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The Outlast Trials Review (PS5) – Trials And Tribulations

The Outlast Trials Review (PS5)Red Barrels return with the latest entry into their widely known horror series, Outlast. However, there is a distinct twist that separates this iteration from its predecessors. The Outlast Trials is a multiplayer game, or more appropriately, it is a game as a service. It has been available in early access on PC since May of last year, and the game is finally available on PS5.

As someone who actually bought a PS4 when the original Outlast was made available for it, which is admittedly odd looking back, I’ve been tentatively looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel.

The Outlast Trials Review (PS5) – Trials And Tribulations

Hide And Seek

Fans of the intense stress simulator (aka Outlast) will immediately know what is expected of them when jumping into The Outlast Trials. In what amounts to essentially the most unnerving game of hide and seek you will ever play, you will be tasked with stealthily completing objectives, running away, and hiding under desks, in lockers, and even in trash cans.

This time however, you will be doing it as part of a team. Surprisingly, the Outlast brand of horror does fit the mould of a multiplayer experience for the most part. Being able to lead a stalker away as a human distraction, while your team tends to the objective makes for an intense, yet interesting dynamic.

Teammates can also assist in getting pouncers off of you, removing spring lock traps, and reviving you when needed, and it most definitely will be needed. There’s a lot of fun to be had when playing as a team, and that’s simultaneously a pro and a con.

On one hand, it is satisfying to complete objectives by working together, and there’s definitely some great possibilities for emergent gameplay moments. However, on the other, it removes some of the fear factor. Having others there with you, immediately lightens the load. That feeling of seclusion, and helplessness that was especially felt in previous Outlast titles, is not nearly as apparent in The Outlast Trials.

There’s an array of items to help you get around the grimy locations. Batteries to recharge the series’ cornerstone; night vision, adrenaline shots to move faster, syringes for revives, health items, bottles, bricks and more. The oppressive nature of previous titles is also a little less given the abundance of those items, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Given how intense I found Outlast 2 to be, its sequel is ultimately a much less stressful experience, which I’m ok with. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a shocking amount of gore and horrifying imagery to witness, but I definitely felt that I had more agency in the multiplayer sequel.

I Want To Play A Game

The stages in The Outlast Trials are truly inspired. In what is my favorite aspect of the sequel, the game entirely takes place within a facility. These stages are facsimiles of real world locations, like a police station, but their false, stage-play like appearance is always apparent, and is the strongest component in creating its unnerving atmosphere. It almost feels like a location taken from Saw, Condemned or Manhunt, with its dilapidated aesthetic.

Research scientists, doctors, and other such witnesses watching on from behind the safety of glass sealed rooms, taking notes on how well you’re performing in the trials all adds to the experience. The fact that you’re in a simulation, within a game, is very cool, and a very stylish design choice, especially with how well it plays into the narrative.

Two main persistent enemies, but only one at any given time will roam the often claustrophobic halls, and let’s just say they’re equally terrifying, and their dialogue is utterly insane, highly disturbing, but sometimes genuinely comedic, and satirical.

You will be running from a police officer named Leland Coyle, who is armed with a stun baton, and Mother Gooseberry, a larger woman armed with a puppet that is also a drill. I’ll leave you to experience the rest for yourself, some of it is not for the faint of heart.

Every so often, an alarm will sound and a new enemy enters the arena. Sometimes, it is a more persistent enemy that will remain for the duration of your trial, and sometimes it is a more time limited antagonist, that you will have to try and avoid, so long as they don’t trick you.

The Imposter

One type of enemy will appear with a gamertag that’s almost identical to one of your teammates, which caught me off guard on more than a few occasions and continued to be effective long after it had been established.

Admittedly, a few occasions I didn’t realize it wasn’t in fact my friend and ally, until I had a knife in my gut. This feature blew me away, the first time especially, and it’s an excellent ingredient into an already brutal concoction.

