Outlast 2 Review

The Crème de la Crème of Psychological Horror

With the release of Outlast 2, Red Barrels proves itself a lasting creator in the survival-horror genre. Following on the heels of Outlast: Whistleblower and set in the same twisted universe, Outlast 2 is a first-person psychological survival horror game that does not shy away from gore, nudity, or mutilation. It features a well-crafted story and is meticulously designed to leave its mark in your mind for years to come.

You will not walk out the other side of Outlast 2 unscathed.

The developers at Red Barrels successfully tapped into players’ fear with their first two titles, and it seems they’ve only fine-tuned their formula with their latest title. Some players may admittedly grow bored of the limited gameplay style Outlast features. But what Outlast 2 lacks in varied gameplay and mechanics, it more than makes up for in story, character, and sheer dread.

Outlast 2 is at the top of its genre because it remains bitterly lodged in our memories, even now, long after the credits have rolled.

Story

The story of Outlast 2 starts as any typical survival game would. Your character is dropped into an area they are unfamiliar with, they have painfully few resources at their disposal, and their original goal is in jeopardy of disappearing. Now, survive. But as we continue our journey back towards civilization and grow more confident in our own right, that’s when Outlast 2 shines.

You are Blake Langermann, a cameraman for the award-winning investigative journalist Lynne Langermann, your wife. The pair of you are investigating the disturbing death of one Jane Doe, a pregnant woman who was, suffice to say, brutally murdered. Unfortunately, the couple of you get stranded in a remote forest on the border of Arizona and Colorado. No friends, no help, no cell phone reception to call for aid.

Typical survival. Where’s the horror? Well, it turns out the forest you’re stranded in is known as the Mouth of Hell, and it’s home to a super friendly cult known as Temple Gate. And by super friendly, I mean inbred, ignorant, and murderous.

Outlast 2 - Blood in the Showers

As Blake and Lynne journey deeper into Temple Gate, they realize they’re caught up in several prophesies that may or may not bring about the world’s end. Things only escalate from there, with Blake encountering syphilis, riddled mutants, undead aborted fetuses, and other grotesqueries.

The concept of Outlast 2 is as simple as any other Red Barrels has put forth: survive. Blake is not a fighter, just like Miles in the original Outlast, so all he has is a camera. You aren’t meant to square up head to head with the game’s antagonists. You’re meant to run, hide, and run some more. That concept may get stale after a while, but the story is impactful enough to keep the gameplay exciting and engaging.

Graphics

The graphics of Outlast 2 are nothing to get excited about. That doesn’t mean characters have pixelated heads and the scenery glitches; far from it. You can easily see the gore caked onto Brother Knoth’s torso, you can clearly notice the bloodstains on the walls, and you’ll always know when an enemy is looking at you from the whites of their eyes. But Outlast 2 isn’t known for its graphics.

During its development, it’s clear that Red Barrels leaned more into its storytelling department than anywhere else.

Outlast 2 - Light at the End of the Hall

That said, some haunting visuals await you in the depths of Outlast 2. The dilapidated farmhouses and creaking village huts Blake encounters look natural, as do the numerous lifeless bodies in his path. The lighting is exceptional, with many locations taking on entirely different appearances when Blake switches on night vision mode.

Sound & atmosphere

The sound design of Outlast 2 is as good as anything Red Barrels has put out. It may not be as trauma-inducing as Dead Space’s masterful audio work, but it’s enough to keep you looking over your shoulder throughout. 

There’s a cool mechanic of using the microphone on Blake’s camera to listen to areas around the map. It opens up a whole new kind of gameplay. Instead of opening the door and hoping no one is on the other side, why not turn on the microphone and listen for anyone breathing or walking outside? Players will find themselves sneaking around using the sound mechanics as part of their survival strategy in Outlast 2.

Don’t use the microphone too much, though, or you’ll drain your camera’s battery real quick. And then you’ll be without any tools to help you survive.

