel, but I felt a bigger push to not use the feature most times, even when I desperately needed it.
Outlast 2 was an ambitious first-person survival horror video game that tried to grow the momentum from its original indie hit. It expanded its world in a larger setting, it played with terrifying horror elements, and it tried to introduce new tropes to the Outlast series, like with the hallucinations. While it did achieve its goal of being a scary game (I was terrified!), it didn’t surprise the novelty and fun factor that the original had. Be it the asylum, the simple to follow story, or the uncertainty of what hid behind each corner, Outlast 2 didn’t meet those expectations.
I think it was the story that got me. I like to follow the plot and understand what dangers I’m getting into, but it didn’t hook me like the first did. Is this a bad game? No. It’s a great horror game that will scare as you push through dangerous enemies. But it’s not one that surpassed the shadow of its predecessor, regardless if you’re using the night vision mode from your camera to see past it.
Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PC and PlayStation 4
Released: April 25th, 2017
Copy Purchased By Reviewer