If that wasn’t enough, there is also a psychosis meter to keep an eye on. Walking over gaseous land mines, opening up trapped item boxes laced with toxins, will expose you to a chemical agent that lead to your character hallucinating. Enter, the Skinner Man.

Whilst you’re under the effects of psychosis, you will see The Skinner Man more and more, waiting behind doors, just off in the distance, but when your psychosis meter is entirely depleted, you better be ready to run. His presence, just standing near you, will deplete your health constantly, until the duration comes to an end, or you find an antidote to cure yourself, abruptly freeing yourself from the clutches of The Skinner Man.

Unfortunately it can be very frustrating when all these various enemies are essentially guarding the objectives and interrupting otherwise seemingly more cinematic moments. This can feel especially grating when combined with its repetitive mission structure, which do feel more like rounds from a multiplayer suite. However, the organic and emergent approach to the trials does create memorable moments.


When not taking part in the trials themselves you will find yourself in what appears to be a mental hospital/prison facility. Think One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Its cold, clinical and brutalist appearance is immediately felt. This location acts as a hub for your team during downtime, between trials.

There’s a handful of characters to interactive with, or beyond that, you can even play chess, and arm wrestle other players. It is certainly another stylish and immersive design choice.

Your personal cell is entirely customizable, with decorations you can unlock from in game progression. Not to mention, you can also purchase cosmetics, with in game currency to personalize your character as well. This aspect feels very much like your standard game as a service, but it’s unique enough to indulge, even if briefly. I never felt driven to unlock those rewards, and was hoping to be rewarded more in a narrative sense.

The context for the trials and the facility, is based around the MKUltra project. A human experimentation program undertaken by the CIA to understand the effects of certain drugs, and how they could be applied to interrogations, brainwashing, and psychological torture. A very apt subject that Red Barrels have utilized for their narrative, and combined with its environmental design, in masterful fashion.

Each trial being a means to desensitize the player character known as the reagent, and condition them for nefarious means outside the walls of the secret Merkoff Facility is a really cool idea, providing a logical context for being in the trials.

My issue being that beyond the very final mission, which you must complete alone for narrative reasons, the game is otherwise light on storytelling, in order to maintain its open ended structure, which is consistent with the nature of a game as a service. This is especially unfortunate given what is there is so engaging and interesting, including its abrupt cliffhanger ending.

Engaging And Unique Multiplayer Experience

The sound design matches its gritty, derelict setting. Hearing the drill sounding off down an adjacent hallway will strike fear into your heart. All of the antagonists have great voice work that assist in identifying who is who, based off of their lines and delivery alone. The characters who have a more southern gothic personality are especially memorable.

Characters found within the hub sounded more muted for some reason, and whilst they’re well acted, I struggled to hear some of their optional conversations. Other than being key to the upgrade system that will benefit you greatly in the trials, they are definitely worth engaging with further; if you want more of the story.

Red Barrels’ attempt at a Trophy list is largely uninspiring, but will take you a while to get through. I am also happy to report that experience no technical issues whilst playing The Outlast Trials.

The Outlast Trials has evidence to collect throughout its stages, but the game is open ended by nature, so there is plenty bang for your buck if that’s what you’re looking for. It is very fairly priced, which makes it very easy to recommend to horror fans.

The Outlast Trials is an ambitious project for Red Barrels, and sometimes it is not exactly what I wanted, especially when I look back on what I enjoyed about the previous entries in the franchise. As a standalone experience, it is full of engaging and unique ideas, whilst maintaining a highly entertaining yet thrilling multiplayer experience.

The Outlast Trials is available for PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on March 5, 2024.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

The Outlast Trials is a unique, engaging, horrifying, and memorable multiplayer experience, and although this is its greatest strength, it also lessens the pure horror experience that Outlast is otherwise known for. The excellent environments and narrative choices are well worth experiencing; I only wish there was more story content to experience, and variety in mission structure.