Outlast II Review
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Developer: Red Barrels
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Price: $29.99 (Digital Standalone), $39.99 (Outlast: Trinity)
Outlast II sees the return of the hit horror title from Red Barrels that shook the gaming community unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years from a horror title. Especially at a time when a lot of key horror franchises were moving more towards the action spectrum, there was no better time for Outlast to come out and scare everyone by also saying “Horror is not dead. Not in the slightest.” Outlast II builds upon what made the original an instant classic, and somehow tops all the creepiness and terrifying moments that the first one offered, with so much more to give on top of it.
Much like in the original game, Outlast II does not focus on combat, and instead has you attempt to survive an unfortunate situation through the eyes – and camera – of a journalist who’s found themselves in an unorthodox place far from home. Something is very wrong with where you are, and while you’re trying to survive, your journalistic instincts also wants to uncover everything you can to understand just exactly what’s happening in the world around you. Blake Langermann and his wife, Lynn, are both heading towards a remote location in Arizona to get some answers on the mysterious murder of a pregnant woman who died by seemingly impossible means, but on the way there the helicopter you’re in malfunctions and crashes into the depths below. You barely make it out alive, but when you awake, your wife is nowhere to be found. Now you must escape, but also find your wife in the process and figure out just what exactly is happening as you traverse through an unsettling outdoor area and run into some of the most vile and disgusting things seen to the human eye.
The story is simple, but very engaging: ‘Find your wife, and get out’, and with the help of some top notch voice acting, the immersion is even more captivating than the first. Players will have to make use of all the items they find that'll help them survive escaping the part of Arizona you find yourself in, and while the items you can acquire are limited, the inventory management system is incredibly unique and minimal, all while making sense. When the button is selected to view your current objective and items, the player will simply look down and view their jacket, which has bandages and healing items on one side, while batteries will be on another. Viewing your camera will show a list of events that has happened so far on your escape as well, since you're still recording thanks to journalistic tendencies that wants to capture everything on film. It's a unique way to view your items and since there isn't a separate menu for it, it makes it that much more immersive since something like that would typically take you out of the game for a moment. Everything you do besides exiting the game is done in real time, so checking anything will have to be done in safe locations in hopes you won't get ambushed mid heal or while replacing the battery on the camera, which is needed to view night vision when things get too dark.
One of the very few things Outlast II suffers from, despite all that it gets right, is the main thing that'll help you get through the game as it did in the first: batteries. Batteries are still scattered throughout the levels, but seemingly less so, and while this could increase the anxiety and quick thinking components typically associated with Survival Horror games, it actually does it a disservice in Outlast II due to its incredibly dark environments that make you feel hopeless once your battery runs out - it's as good as a game over. There aren't many sections throughout the game that don't require night vision, and even in those sections that are semi-lit, it'll still be rather difficult to see through. It's predecessor made the night vision a blessing, but it was still possible to navigate corridors of the asylum. Outlast II gets pitch black a lot of the time, and it's sad because the game is graphically stunning, and with all the great and hard work Red Barrels has put into this - and a lot of other games suffer from this too - I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to show off that hard work, and instead hide it behind a tenebrous land with the only color palette once viewable being green. Horror games that get too dark for their own good suffer from this, and I think in the long run players tend to feel more annoyed than they do scared.
Despite battery woes, Outlast II is incredibly well-paced, and whether you're literally running past all the crazy NPCs or making sure your every breath is calculated, the game goes with you and remains intense and engaging from start to finish. Each section is perfectly designed to be navigated in whichever way you want, as long the player inevitably makes it to each exit and escape the horrors furthermore. The score, the atmosphere, and the overall sound design helps to immerse the player even further, with everything sounding great, real, and seemingly right there next to you. With headphones on, you'll feel in there with the wind blowing, the distant coughs from those you're trying to avoid, light creaks of doors or footsteps you probably wouldn't have heard otherwise without headphones, and so much more. Outlast II is as beautiful as it is scary, and it does so much right that deserves praise and that we'll undoubtedly see more of in the future from games. It's just a shame it's too dark too appreciate it even more.
Outlast II goes above and beyond what made the first one so great and what solidified it as a Horror fan’s dream come true. It provides an excellent atmosphere that’s unparalleled, voice acting that is so good that you either think you’re watching a movie or this is actual lost camera footage (which is also massively helped that the game is running at a flawless 1080p and 60fps with stunning graphics), and sound design that is master class, perfectly placed, and unpredictable. Not enough great things can be said about Outlast II and why it will also be considered a Horror darling, but the one thing holding it back is that it’s too dark for its own good. While most games that tend to have dark scenes will ask you to adjust a brightness slider until an image is barely visible, that is not present in Outlast II. While the original Outlast was dark, it was still possible to find your way around the asylum and it didn’t feel like an immediate loss due to lack of batteries for your camera to allow night vision, but in Outlast II you’re practically relying on them, and even with night vision on it’s still hard to see what’s going on a lot of the time, which is a huge disservice to the game given how stunningly beautiful it is. This will probably cause most people to get frustrated, but those willing to stick with it - and manage to find batteries while they can, even though they seem to be fewer here than there were in the original – will find a game that once again, just like its predecessor, sets the bar for what horror games can be and why they still hold a popularity today. Outlast II pushes the genre further, and it’ll be great to see what the future holds for games inspired by this seminal piece.
- Stunning graphics and fluid performance makes for a smooth experience to another Horror classic
- Fans of the beloved original have an astounding title to look forward to with its sequel that goes above and beyond what the first title achieved
- Voice acting is top notch and feels real, making for an even creepier environment and playthrough – if you dare
- Way too dark for its own good. When you design something as beautiful as this, it’s a shame that it isn’t shown off more. There’s a want for creepiness, yes, but more darkness doesn’t always help achieve that.
- Batteries are a little too scarce, and while a difficult-to-replenish inventory is a staple for Survival Horror, the game is so dark that you feel like you’ve lost when you run out. This isn’t scary, it’s just annoying.
- With the amount of night vision and green players will be looking at throughout the game, it’ll make Sam Fisher jealous – and he sees a lot of it.
Massive thanks to Red Barrels for sending us a copy of Outlast II!