Outlast 2 Review – The God Delusion

Come to Jesus.

Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Format: PC (reviewed), PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: April 26, 2017
Copy provided by publisher 

In a sea of indistinguishable first-person horror games designed primarily to make YouTubers scream, Outlast stood out for its grisly charm, tense stealth gameplay, and a consistently outrageous style.

Outlast was a relentless game, pushing audacity to its limit in order to get away with shocking scenes of violence, sexual depravity, and medical malpractice. It was by no means a masterpiece, and its mental hospital setting was already dated and riddled with implications, but its pushing of the envelope and terrifying atmosphere made it one of the better independent horror efforts you could hope to find in a post-Amnesia world.

To take an overused phrase and reverse its polarity, if you loved Outlast you’ll… like Outlast 2.

A bit.

Outlast 2 is a serviceable game, but with its predecessor (and even more horrific DLC expansion) already taking things to the extreme in terms of graphic nastiness, this sequel consistently struggles to live up to its own legacy.

From a raw mechanical standpoint, the experience remains mostly the same. New protagonist Blake, like the others before him, is unarmed and martially incapable against a horde of bloodthirsty killers. The mental hospital has been replaced by an Arizonan forest as Blake attempts to rescue his wife Lynn from a baby-killing Christian cult in the woods.

The relocation means environments tend toward larger sprawls with lots of ramshackle huts to explore and dense vegetation to creep through.

While the larger maps are potentially more interesting than Outlast‘s series of rooms and corridors, they’re also much more confusing. Correct paths are sometimes needlessly obfuscated, which can be a real hassle when you’re trying to navigate one of the many chase sequences and are unsure where to go, or you’re stuck looking for arbitrary switches – or sometimes just a bloody exit – in a huge, barren, pitch-black field.

The whole creepy cult thing is more than a little uninspired to boot.

While the original’s premise wasn’t exactly innovative, it’s hard to argue that Red Barrels didn’t present its otherwise stereotypical asylum in a uniquely disturbing fashion. Outlast 2 is a lot more standardized by comparison, with an antagonistic force that has been done to death in pop culture.

Similarly, Outlast 2‘s selection of primary pursuers are so much more forgettable. Both Outlast and Whistleblower featured memorable “boss” characters set apart from standard enemies by unique weaponry, terrifying presences, and twisted personalities.

This time around we get… not a lot.

The main stalker to harass us throughout the campaign, Marta, is just a random tall woman who mutters vaguely religious gibberish and carries a big pickaxe around. That’s about all there is to her. She’s joined by a small archer who rides on the back of a hulking brute, and the leader of the “heretics” who feels tacked onto the plot and doesn’t do anything interesting despite a confrontation with her being teased for hours.

None of them are particularly inspired in their design, and not one of them has an arc that concludes in a satisfactory manner. Compare them to Richard Trager whose personality, visual design, and vocal performance made him a horror game icon, and you’re left sorely wanting.

Even the few new things Outlast 2 tries are disappointing in their execution.

Forcing players to stop and heal now rather than utilize regeneration health sounds delightfully scary in theory, but in the middle of a chase it’s just a pain in the ass, not least for the red filtering and warning text that remains plastered over the screen until the long-winded bandaging animation is dealt with.

Blake’s armed with a camera like the protagonists before him, able to record key moments as well as utilize a battery-draining night vision mode so players can navigate the otherwise unseeable surroundings. This time around, the camera has a directional microphone function allowing players to work out where enemies are from significant distances.

In theory it gives players more tools for avoiding confrontation, but the feature’s specifically useful maybe a handful of times and often it’s easier (as well as more battery conscious) to rely on your eyes than vague footsteps.

Nevertheless, Outlast 2 is still a cut above the competition, possessed of a panache that so many “also ran” horror games fail to emulate. Regular enemies are suitably creepy and only get more alarming in their behavior and appearance as the campaign unfolds. Some of the pursuits and sneaking sequences are genuinely thrilling and Red Barrels still knows how to craft a stomach churning setpiece.

