Outlast 2 is a terrifying experience that blends the brutality of movies like The Hills Have Eyes, and the supernatural elements of F.E.A.R. to create a game that’s not only going to be controversial because of its themes and representation of those themes, but one that definitely left an impression on me.
Outlast 2 leaves the confines of the original’s mental asylum and places us into a small town religious community which as you’ve guessed isn’t the friendliest around. Outlast 2 places you in the shoes of cameraman Blake Langermann who along with his journalist wife Lynn are on a helicopter ride to cover the story of a young murdered pregnant girl who was found on a desert road in Arizona. Without warning a mysteriously loud horn and a blinding flash of light disables the helicopter and it comes crashing down. Naturally Blake survives the crash and sets out to find his wife by setting off into the valley where he discovers the helicopter pilot’s body completely skinned and hung up on a crucifix, and a small town in the distance.
Religion plays a massive role in Outlast 2’s story. The Sect that inhabits the town is out for the blood of any outsider that enters their territory. As I progressed things started to become a little more disturbing than just a simple cult trying to kill you. The Sect believes that the end of days has begun and Black and Lynn are the first sign of the end of days. The leader of the sect which calls itself the Testament of the New Ezekiel is lead by Sullivan Knoth and throughout the adventure you hear him on the intercoms around the town preaching his version of the new Testament and encouraging the townspeople to find and kill Blake.
There is a lot more to the story with some seriously messed up twists that I won’t spoil but I will say that Red Barrels definity pushes the limits, and is clearly ready to accept the controversial scenes in Outlast 2 and especially some of its themes. It’s something that I commend them for and hope more developers will stick to their guns instead of worrying about what may or may not offend people.
There are two sets of stories transpiring throughout Outlast 2. While searching for Lynn, Blake will at times walk through a door only to find himself in his old Catholic Elementary School which he, his wife Lynn, and their friend Jessica attended. You immediately find out something bad happened to Jessica and the mystery of what happened to her is the basis of these sequences. It’s in these sequences that Outlast 2 excels, Outlast 2 harnesses what made the horror moments in F.E.A.R. so effective.
Exploring the school I noticed a lot of crazy things. Shadows moving in the background and Jessicas laughter and screams through the hallways. I quickly came to realize that there was something at the school, something stalking me and the tension that it built up was masterfully executed. There was never a moment when I explored the school that I wasn’t kept on edge. To be completely honest, I actually wanted to find out what happened to Jessica more than I cared about finding Blake’s wife, but once I figured out that the two stories are connected, a lot of the plot holes the story presented became a lot clearer.
Outlast 2 for all intents and purposes hasn’t changed much in the gameplay department. Blake isn’t able to defend himself outside of specific set pieces so he must rely on his Solid Snake skills to hide from everything trying to kill him. Blake is able to hide under beds, closets, even barrels. A good addition is Blake’s ability to lock doors and windows, giving him some extra time to get away or find a good place to hide before the townsfolk break through.
Enemies this time around are a lot more organic than they were in Outlast. Instead of simply walking in a linear path the townsfolk move around as if they’re simply minding their own business and preparing for the end of days. They will strike up conversations discussing the outsiders with each other, walk from home to home and stop and pray whenever they choose too. Some townsfolk won’t even try and attack you unless you get in their way.
At one point I ran into an old lady walking around a town square with a machete in her hand while quoting scripture. She didn’t attack me but instead followed me around, creeping me out as I didn’t know if she would just snap at one point and attack me. Of course those that do attack you are merciless in their pursuit and I found it easier to just simply run past them the moment they saw me rather than try and find a place to hide. There were plenty of times when I would try and hide from them but more than half the time they would always find me. It was very annoying. The other issue I ran into were moments when townsfolk would just pop out of nowhere from a house or around a corner not giving me any chance to avoid being seen. It led to plenty deaths that should have been easily avoided.
It’s not just townsfolk you’ll encounter in Outlast 2, different types of enemies appear but I think it’s better that you experience them for yourselves as some of them can be quite creepy and require different strategies to avoid.
For those who remember, Outlast featured specific enemies that would stalk you throughout the game.In Outlast 2 these types of characters return. One of these characters is even featured in the trailers and on the box cover of the game. This woman will stalk you throughout Outlast 2 carrying around a giant spiked crucifix. These stalkers are unfortunately not that fun to encounter. They mostly play like they did in Outlast where you would have to find a specific item while be stalked or find a way to open a pathway while also avoiding and hiding from the stalkers.
What I thoroughly enjoyed are the chase sequences. Scripted chase sequences forced you to think quickly on your feet: running, jumping over and sliding under obstacles while hearing the shouts of whatever is chasing you is exhilarating and some of the most tense moments in the Outlast 2.
Just like in the first game, the camcorder Blake carries around is a necessity just so you can see where you’re going. Outlast 2 is dark, and I mean like walking with a blindfold dark. The only lights that are provided are from candles, torches and on occasion the moonlight. Night vision was a necessity and worked for the most part. The problem, just like the original Outlast, is the camera’s battery life. It doesn’t die as quickly as it did in the first Outlast but it’s still pretty bad.
Being a much bigger world to explore as opposed to the asylum from Outlast finding more batteries can become troublesome when there are multiple enemies to try and avoid and quite honestly I found it much easier just to let them kill me which restored by battery to full power rather than sneaking around wasting two batteries just to find another one.
The camera is also used to film important sequences that transpire and works like collectables. These may seem hard to find at first but trust me when I say you’ll know what to film when you see it. These are also important as you can actually watch them with the press of the touchpad and hear Blake’s thoughts on what he’s recorded, it actually adds a lot to the backstory of the characters and the world. You’ll also find plenty of notes written by members of the sect and even scriptures written by Sullivan Knoth, all of these notes give a fantastic insight into what’s going on in the town and just how messed up Knoth’s teachings really are.
One of the things that can make or break horror experiences is the sound design. The sound design in Outlast 2 is superb. The voice work throughout Outlast 2 is excellent and the music did a great job at keeping me on edge throughout Outlast 2. It’s the small things that Outlast 2 does with its sound that makes it so effective. Whispers in the distance, the crackling of tree branches and the brutal sound of weapon on flesh can be very unsettling.
Outlast 2 is a terrifying trip that pushes the envelope not only in fear, tension, or violence, but it isn’t afraid to touch upon subjects that society deems are to awful to talk about. Although it improves on the original’s formula, it doesn’t improve it substantially and I found plenty of ways to exploit the mechanics put in place.