In 2014, an independent game company burst onto the online gaming scene, with their very first, scene-stealing game, Outlast. Most survival horror titles originating in the indie world are met with skepticism, since they usually fall into all-too familiar formats which can make them painfully predictable.
However, Outlast shattered all stereotypes and rose above the typical online horror experience with a concept that was deliciously original. The player is an investigative journalist who receives an anonymous tip about unethical events taking place at a psychiatric hospital. Upon arrival to the asylum, the journalist quickly realizes that his pursuit of a big scoop may have blinded him and the price he pays might be his life.
The game-play of the original Outlast lets the player see through the naked eye of the character, along with his camera, which records the happenings at the hospital in real time. The camera allows the player the functionalities of night vision and zooming, which can be used to their advantage in order to survive. The genius of Outlast is that the atmosphere is so well-crafted that it keeps the player in a constant state of suspense and fearful anticipation, but encourages him/her to press on to solve the mystery of the asylum.
After the original game was released, Red Barrels then made the amazing DLC, Whistleblower, which served as a prequel to the original story of Outlast. Whistleblower centers on an employee of the hospital who originally tipped off the journalist in Outlast, and what led said employee to disclose the illegal happenings. Like Outlast, Whistleblower was well received by gamers and eventually ported over to console, alongside the original game, to be enjoyed by Xbox and PlayStation players.
Then, when Outlast 2 was announced, it received mixed reactions. While it is exciting that Red Barrels have decided to make a follow-up game, many fans were curious as to why they would make a sequel since the first game, and the subsequent DLC, wrapped things up in a pretty intense storyline. However, after the release of the demo, fears have been quickly quashed as the next installment of Outlast has already made its own mark.
The Outlast 2 demo is completely unrelated to the first game and begins with more journalists. The journalists, a married couple, are investigating the mysterious “impossible” death of an unidentified pregnant woman in the desert. With a completely black screen and barely audible dialogue, the player hears the couple flying in some sort of helicopter, before witnessing something disturbing, and crashing their craft, leaving the player in control of the husband seeking his screaming wife.
The player then finds themselves in the middle of the desert with nothing around, apart from a strange settlement that looks like it could be right out of The Hills Have Eyes. You are also equipped with your trusty camera, the zoom and night vision features are accessible as normal, but with a more intricate audio component that allows the player to identify if a sound is coming from their left or right. The audio also correlates to headphones, so if your camera indicates there are loud sounds on your left, only the left earphone will be noisy.
Throughout the rest of the playable teaser, Outlast 2 reveals very little about the storyline, choosing instead, much like the original, to create a terrifying atmosphere that expertly builds tension. Gory sights, like a man with his head blown off and a room filled with deceased baby corpses, further add to the mystery of what the hell these journalists have got themselves into.
There are other creepy elements in the demo, of course, but the most promising aspect involved a set of scenes that reveal a paranormal feature to the game itself. For those who played Outlast, the discovery that reality was mixed with the paranormal made the game that much more horrifying. Humans have the potential to survive even the most extraordinary circumstances, but place us against something from another dimension and our chances of survival seem to shrink. This hopelessness was brought into the Outlast 2 demo fairly quickly and made the plot ridiculously interesting.
The Outlast 2 playable teaser is scary, involving an awesome experience overall that shows great promise for the game’s release later this year. Excitingly, aside from the character’s professions, camera mechanics, and creepy atmosphere, Outlast and Outlast 2 do not share anything else. Red Barrels made an inspired choice by not giving this game a wordy title, since sticking with Outlast 2 promises more of what we loved about the first game.
I highly recommend playing the demo, as well as playing the original game and DLC if you have not already. Outlast 2 is set to be released this fall and will be an exciting addition to the Halloween season. However, if giant tentacle-like tongues, Satanic symbolism, and the thought of an interactive environment that is best described as Deliverance meets Children of The Corn terrifies you, go ahead and pass on this one.