The problem is that Outlast peaked with… Outlast. There was very little to go from there without becoming the next Manhunt 2, so it’s hard not to feel like Outlast 2 is a distinct step down from its predecessor.

With a less original setting, less interesting characters, and less shock value altogether, Outlast 2 is simply an inferior version of Outlast. Not a bad game by any means, but a consistent failure to either up the ante or at least match its predecessor.

This is compounded by the game’s insistence on pushing a secondary narrative that is both paradoxically obvious and ambiguous, concluding in one single sequence that lays out its unworthy “twist” in a most blatant fashion.

The subplot forces players to keep appearing at a school, uncovering details about a dead girl Blake and Lynn knew as kids. Whether these are hallucinations or some weird reality shift is up for debate, but it’s not worth debating because it’s not very good.

If you played Outlast, you’ll recall how the game got a lot more boring toward the end when it was just bright corridors in a dreary looking sci-fi lab. Outlast 2 doubles down on that dull furlong by regularly peppering its similarly sterile school throughout the entire game.

Within these scenes, Outlast 2 most closely resembles those aforementioned “also ran” titles. A spooky school with a ridiculous looking monster staggering around it? I expect more from this series than something so utterly hokie.

At one point the player is shunted back and forth between the two realities so frequently it’d be almost comical if it wasn’t so detrimental to the flow of the game.

Outlast 2 might have had a better shot if it released years ago and hadn’t followed Outlast. As it stands, it’s a lower quality photocopy of itself, with any attempts at improvement acting more as defacement of an element that needed no correction.

Red Barrels may have started too hard and too fast when it gave us necrophiles, well-endowed serial killers, and charmingly ghoulish amateur surgeons in its debut outing. Outlast 2 can’t compete with its own legacy, and while it’s still a decent horror game with plenty of scares to offer, there is nothing I can point to here that I could claim as an improvement over the last one.

And perhaps, just perhaps, I’d have been a bit more forgiving if this less impressive of version of Outlast didn’t pile one shitty ending on top of another for its final, embarrassingly deflating conclusive chapter.

I mean… if you don’t feel cheated by the time your final meeting with Mara wraps up, you really need to see some better storytelling.

6/10
Alright

Lies That Bind
Guest
Lies That Bind

Does this game have
Any satisfying explanation for the things that happened at the end of the first outlast?

Az
Guest
Az

The story is so fucked up. The credits started rolling, and I was just like “uhhh ok, not sure what to make of that ending” lol… I found the microphone helpful for when I couldn’t see (like in the corn field, or around buildings). The recording this time around was annoying though. At one point during my stream I was recording a freaking wagon, which I learned after the fact wasn’t what it actually recorded. I wish the commentary played while recording, then at least I would have known what the hell I was supposed to see. I mean, i… Read more »

iThinkMyCatIsAFlea
Guest
iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

Hey Jim, are you going to review the pc version of The Thing: In Space/Prey: Not A Sequel To Prey 1 But A Different Game Entirely But With The Same Name or are you going to review the console version of The Thing: In Space/Prey: Not A Sequel To Prey 1 But A Different Game Entirely But With The Same Name?

Tvirus Getz
Guest
Tvirus Getz

i really liked the first one and thought it was sufficiently spooky
this one though? not at all
Still a solid game but it’s getting no reaction from me, scare wise

MissLinguist
Guest
MissLinguist

Typo: “Similarly, Outlast 2‘s selection of primary pursuers are so much more forgettabl.” Also I agree. I’ve seen three people play through this now and the whole time, I just feel “meh” towards it. Like… it just doesn’t feel compelling, to me. The husband rescues wife story going on just feels forced, like it was the first thing they came up with and they never went back to bother seeing if it was actually GOOD or not, and at points it’s easy to forget that it’s even happening. They could have let us have more rest periods, where stuff ISN’T… Read more »

Anton
Guest
Anton

Fuck it, I’m still going to play it. Loved the original too much to not give this a chance.

