Outlast 2 Review: Effective And Scary
Outlast 2 Review
(Last Updated On: May 8, 2017)

[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]

As an adult of 34 years and a father of two, it’s been a long time since I soiled myself without having consumed vast quantities of alcohol and a very suspect takeaway. Outlast 2 tries everything it can to put an end to my long run of clean nights however, because it is easily one of most shocking and frightening games I’ve ever played.

Within five minutes of booting up the game, I had my first insight about the kind of thing that Outlast 2 was going to throw at me. The game opens with an anchor-woman preparing to film the introduction sequence to a documentary about some creepy goings on in the forest below. The helicopter pilot assures her that there is nothing down there. Two minutes later and the helicopter is a burning wreck, with the pilot skinned and hanging from a nearby tree.

Outlast 2 is graphic. It’s so graphic that I examined the hanging corpse for probably two or three minutes. I thought to myself “Have they… Have they skinned his cock and balls? Yes, yes they have. Oh dear.”

For those not familiar with Outlast (and this sequel, which uses the same formula) it’s a bit like a walking simulator, but with the inclusion of strong horror themes built around occult iconography and story beats.

Outlast 2 - Crib

The player is Blake Langermann, who carries a camera with a night vision feature, so seeing in the dark isn’t a problem as long as you keep the supply of batteries flowing in. Batteries do burn out quickly, and this has the effect of both creating a sense of impetus and also forcing players to use what little light there is to navigate the deceptively open environments.

What follows the grotesque introduction is about eight to ten hours of pant-shitting terror, as players creep from cover to cover past all manner of horrors both human and apparently otherwise alike. As with the first Outlast, players have no weapons to fight back with, and when an enemy spots you, you’re only options are to run – fast – and hide if you can find an appropriate barrel or wardrobe to climb into, or a bed to slide under.

It’s gut wrenching stuff, and I learned very quickly (as I predict you will) just how brutal death can be when one of Outlast 2’s denizens catches you. You will be impaled, beaten and clubbed. Your genitalia will be crushed and you will have a giant cross stuck into your chest. At least if there’s any skinning to follow, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re already dead.

Outlast 2 takes place among the houses, fields and outbuildings of Temples Gate; a kind of redneck shanty town led by Sullivan Knoth. Knoth sees himself as a prophet of some sort, and his twisted scriptures litter the game world, with each page a vile description of the unholy nature of women, and a testament to the fact that one will sooner or later give birth to the apocalypse. This belief is further confirmed by the fact that there appear to be several mass graves in the game containing infants, children and dolls. It’s not absolutely clear to me what makes up the majority, and perhaps that is intentional, because I at least prefer to think of them as dolls, but there is overwhelming evidence that would disagree with me.

Outlast 2 - Lynn

Women and childbirth are central to the story in Outlast 2, and as time in the game progresses, so too does the arc and colour of the moon. It’s not lost on me that as players progress towards the closing scenes of the game, the moon changes from a cool white to blood red, as if to highlight the already prominent themes of sexual violence, promiscuity and helplessness that the game (and its inhabitants) display towards women. It’s a pretty bleak view, and the inclusion of a relatively powerful woman among the antagonists actually reinforces my opinion that Outlast 2 simply aims to deliver traditional, high impact horror to appeal to the majority of players – ie, men in their twenties and thirties. You’ll rescue Lynn – the anchor woman who also happens to be your wife – and you’ll also fantasise about saving Jessica, a long lost love who is remembered through a series of softer, brighter memories that take place in a high school.

With so much stacked against him, and such a clear intent to do harm against him, you’d forgive our hero for taking up arms to save his wife and probably, a lot more innocent women and children in the process. Instead though, Blake clings impotently to his camera, recording the occasional gruesome murder and never raising as much as a fist to the enemy, no matter how grave the situation might be.

This is probably the most frustrating thing about Outlast 2, because where the first game featured relatively few, absolutely terrifying enemies that seemed impossible to fight with anyway, Outlast 2 is filled with stupid, often infirm hillbillies that could be dispatched with ease. The amount of times I ran past poles, knives, spades, pitchforks and other makeshift weapons was unbelievable, yet Blake never shows an inclination to pick them up, even when his life (or Lynn’s, or anyone else’s depends on it.) I should say that there are some QTE sequences, and in these he does occasionally “make contact” with enemies without dying, which is at least a change.

