The original Outlast, came out at the perfect time. Horror was starting to make a return after Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and it launched on consoles right around the start of the latest generation. It was creepy and stressful and the story went to a lot of weird places, especially near the end. So, what is Outlast 2 like? Well…it’s creepy and stressful and the story goes to a lot of weird places, especially near the end. But this time, its world is way more interesting.
Blake and Lynn are a husband and wife reporter duo, trying to figure out where a mysterious woman, who killed herself, came from. They take a helicopter to a seemingly desolate landscape, where they subsequently crash and get separated. Blake discovers dueling cults, one seeking to prevent the end of the world by killing all babies before they are born, and the other trying to ensure the end of days. And wouldn’t you know it, Lynn is pregnant.
The story requires a lot of coincidences, sure, but it gets super dark as you realize exactly how ravenous each cult is. Add to that, Blake is seemingly having a psychological breakdown related to a death of a childhood friend. The way these breakdowns weave themselves into the story end up creating really good pauses in the action in the real world…Well, until the end of the game, when these breakdowns are consistently happening.
As you run through an area, you will find yourself suddenly inside of a school. This was demoed in the demo put out last year, but the transition from desert cult to school is way more subtle. You may need to climb a ledge only to find yourself in the schools ductwork. Another instance has you shimmying between buildings only to shimmy yourself into the inside of a locker. You don’t notice these transition points for the most part, and they feel like a really cool way to pause between getting chased down.
Those breaks are super important, as well because the real world is just as stressful in Outlast 2 as it was in the original. You are still hiding from people as you progress through the world. The two biggest differences are the level layout and how you use your camera.
The levels in the original Outlast were generally more corridor based. You had to try and scoot around enemies as you worked through the mental institution. As a result, it was pretty linear but it made it work. Outlast 2 trades those linear corridors for larger, open areas with a lot less room to hide.
As a result, you end up waiting for a break in the wall of enemies to run through and try your best to survive. There are a lot more chases where you will have four or five cultists trying to stab you to death. While it creates some super fun chases, such as one specific late game area where you not only are being chased but having mental breakdowns, it also means you have a lot more chances to get lost. It happens a lot, including in the very first encounter with Marta, the game’s main killer (think a more stabby version of Chris Walker from the original game but way more religious). You are getting chased down, but she can outrun you, and you have no clue where you have to go.
The other major change is just how often you will have to use your camera’s night vision mode. While there was quite a bit of night vision being used in the original, there are so many more areas that require you to use it this time around, as well as the directional microphone, which allows you to track enemy movement. You can easily run out of batteries, especially in the later areas in the mine section, where there absolutely is no light. Combine that with a general sense of not knowing what exactly you need to do to progress, and the game can be super frustrating.
However, there is so much else going for Outlast 2, that you can easily forget these issues. The sheer brutality of the world leads to a game where you become incredibly stressed, having situations where you are genuinely worried about getting past an area. There are moments where you realize just how bad you can be killed, and you are terrified.
The story is built in a way more interesting way than the original, as well. Rather than just collecting papers to get the story, as was the case with Outlast, the sequel uses camera recorded footage. You can rewatch the footage and as Blake unravels, you begin to get a way more interesting picture. As Blake sees more insanity, you get the feeling that he is completely coming apart and it creates way more character than you’d expect.
Outlast 2 has some flaws with its less linear levels, for sure, but it is a way more interesting game. The setting is super stressful and the story being told leaves you wondering, even after the game is done. It’s stressful, but when it’s firing on all cylinders, Outlast 2 creates a more than worthy successor to one of the more popular horror games in years.
SCORE: 8.5 out 10
A code for Outlast 2 was provided to Pixel Related for review.