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

Ah, too bad it couldn’t top itself.

I really enjoyed my time with the first one. Was definitely a good time, felt unique enough to not be an Amnesia clone.

Ended up playing (and finishing) the original over PSN Shareplay with other friends. Swapping controllers and enjoying some cocktails over the course of a weekend. I can see doing the same with this once it hits a sale price.

Willie Gross
Guest
Willie Gross

One of these days a horror game will figure out how to have a chase sequence in a dark labyrinth or cluttered non-linear space that isn’t just super frustrating on any reasonable level of difficulty. As it stands the chases are either super linear (Amnesia, Outlast 1) and so are only really effective on a first playthrough, or are frustratingly difficult as you run in terror while trying to find your way through an obtusely layed-out level with little to no sign-posting or means of direction (SOMA, Lone Survivor), some games even have BOTH of these types of sequences (Alien… Read more »

Eirik Hafskjold
Guest

Well, they made a very nice logo for this game at least.

darksteel6
Guest
darksteel6

Yikes this sounds terrible!

Gorkon
Guest
Gorkon

They should probably start a new IP. They’re great devs, but the original Outlast and DLC are so strong that it’s best to let them stand on their own instead of trying to make a series of it

DickoReview
Guest
DickoReview

I love Outlast because its setting and character worked together surprisingly well, a reporter with no reason to be there other than to get a story no one else will. As the game goes on the way the character reacts to situations in just his own breathing and general feel showed his purpose deteriorate into getting out. There’s no overarching narrative, you are a spectator dragged into a situation you have no part in and would simply find the first exit and go. Trying to make the player invested just takes something away from what Outlast was. You had to… Read more »

Thomas Vincent Szaban
Guest
Thomas Vincent Szaban

Such a shame it turned out this way. I was really looking forward to this. I’m surprised that Jim didn’t say more about how Red Barrels seems to have traded in horror for Cannibal Holocaust style shock attempts. Oh well. Guess that frees up space for Prey on my PS4. And I still have yet to play SOMA. I think I will just watch a playthrough of this one.

GodzillaGuy92
Guest
GodzillaGuy92

Looks like this series has… outlasted its welcome.

Joao Oliveira
Guest
Joao Oliveira

I binged both Resident Evil 7 and this one and nonsensical ending aside I must say that I would appreciate this one more if I hadn’t played Resi 7.

Jordan Richards
Guest
Jordan Richards

Yeah…… that ending just stinks. It hits my number one most hated trope of all time in regards to endings, the type of ending that makes me question if I actually accomplished anything. Everything I did, everything I struggled through… it simply did not matter.

CJ Melendez
Guest

Agree with a lot of this review, although I’d say the school segments shows to Red Barrel’s strengths better. Not for storytelling, but scenario design and atmosphere within small urban environments. The school segments were some of the scariest moments for me.

Harvey Kay
Guest
Harvey Kay

Spot on. Personally I felt very let down by it all the way through (and the fact that you need a certain collectable to make sense of the story is insane), but the production quality is still there regardless…

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

if anything it gives you cosplay ideas for the future amrite?

Harvey Kay
Guest
Harvey Kay

Spot on. Personally I felt very let down by it all the way through (and the fact that you need a certain collectable to make sense of the story is insane), but the production quality is still there regardless.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

You know what would be awesome? If Outlast 3 takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and you play an imperial citizen on a hive World overrun by Night Lords.

♡ ★ Sky ★ ♡
Guest

The woman with the pickaxe is called “Marta”, just fyi Jim 🙂

Zeemod
Guest
Zeemod

This feels about right. Production of this started before Res 7 so I wonder if this will be the last (at least mainstream) Can’t-Fight-Back horror games.

09philj
Guest
09philj

Not enough spoop. 6/Spook.

Javier Gimenez
Guest
Javier Gimenez

Let the games begin…

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