When I played Outlast in 2013, I thoroughly enjoyed almost every second of the game, but I was well aware of the few problems that stopped a great game from being an incredible game–long corridors, linear progression through levels, boring character designs and repetitive gameplay. With the release of Red Barrel’s second crack at their Outlast franchise, I’m happy to say that almost all of these problems have been fixed.
You play as Blake Langermann, the cameraman to your journalist wife, Lynn Langermann. The two of you are investigating a murder in the Arizona desert. The game opens with both of you flying in a helicopter. Guess what happens next?
Yup. The helicopter crashes.
This is where Blake and Lynn’s descent into madness begins. You’re directed forward in search of your wife who is nowhere to be seen after the crash. This leads you to where you’ll be spending most of your time–Temple Gate. Temple Gate is a mix of backcountry, keep-it-in-the-family camp and a radical Christian settlement, set on isolating itself from the rest of the world, and it is absolutely terrifying. Brought to life by photorealistic graphics, Temple Gate is littered with dead and decaying corpses, machete-wielding psychos and the sounds of your nightmares.
I found myself taking far longer than necessary to move even a few steps forward due to the dread and horror I felt crawling beneath my skin when advancing through the first settlement of Temple Gate.
And yet, the game only continued to get more and more terrifying as I progressed through the hell-on-earth.
If you’re looking to be horrified, this might be the game for you.
If you played Outlast, you know exactly what you’re getting into in terms of gameplay. Like the first, in Outlast II, there is no combat. You can run or you can hide. Some areas are graciously lit by bonfires and torches. Some are pitch black. This is where your camera comes into play. You’re welcome to try and brave the dark, but it’s near impossible (trust me, I tried). You’ll need to turn on the night vision on your camera if you plan to continue forward. Sadly, you won’t be able to keep it running all night long–you’ll need to find batteries to keep it working.
The game hands you a few batteries every now and then but if you plan to use night vision in every section you’re meant to, plan on searching every nook and cranny for a battery. These batteries also power the microphone of your camera, which can be used to hear those around you. I could tell that this mechanic was meant to be used to track enemy movement and position relative to you, but I found myself using it very little and needing it even less.
About as often as you find batteries, you’ll find bandages, which you use to heal after being stabbed, sliced or pushed by one of the game’s many enemies. If you fail to heal, or run away in time to heal, expect to watch a gruesome and disturbing death sequence play out.
And speaking of enemies.
Where Outlast failed to feel inspired in its character designs, Outlast II has brought to life some of the most horrific enemies I’ve ever seen in a game. You’ll encounter country folk who stalk you through the town, a grudge-like lady who is set on mutilating your genitals (you read that right) with a giant cross, humanoids devoid of skin, and outcasts corrupted by disease, unfit for sight, and each one of these enemies means something to the story.
After making it through the game’s first area, you’ll soon discover what’s really going on in Temple Gate. The radical Christians are attempting to kill an unborn baby that they believe to be the Antichrist. Doing all they can to stop them are the heretics. Sadly, Blake, in search of his wife, is stuck in the middle of this fight.
As the story unfolds, you’ll learn more about Blake through flashbacks, or hallucinations, to a Christian academy. As time passes, you’ll begin to see the connection between these moments and what Blake is currently enduring.
While Outlast II managed to open its areas up more (bye bye corridors), I still found myself growing bored of the gameplay. You’re either stealthing through a large open field or a small, cramped space. You’re either running from an enemy hot on your heels through an open town or a linear shack. When you’re not doing that, you’re likely looking for batteries or bandages so you can continue stealthing or running. I understand that this gameplay is what the Outlast series is about, but it could use just a little more variety in gameplay.
A few times, I found myself so frustrated with stealth sequences–specifically the ones involving the woman trying to stab my genitals–that I wanted to quit playing altogether. After dying 15 times, the stealth sequence meant to get my heart racing grew very, very stale. All of these problems are heightened in the Christian school flashbacks, making these segments of the game, which are quite frequent, my least favorite.
Fortunately, these problems don’t stop Outlast II from being an incredible entry, and formidable competition to January’s Resident Evil VII, to the genre of horror. After my 12 hours with the game, I found myself satisfied with the ending and still haunted by what I witnessed through the eyes–and camera lens–of Blake Langermann. If you enjoy horror, this is a game you cannot pass up but take caution: this game is not for the faint of heart. A fan of horror myself, even I had to put the controller down to take a break and remind myself it’s just a game.
A PC Review Key for Outlast II was provided by Red Barrels Games for the purpose of this Review