Outlast 2: Demo Impressions
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Full Game Release: Quarter 1, 2017
Genre: Survival Horror
Outlast put players in the role of an overzealous journalist trapped in an asylum surrounded by people who’d lost their minds. It looks like Outlast 2 will have us assuming the role of an overzealous journalist who seems to be losing his own. I have no qualms with this; not only does it tie the games in the Outlast series closer together by having similar themes, but the idea of having to use your camera’s night vision in dark areas (with limited battery life) is an ingenious gameplay mechanic for a horror game and I’m happy to see it return. The Outlast 2 demo dropped recently and I just got the chance to check it out. Pro tip: it’s spooky. As a big fan of the first game, I have high hopes for the sequel, and from the scenario featured in this trial version, it looks like Red Barrels has another hit on its hands.
Outlast 2 is set in a spooky, remote part of the Arizona desert. You and your wife are investigating the murder of a pregnant woman known only as Jane Doe. The investigation has led you here. The demo starts with our protagonist taking a tumble and picking himself back up along with his glasses and camera. You’ve been separated from your wife (who’s a fellow ridiculously brave journalist) and your character calls out to her as you take your first few steps. There’s no response. You walk forward and continue your search and find a small group of houses. You’ll notice there’s a cow carcass partly covered, with a shovel shoved in its side and its guts spilling out. You may not notice the figures watching you in dark corners of the area and from further down the path who skulk away if you glance past them. These are good indicators that it’s about time to get the hell out of here, but wifey’s still missing so you press on.
Knocking and shouting got you no assistance earlier, so you enter one of the homes through the window. There isn’t much going on here besides the back door being pulled back and forth by the wind, but after leaving this location and crawling under a fence you cautiously go underground. The first room you enter has some sort of blood-soaked altar or manger along with a grossly creepy broken doll. Getting out of that place as quickly as impossible, you discover a room at least one hundred times as distressing as the last. This room contains some imagery that I imagine quite a lot of people will be very upset about, but I’m sure that’s the intention. It’s definitely there for shock value, but I don’t believe it’s here just for tastelessness sake, and it doesn’t come off as an attempt at being edgy, either. The Outlast universe is incredibly dark, and what you’ll find in this room lets the player and protagonist know exactly what they’ve gotten themselves into, as well as maybe provide motivation to push forward and hopefully find the truth and get the story out to the world. I apologize for being vague, but even with a demo, It’s something to experience for yourself.
You reach a well in a clearing and despite all the horror movie and game knowledge you possess and every instinct in your body telling you not to, you approach the water hole and press the button prompt. From here on, things get especially freaky.
Without spoiling too much, looking into the well shifts the setting (at least what we perceive the setting to be) and introduces us to the paranormal elements present in Outlast 2 that are new to the series. Sure there was some mad scientist stuff going on near the end of the first game with a floating monster thingy, but the second half of this demo indicates that the horror we’ll face in Outlast 2 is much more otherworldly. Objects move on their own, with the very environment in the game becoming hostile. Shadows dance around your field of view, dashing across the edges of your vision as you turn. There’s something else in this area with you as well. When you meet it, you pass through a portal and then through a door, and are roughly reintroduced to the village you were previously in. The demo concludes with a tense chase through a cornfield that’s sure to raise your heart rate and ends shortly after you make your way out of it.
Gameplay remains largely unchanged from Outlast. You’ll still be walking, sprinting, and sneaking around locations with no means of defending yourself. Because you’re defenseless, hiding and outmaneuvering enemies will be very important. You can look behind you and peek around corners too, which will be useful in keeping tabs on how close you are to being grabbed by a goon. The handy-dandy camera returns from Outlast and its night vision will be your only means of navigating areas too dark to see naturally. The camera has a limited battery life, however, so you’ll have to make use of your night vision wisely, and scrounge for batteries when you’re not being chased by a murderous lunatic.
The Outlast 2 demo has me extremely excited. Outlast was a great game and a terrifying experience. Part of what made it so scary was how gritty and grounded it felt; the events in the game (besides maybe the final encounters) didn’t feel like they were that far removed from reality. This shift to the supernatural and the theme of religion in Outlast 2 is a breath of fresh air and allows Red Barrels to get creative with their creatures, set-pieces, locations, and scares. The place we’re transported to in the demo seems very personal to our main character, and I think we’ll be learning much more about our protagonist than in the first game. Not only will we be experiencing the terror of being hunted by crazed Christian extremists, but I think there will be some psychological horror. I would never say a horror series as in-your-face as Outlast resembles Silent Hill in tone, but I believe Red Barrels may be drawing some inspiration from the classic franchise for their plot. Whether it’s an entity, the religious fanatics, or simply the main character going insane that is transporting the character from the town to the other location remains to be seen. I can’t wait to find out early next year.
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