Outlast 2 - Ethan

This leaves the player with only stealth to fall back on, and the game does that reasonably well. Outlast 2 doesn’t have the most nuanced stealth system, and it is one that is built to capitalise on the shock and horror elements of the game, rather than to emulate the experience of say a Thief or Deus Ex game. Determining enemy line of sight can be tricky due to the creepy way that enemy eyes light up in the night vision, but the direction of torchlight and the obvious placement of ambient light and shadow does give a reasonable indication of how visible Blake is. When you get it wrong (or when enemies simply do see you) the music changes from ominous-with-redneck-banjo to high-pitched-terror-dash as you instantly smash the turn around button (borrowed directly from Resident Evil) and then sprint to the nearest hiding place. If there’s one thing the inability to fight back does cause, it’s fear of confrontation.

In summary then, Outlast 2 is an effective and scary game if you let yourself be drawn into the dingy, blood-soaked and questionable world that it wants to portray. Sure, it’s a very traditional horror game that does nothing for gender representation and it is very focused on jump scares and the fear of dying, rather than anything more clever, but it is fairly honest about what it is from the outset, and I doubt anyone who plays Outlast 2 will be drastically surprised by what they see here – except perhaps the extent of deprivation that it portrays. The stealth mechanic is present purely to support the horror features, and whilst the lack of offensive capabilities can frustrate, it’s likely that being able to butcher enemies left and right would dilute and change the experience quite dramatically.

Verdict:


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About

Matt is a 34 year old gamer from the north of England. He has worked in the games industry for 18 years and loves consoles dating right back to the NES, as well as PC and handheld gaming in almost all forms. He has a soft spot for Nintendo, for deep strategy and for board and card games both digital and physical. Need to get in contact with Matt? Use the contact page or reach him on Twitter.

  • Disqusted

    I watched a bit of Pewdie playing it the other day. It’s kinda like a mix of RE7 (and of course Outlast 1) with Michigan’s camera gameplay, and RE4’s setting.

    Honestly looked better than RE7 to me because it’s not as scripted, but still not really something I want to spend time playing. I think it’s a lot more fun watching other players failing at running away from enemies.

    • My main issue is that unlike RE7, you’re just never able to do anything.

      I think that makes RE7 a bit more replayable because after the first half, where you’re running around scared and barely armed, you at least buck up and can do something against the enemies instead of just running and hiding all the time.

      Being a pussy just seems like it would get boring after a while. But meh, that’s just me.

      • Disqusted

        Yeah, I don’t think I could stand only being able to run and hide. Even my concept idea for female protagonist horror/survival game has ways to combat/deal with enemies.

        Combat doesn’t necessarily have to mean killing enemies, either. Incapacitating them or using them to your advantage can work, too. Would like to see more clever ways of handling enemies than just running or just killing.

        Again, reminded of Siren and how you can’t kill Shibito, only take them out of the picture temporarily. And killing them can mess with the enemy patrol timing, so you’re encouraged not to if you can avoid it. Plus you can use them as moving cameras.

        • Combat doesn’t necessarily have to mean killing enemies, either. Incapacitating them or using them to your advantage can work, too. Would like to see more clever ways of handling enemies than just running or just killing.

          THIS! I don’t understand why games always use either/or, like gameplay design is an if/else statement and nothing else. It always bothers me how limited in scope some games are instead of opening up non-lethal ways of defending oneself.

          Again, reminded of Siren and how you can’t kill Shibito, only take them out of the picture temporarily. And killing them can mess with the enemy patrol timing, so you’re encouraged not to if you can avoid it. Plus you can use them as moving cameras.

          I noticed a lot of older games have a lot more creative gameplay than newer games. I nearly tear my hair out thinking about this because with things like the Unreal Engine 4 Blueprints, there is literally nothing that can’t be done in a newer game.

          • Disqusted

            To be honest, I have difficulty trying to think out of the box, like trying to innovative concepts that have yet to exist. I feel like it’s especially difficult if your mind is firmly grounded in factual reality.

            At the same time, there are some good past mechanics that nobody seems to use anywhere else, like the sightjacking in Siren. Maybe those are patented or something? I hear game companies like to patent some pretty silly stuff.

