There’s not many titles that I would recommend as scary, a cheap thrill, atmospheric or an attempt to make you jump just doesn’t cut it and there’s not enough games (or movies) that I can class as “Horror”.
However Outlast is one game that changed that, small pre-scripted scares, the genuine feeling of being chased and deep atmospheric surroundings made the first title a gaming masterpiece with horror fans, so let’s take a look at the newly released Outlast 2.
Seemingly dissociated with the original, you take control of our protagonist Blake Langermann, a cameraman for your wife Lynn. On route to investigate the murder of a lady only known as Jane Doesn’t take long for things to get crazy, shortly into the intro your helicopter crashes and you awake to find the Pilot dead, and your wife missing. Stumbling upon a nearby village, your thoughts are confirmed and this certainly isn’t your friendly local community.
Instead the village seems host to a bizarre brain-washed cult. Across the first third of the game, the world around you starts to unravel, and the scares are sure to have you jumping out of your seat, I recall at least three occasions where I was forced to pause while I took in what had just happened, and there’s more than enough scary, disgusting, vile, outright crazy and bizarre things going on.
Progressing through these early stages are on par with the original game, and deserve the same cult following (pun intended).
However as you reach the middle of the game, things start to feel a little different.
What starts (and for the record ends) as a inviting, immersive and atmospheric horror story, all comes to a bit of a stand-still in the central section, there’s still the progression and you never really feel like you’re learning much more, but it’s more like asking for extra lettuce on a salad sandwich, it’s a filling without the taste and I was left wanting more progression from the story rather than Blake’s feet.
It’s not a deal breaker, but worth knowing what to expect.
Beyond the slight stall in the story-line, there’s still plenty of progression to follow, mostly told through self-narration, collected notes and the few conversations you witness, it’s all delivered to a high standard, there’s a witch like character who seems hell bent on stabbing you every time she’s nearby and these present plenty of jumpy moments as you realise she’s around and quickly turn and run, trying to recall the bed, cupboard or oil canister you recently passed in order to provide a safe hiding spot.
Just like the first games it’s hiding from and often outwitting your pursuers that make the most of the game-play but in often confined spaces you’ll get caught time and time again and it’s a little disappointing that there’s little to do except reload and try again.
I fully appreciate why weapons aren’t available, and avoiding confrontation is always the safest bet, but a simple ‘push’ is a missed opportunity, and being able to push someone aside buying yourself just a few more seconds to run and hide certainly wouldn’t have detracted from the feat of being pursued.
The feeling of the chase, joins the predictable pre-scripted scares to give a very familiar feeling for fans of the first game and to that extent Outlast 2 is a fantastic success.
One area that Outlast 2 certainly excels over it’s predecessor is graphically, it looks far more on par with today’s standards and there’s a significant difference in standard play, with the night vision of the camera giving a familiar noise-distorted green hue.
There’s mostly a better degree of lighting meaning you’ll find yourself a little less reliant on the night vision, and many chase scenes are a little easier to cope with the environmental light offering enough guidance without having to concentrate on your camera, while sneaking sections are suited with darker lighting, prompting you to flick on your night vision as you progress past an area or try to hide away in the shadows. It might sound like the camera isn’t quite as important this time around, but developer Red Barrels have got you covered with the ultra sensitive microphone on the camera which can now pick up noises through walls.
Using a combination of night vision and the sound locating microphone, there’s a little more tact to avoiding confrontation or hiding away from pursuers and while you’ll often resort back to trial and error (and a few deaths) it helps raise the tension when you know your next death could be just around that corner.
The improved audio helps out with the sound locating camera, and coupled with a dark soundtrack there’s plenty of reason to put on a pair of headphones to completely immerse yourself into the world, footsteps, the murmuring of those around you and the creek of floorboards are all giveaway signs of who’s around you and quite often you’ll need to time your movements around nothing more but a few sounds so it’s good to know the audio is done well enough to rely on at these times of blindness.
Working through Outlast 2 there’s plenty to like, but unfortunately enough to dislike too, there’s nothing really groundbreaking to set it apart from the original title, and game-play seems a little too reliant on running, hiding or witnessing a truly messed up sequence that leaves you questioning if it was really necessary or just in the game in an attempt to be as controversial as possible,
That’s not to say it’s bad in any way, but I would have liked to see a little more direction with the darker areas and for me no games has ever got enough scares piled into it.
Fans of the original will no doubt love the sequel, but many will still prefer it’s roots, fingers crossed Outlast 2 see’s equally as impressive DLC further down the line, but on face value, it’s a fear packed game that will give you the frights you crave, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking to set it apart from it’s predecessor.