Barely two years after Red Barrels studio was formed in Canada Outlast was thrust upon the Playstation Network as one of PSN’s free games. I’ve always been a huge fan of horror games as far back as the first Resident Evil on the PS1. The twisted corridors of the mansion that were wrought with zombies and flesh torn dead animals. Resident Evil 1 changed a lot back in the day and I’ve been hooked on horror ever since. Outlast also had its fair share of crazy corridors but we were a long way from Racoon City. I played through the game on release and then again on live stream in preparation for the launch of Outlast II. Prior to the release of Outlast II I was hoping for more jump scares than ever before. Outlast had so many that I’d go as far to say that it is one of my favourite horror games alongside the unbelievable Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. I wondered if Outlast II would be up there too?
Outlast II is much more open that its predecessor; Outlast. I don’t want to dive in to the story all that much but the general scenes are outdoor farmland and shacks: lots of shacks. It reminded me very much of how The Field of Dreams would have looked if a swarm of Satanic worshippers had crashed Kevin Costner’s farm. During the first couple of hours in Outlast II this setting felt great. It’s fresh and super creepy. At times I felt a sense of Alan Wake with the narrow wooden paths and half bent lampposts. Outlast II felt prefect.
After a few hours I started to feel a little irritated at the repetition and monotony of the environments. There were some marginal redemption points in which our main protagonist is pulled in to a Catholic school which is still very dark and scary but a welcome break from the cornfields and shacks. More often than not Outlast II failed to thread the story together quick enough. The jump scares also LACKED significantly. Don’t get me wrong Outlast II got my pulse pounding in parts but not as much as I had hoped. I genuinely felt a little anxious going in to Outlast II but those feelings evaporated very quickly. If you asked me which game was scarier between Outlast and Outlast II I’d go with the first; Outlast without a doubt. I wanted to expand on scary experience but sadly I didn’t.
Outlast II should not be judged on the lack of jump scares. Graphically Outlast II looks magnificent compared to Outlast. A lot changed since 2013 so arguably it should come as no surprise but it’s a stark contrast on the graphics front.
A mixed bag
Outlast II triggered a wide range of review scores from 6/10 (videogamer.com) up to 85/100 (PC Gamer US). Outlast II is no masterpiece but certainly a worth playing even if you’re not that huge on horror.
Outlast II forces you to spend a lot of time with your camera up and night-vision switched permanently on. Ultimately there are some notable differences in the camera’s functionality with the ability to capture scenes and play them back. Additionally, the mic is useful to capture the distances of nearby enemies but this was something I rarely used. It seemed as though the camera usage was much higher than in Outlast which is another downside to the gameplay. More often than not the camera usage became annoying (especially when it bugged out) and the battery life was shockingly poor. In many ways the camera devolved from more balanced usage in Outlast.
For the majority of the time Outlast II had some good solid mechanics. Vaulting over objects, sliding in to cover and peering around corners are basic moves that feel fluid most of the time. Be mindful that in the more clustered areas those basic mechanics are not as fluid. It was too easy to get stuck on a nearby bed post or tree branch when in reality this should not happen. Perhaps these were glitches? Let us hope so as they happened frequently to the point where Outlast II began to lose pace.
To weapon or not to weapon
Part of me wished that Outlast II had usable weapons or at the very least melee. Stealth and agility are beautiful skills but the finesse would have come with even the use of our deadly hands. Imagine if Red Barrels would have allowed just that? Perhaps the ability to strangle or trip a nearby enemy would have been a much more rewarding experience? Outlast II felt flat at times. Hiding felt too much like 2013.
Am I bashing Outlast II too much? There were plenty of moments that made me feel engrossed. The mines were one of my favourite parts of Outlast II. The feeling of claustrophobia and fear seemed real.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
2017 got off to a great start with Resident Evil 7 being released. It’s going to be difficult to match. Consider this though: Red Barrels are not Capcom nor do they claim to be. Outlast II is a good game that was created by just over ten people! That is an unbelievable achievement and one that should not be taken lightly. Of course Outlast II is nowhere near the frightening horrors of Resident Evil 7 but I can guarantee you will not regret diving in to the cornfields of Northern Arizona one bit.
Blog post by Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24
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