            One of the ideas for my survival/horror game is about strategically and temporarily sealing off enemies (and paths) at the cost of inconveniencing yourself. Knowing you have a contained threat, and having to weigh the risks of passing through there or not, etc. I still haven’t prototyped it yet though, so I’ve no idea whether it’d actually work well or not. Would probably lead to overcomplicated maps.

            I started thinking about Illbleed again for some reason. That was such a great game. It’s a shame it didn’t do well and that Shinya Nishigaki passed away right after it.

          • You could do something like old beat-’em-up titles with the dazed function. You use some device, mechanic, or attack to stun the enemy for a set period. To mix it up you could have a different set of animations depending on where you are in the game.

            Technically, you could attach specific animations or attacks to inhibit or fetter the enemy briefly based on the area of the play map. So it would be like:
            if zone (23) = 1
            run animation (x)

            Where 1 would be the player state as true and 0 would be the player state as false. You could set it up where it checks if the player state is true or not. If the state is true and the player is in that zone then it runs a set animation specific to that zone. So if they’re in the kitchen then you might stab the monster or whatever. If the player is in the garage then they might throw a toolbox at them.

            The actual function itself could be limited to a simple button press or a repeated button press so the function module never changes, just the animations based on the zone.

            You could get really creative in mixing and matching different animations with the running and hiding, etc., so even if it’s just a basic function loop it would seem different or unique as a player experience based on where they are in the map.

          • Disqusted

            Sounds good. I wanted to build on the ways of escaping/struggling. For example, in Haunting Grounds, there’s that panic system, but once Fiona panics, it’s just annoying to deal with her tripping over herself. I think it’d be more interesting if players could overcome her panicking by outmaneuvering it. I don’t think that’d detract from the feeling of “oh shit, I’m panicking”.

            What I often worry about is having a good balance of dynamic and static gameplay elements. I’d like to give players abilities that can be used in all kinds of places and scenarios, rather than abilities that rely too heavily on static stuff like specific rooms, specific object placement, etc. I think there’s more depth and replayability in having stuff that can be used and experimented with in lots of places. Probably tougher to set up, though.

          • I think there’s more depth and replayability in having stuff that can be used and experimented with in lots of places. Probably tougher to set up, though.

            Totally agreed. It’s tough coming up with non-physics systems like that, but the thing I proposed was like a lazy-man’s way of doing things, lol. I know how hard it is to setup stuff to work right, and coding can be a pain unless you’re naturally gifted, so it’s a matter of picking and choosing what method works best for the kind of game you want to make and how much time you want to spend making it.

      • Eat at Joes

        RE7 was just too goofy for me, the facial animations were too uncanny and the dialogue really took the scare out of it. I felt like I needed a VR headset to get any kind of scare from it. I would agree with you that some form of combat might have been a good addition; something akin to the defensive options provided in Alien Isolation for example. I think it’s good to give the player a chance to fight off foes at times, but perhaps never really defeat them.

        • Disqusted

          I thought RE7 was too funny to be much of a scare. Jack Baker is a funny guy.

          Mia’s tsundere thing doesn’t feel much different from dealing with real, normal women. One moment they’re nice and calm, the next moment they’re stabbing you with a knife and chainsawing your hand.

          I thought it was funny (and sad) how the only defense you have in RE7 is holding your hands in front of your face. I wonder when VR will add some kind of dodge that doesn’t make people sick.

          • Standing man

            Seriously though, in RE7 you have steel forearms or something… And then they just sew the one arm back on and you can move it and everything lol.

        • Definitely had some goofy moments. I think the scare factor was more-so in not knowing what was around the corner or how to properly get away. There was a bit of an emergent element of discovery for the player to try to find some way to either defend themselves or hide, which I thought was good.

          But Alien Isolation is definitely a better example of this. My only gripe with that game was the teleporting xenomorph. I wish they could have found a way to make it just as threatening but without constantly teleporting around barriers to track you down.

          • Disqusted

            I kinda skipped that game because I didn’t like how the protagonist’s head is always touching the roof, and I heard it’s not that great overall. I also heard about the teleporting xenomorph.

          • Standing man

            Alien? It’s still a great game, it can just be really hard at points. I definitely recommend it though.

          • Standing man

            Absolutely agree with you on that. Sevastopol is a massive space station and I know (spoiler) there’s more than one alien on board, but it just seems to know where you are whether you make noise or not.

            I’m still going to give RE7 a try though, I really liked where they were going with the setting and AI.