Ever since its disturbing reveal trailer, which featured a burning, inverted cross and a legion of glowing eyes staring from the dark, Outlast 2 has been one of the most anticipated horror games in recent memory. The long-awaited followup to the 2013 horror hit, Outlast 2 boasts a new setting, some new gameplay features, and brand new ways to scare anyone brave enough to give it a try. But is it able to execute its new ideas effectively?
For the most part, Outlast 2 is a step up from the original game. However, anyone that quits before getting through the first half may not think so, as the first couple of hours is a slog. The first half of the game serves the purpose of introducing players to protagonist Blake's limited abilities, like crawling under things, climbing over things, running away from enemies, and hiding in lockers. Needless to say, Blake isn't a very compelling character from a gameplay perspective, and this makes the first half of the game rather dull.
Blake's lack of combat prowess isn't a big deal, but since his repertoire isn't very impressive, learning all his "skills" is boring. It doesn't help that this first half of the game seems to go on forever and lacks challenge or danger. It's like walking through a really long hallway in a haunted house, with players really just walking forward while things jump out and try to scare them.
About halfway through the game, Outlast 2 cranks up the intensity quite a bit. Some new enemies are introduced that make surviving much more difficult, and by extension, Blake's efforts to save his wife from cultists become a lot more interesting.
The second half of the game also has more school sequences, which are flashbacks sprinkled throughout that allow players to explore a Catholic school. These school sequences tend to feature more compelling gameplay than just walking from one point to the next, often challenging players with environmental puzzles that need to be solved before they can continue. Better yet, these school sequences also have the most interesting story developments and the smartest scares in the game.
That's not to say that the present day sections of Outlast 2 aren't scary. In fact, the present day sections in rural Arizona are filled with a lot more enemies for Blake to deal with, and trying to evade these enemies is how the game gets some of its biggest thrills. Present day sections also tend to have more shocking imagery, with some scenes so disturbing and gross that players may feel the need to take a shower afterwards.
Outlast 2 has to be one of the goriest games ever made, and is absolutely not for people with weak stomachs. From the start of the game to its satisfying conclusion, players are bombarded with an endless onslaught of blood, gore, and torture. There's some truly graphic imagery here that would give any other horror game a run for its money, and really it's no wonder Outlast 2 was temporarily banned in Australia.
The excessive blood and gore may be a turn off for some, but they often make up the game's most memorable scenes. One of the main factors that will compel most people to keep playing the game is to continue seeing these blood-filled spectacles, and while we won't spoil any here, let's just say these moments of visual brilliance are well worth making an effort to see.
Outlast 2 in general looks very good, with noticeably sharper graphics than the first game. Outlast 2 runs smoother and the textures look great, though the game's graphical presentation isn't quite perfect. In fact, Blake's constant head-bobbing may make some players nauseous (luckily this can be tweaked in the options menu), and the film grain effect when using the camera makes the graphics look worse, which is a shame since the camera will likely be equipped for most of the game.
On the bright side, the camera is upgraded from the original Outlast, so while it may hurt the game's graphics quality a smidgen, it does try to make up for it with some new bells and whistles. The camera in Outlast 2 has zooming capabilities that let players spy on potential enemies from afar, as well as a sound detector that is used for a couple of especially clever moments in the game.
As before, one of the biggest challenges in Outlast 2 is keeping the camera operational by finding batteries scattered throughout the environment. Players can also find bandages and collectible notes, but for the most part, it's rarely worth straying off the beaten path to search for these items. Batteries and bandages aren't hard to find, and it's not worth exploring and potentially being found by enemies to try to see the sights, as a lot of the buildings and other areas look the same.
When players are found by enemies, the game often devolves into a simple chase, where players can usually just sprint away to safety. There's the option to hide in lockers and underneath beds and what-not, but the extra effort is rarely needed to escape from enemies. Furthermore, dying in Outlast 2 isn't that big of a deal thanks to the game's generous checkpoints, and since Blake respawns with full health, players may find that strategically killing themselves is a good way to save supplies.
Outlast 2's gameplay has its issues, but many horror fans will likely be able to look past its problems to see the story through to the end. Outlast 2 doubles down on its religious horror themes, introducing a creepy preacher named Sullivan Knoth as the leader of a backwoods cult that looks to do unspeakable things to Blake and Lynn. The religious horror themes are explored a lot more thoroughly as the game goes on, with plenty of references to scripture and events from the Bible that are recreated in the game in macabre fashion.
With a compelling story, strong graphics, and some genuine scares, Outlast 2 is one of the better horror games to come around in recent years. Some aspects of its gameplay may fall short and the first half of the game is a bit of a bore, but overall, it's an experience worth having, especially for fans of the genre.
Outlast 2 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.