Outlast II's sound design is utterly superlative. Every little sound, every musical cue and every single screech is perfectly pitched. Brilliant.
Packed to the gills with horrible grimy detail, Outlast II looks incredible, even if most of it is veiled in pitch darkness. What lighting there is, is stunning, and there's some truly disturbing imagery on show that will stay with you.
Punishing, I can deal with. Stupidly frustrating, I can't. There are simply too many scenarios in which you'll be left questioning just what exactly Red Barrels were thinking. It's not an enjoyable experience.
It starts promisingly enough, but soon descends into annoyance. For every thing that Outlast II does right, it gets a whole bunch of other things horribly wrong. It's a longer game than the first one too, so there's even more to get angry about. Not irredeemable by any means, but you can't help but think that a tighter, more coherent approach might have worked better.
Collect all the things, complete the game without hiding, finish it at all the ridiculous difficulty levels, get through without using a battery(!). There's a lot of overlap between the first game and this list. It's a bit rubbish.
April 26, 2017
Outlast proved a fairly successful survival horror venture, Red Barrels' stab at the genre pitting you against unrelenting mental patients – sometimes with their floppy nobs out – in an oppressively dark asylum, but this sequel is something else altogether. Outlast II is quite possibly one of the most taxing and tortuous horror games you'll have played in recent years. It's not terrifying in the traditional sense; it's terror in the sense that it's a chore to play. But, for fans of full frontal male nudity, you're quids in here.
Riffing on similar themes to recent first-person horror stablemate, Resident Evil VII, Outlast II is an equally intense affair that sees journalist protagonist Blake Langermann dealing with a twisted cult situated in the middle of nowhere. In Resident Evil VII, it was a Louisiana plantation house; in Outlast II, it's the rocky regions of the Arizona desert where the commune of Temple Gate is nestled, hidden away from the rest of the world.
This thing ain't Gollum, but he'll still gnaw your face off.
As well as being pretty relentless, Outlast II is also rather taxing like its predecessor, leaving you entirely unequipped to defend yourself and fight back against the game's legion of vicious denizens that lurk amid the fog and impenetrable darkness, waiting to violently bludgeon you to death. All Blake has is his camera, equipped with night vision and a microphone that can pick up distant sounds, and the ability to run and hide should the need arise. It does. A lot.
As Blake searches for his missing wife, Lynn, you'll have to carefully evade an army of zealots armed with machetes, pickaxes and other sharp pointy things, while recording vital scenes, discovering insane, scribbled notes and unravelling the mystery at the heart of the game's narrative. Desperately scrambling from one scenario to another, Outlast II once again tasks you with managing your camera's batteries as you feel your way around its dark corners while gazing through a viewfinder, its night vision function likely to be permanently turned on. It remains tense, but it's not nearly as claustrophobic or scary as the first game was.
And Red Barrels slavishly wheels out every one of the horror genre's tropes, from creepy dolls to rocking horses, muttering maniacs, Blair Witch-style totems made out of sticks and bits of straw, religious symbols, unstoppable, indestructible superhuman freaks, and even a breathless chase through a cornfield as flashlight beams from chasing enemies penetrate the darkness through the swaying ears of corn. Pools of blood smeared across the floor and walls pervade almost every room and every location initially seems inescapable. Playing Outlast II can be fucking stressful.
So much so in fact, that I almost gave up on the game during an early encounter with a skulking cultist, immediately believing it to be impossible. Eventually I figured out you had to lure her away then run back to then crawl under a gate, which to be fair, wasn't all that apparent. Outlast II does have its fair share of frustrating moments, most of which could have been forgiven, especially since the game's foreboding atmosphere is, by-and-large, very well-executed, as cumulative layers of intrigue are conjured up as you progress through the story.
Yet, the blend of psychological horror and cheap jump scares feel at odds with one another; you're never quite sure which one Red Barrels is trying to be. Most of the game simply isn't all that scary, even if the imagery that Outlast II employs is dark and disturbing. Some of it will no doubt become etched into your brain. It's a shame then that the act of playing isn't very much fun. It's a slog, compounded by some wrong-headed game design that's truly bewildering at times.
Like, whoever thought it'd be a great idea to have you pushing giant hay carts around while being stalked by the game's obligatory Nemesis-style character, needs a serious talking to. There are few moments of quiet time too, as you're constantly under pressure from enemies, practically harassed from beginning to end, so when the obligatory jump scares do occur, you'll probably feel numb. There are parts of Outlast II that are nicely-paced, and visually, it's never anything less than stellar, but even an insane narrative that puts Blake through the proverbial wringer just isn't enough to save it.
Just hide in the locker and stay in there. Wait until this all blows over.
There's still a lot of hiding underneath beds, in cupboards, and even underwater too, as you're constantly running to evade the locals. Even when you think you might be safe, chances are, you're really not. At all. In Outlast II, you're relentlessly being followed, harried by malevolent forces, all out to kill you dead, and what should be an enjoyable, edge-of-the-seat affair quickly descends into eye-rolling apathy.
A great deal of the game also hinges on trial and error tactics, sometimes trapping you in situations that will have you tearing your hair out. Still, when all is said and done, Outlast II does have its moments; there are signs of real horror flair on show in some parts, and the grim detail and sound design are both exemplary. It's also a much bigger game than the first one too, my first run taking eleven hours with 95 horrific deaths. Thankfully, the autosave system is regular and fair.
Outlast II runs with some incredibly dark themes, all building to a bizarre crescendo that will leave you reeling. Its message is somewhat heavy-handed, but that's the least of the sequel's problems. It has all of the makings of a truly great horror game, and it should have been bigger and scarier than its predecessor, but sadly, Outlast II is just too much of a joyless, relentlessly oppressive and infuriating experience to be worthy of recommendation. And I wanted to love it so much too.