Spending any amount of time in Outlast 2’s atmosphere will bring several depressing words to mind. Bleak. Hopeless. Dreary. Dark. And plenty more. Those feelings are conveyed through exceptional world design. Each room you enter and every cave you crawl through helps build Outlast 2’s atmosphere. They are all depressing in their way.

Outlast 2 - Horror in the Forest

It’s a sad world that Blake finds himself in, and his negative narration doesn’t help much. That overwhelming sadness is easily transferred to the player’s psyche.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Outlast 2 is the same as in Outlast 1. The developers just hit copy and paste. That’s not entirely a bad thing since the gameplay is pretty damn nerve-wracking by itself. But the story won’t have you solving intricate puzzles like it’s a Resident Evil game. Nor will it throw any building mechanics at you like Rust.

The developers use the gameplay to tell their story—nothing more, nothing less.

Blake is equipped with nothing more than a digital camera. And an old one at that. So you won’t be fighting any enemies in Outlast 2. The gameplay centers around avoiding detection by Temple Gate’s residents or the splinter factions around.

To do this, Blake will use all the features of his digital camera–microphone, night vision, zoom, playback–to escape capture.

Use the camera to scope out faraway areas and make a note of any enemies you see–or hear by using the microphone. 

Outlast 2 - Dead Bodies in the Cabin

When you’re in pitch black locations, you’ll find yourself using the night vision mode to detect nearby enemies roaming around. If you’re stuck or wondering where to go next, go over old footage to see if there’s something you missed.

The extra bits of the gameplay involves finding enough batteries to keep your camera going at all times and discovering notes and messages written by the people of Temple Gate. But if you’ve got enough batteries and don’t care about the extra story in Outlast 2, the gameplay amounts to little more than running.

Indeed, Outlast 2 features identical running sequences to its predecessors. While the arrangements are doubtlessly panic-inducing, they are just running exercises.

Once you realize that’s all Outlast 2 boils down to, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a cheat code. You don’t have to be scared, and you don’t even have to sneak if you don’t want. Just run. Everywhere. All the time. Enemies can’t catch you, and you’ll beat the game in a few hours.

Run, boy. Run.

Replay value

The replay value for Outlast 2 is not high. Not even medium. Thanks to its emotionally heavy story and lackluster gameplay, once you’ve survived the horrors of Blake’s mind, there’s little reason to go back. If you just focused on not dying the first time around, the second playthrough, you could try focusing on the story to understand everything better. That could give you a reason to jump back in.

Admittedly, there were a few things we missed on our playthrough that would’ve added much-needed context for the Outlast Universe. But those notes and items aren’t worth enough to go through the entire traumatic experience again.

Outlast 2 - Mad Man with a Machete

Final thoughts on Outlast 2

Red Barrels cements itself in the survival-horror genre with Outlast 2. Their found-footage style of gameplay is fear-inducing and the perfect framework to tell a suspenseful story. The scares are rough, and Blake’s unreliable narration makes a player question everything they see on the screen.

Outlast 2 is a phenomenal story wrapped in underwhelming gameplay. If the developers continue with their formula for their next title, they may have a hard time keeping fans engaged. We’d like to see the addition of some puzzles or other mechanics that liven up the experience.

But even if the next game Red Barrels puts out does little to innovate, we’ll still play it. The bleak Outlast universe they’re creating will be the video game equivalent of many horror movie franchises and may one day rival the greats like Silent Hill or Dead Space.

Until then, Outlast 2 is more than enough game to keep us up at night.

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About Victor

Writer. Gamer. Outdoorsman. Victor has written across multiple mediums, with some of his work appearing in anthologies, magazines, and websites like Nerdist.com, SFFWorld.com, and CBR.com. When not writing, he is usually gaining inspiration for writing from the library of video games he owns. If he's not indoors, Victor is outdoors climbing mountains, hiking forests, or otherwise conquering nature.

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