Outlast was a bona fide phenomenon when it was released back in 2013. It came out in the midst of the independent horror game surge, and it helped popularize the "run and hide" subgenre that was so prevalent at the time. Put simply, it's a masterpiece of horror gaming.
Four years later, Outlast 2 was released. It's a good enough game, and it certainly has its qualities, but it didn't make nearly the splash that the first game did. Regardless, it's certainly worth playing. It's just... different. The same, but different.
These are five reasons Outlast is better than Outlast 2, and five reasons the sequel is better.
10 Better: Quiet Scares
One of the biggest selling points of the first Outlast was its horror style. Rather than equipping you with guns and weapons, the game just dropped you into a hostile environment and forced you to survive. This means no weapons, no healing, no weapons of any kind... just straight running and hiding from enemies under beds and in lockers. And while the second game definitely employed a similar style, it also ramped up the gore and jump scares, relying on visceral thrills rather than quiet and psychological ones. Gore has its place, but not in an Outlast game.
9 Worse: Atmosphere
This one could really go either way, but we're giving the point to Outlast 2. The first game was certainly atmospheric, and the mental asylum made for a great setting. That said, Outlast 2 is simply oozing with atmosphere. The small town gave off a very creepy vibe, the cult aspects were both gross and engrossing, the villagers made for great villains, and the mountainous region made for some stellar (and spooky) backdrops. Like we said, gore has its place, and the gore certainly helped add to the game's unrelenting and oppressive atmosphere. Every corner you turned had a new scare of some kind, and it was fantastic to experience.
8 Better: Characters
When it comes to characters, Outlast takes the cake, as it really has some doozies. Let's be honest, the enemies of Outlast 2 began to blend together, and none of the primary villains really made an impact. Compare that to the likes of Walker, Father Martin Archimbaud, Rick Trager, Wernicke, and the Walrider, all of whom made an enormous impact on the player in some way.
Whether it was getting thrown through a window by Walker, witnessing Martin's immolation, or having your finger severed by Trager, Outlast was filled with momentous character interactions.
7 Worse: The Story
Yes, the characters made more of an impact in Outlast, but we think the overall story was much better in Outlast 2. Outlast started well enough, but it quickly flew off the rails once the experiments and the Walrider were introduced. Why couldn't we have just stuck with the whole "trapped in a mental asylum" thing!? On the other hand, Outlast 2 presented developed characters, some relationships, and it had a more traditional storyline as Blake uncovered more about the village, its inhabitants, and the cult. It wasn't great by any means, but it was better than Outlast's paper thin plot.
6 Better: Originality
Like we said previously, Outlast came at a really good time in the video game landscape. There wasn't anything like it at the time. The run and hide gameplay mechanics were fresh and invigorating, the "look through your camera" thing was pretty fresh and hadn't really been done since Fatal Frame, and the story was off the walls bizarre. Bizarre, but original. With Outlast 2, they basically just copied the gameplay from the first game but added a few extra chase sequences to kick things up a notch. Add in a rather cliché cult storyline, and you have a more contrived and unoriginal game.
5 Worse: Variety
There wasn't much variety to the first game. A large majority of its time was spent indoors, and the environments got a little stale after a while. It wasn't until the last hour or so of the game that things took a turn and introduced some much-needed variety to the game. Outlast 2 had far more varied environments and settings, and the outdoors setting made it feel more open and unique. It also featured the unique school bits, helping to liven things up and offer a respite from all the gloomy cult stuff. We love the mental asylum, but we REALLY love the mountainous region of Arizona!
4 Better: Gameplay
Even though it came first, we have to admit that Outlast has far better gameplay design than Outlast 2. The first Outlast played like a quiet horror movie, as you were forced to sneak around enemies, find safe passages, and run from evil people who wanted to kill you. It also offered some freedom, as it told you to get from point A to point B.
However, Outlast 2 seemed more like an on-rails experience. The gameplay was virtually identical, yes, but it also consisted of far more chases and instant deaths; it didn't allow for as much freedom, and it essentially forced you into countless on-rails chase sequences. And while those were certainly fun, we preferred the agency that the first Outlast afforded us.
3 Worse: Graphics
OK, this one should be rather obvious, seeing as how the game is four years older than its successor! Playing Outlast now is certainly fun, but no one can deny its very obvious age. The game is now six years old, and it was originally made on the cheap. As such, it looks a little dated and "flat." The budget was seemingly increased tenfold for Outlast 2, as it looks significantly better. The textures are far more detailed, the animations are more realistic, and the lighting is far superior, all of which combine to create one gorgeous looking horror game. Sorry Outlast, but you're starting to wrinkle.
2 Better: Fewer Clichés
OK, maybe Outlast was a little cliché. After all, we have the whole "creepy insane asylum" thing, and running and hiding from killers isn't exactly the most original idea in the world. But Outlast 2 was just cliché city. You've got a creepy cult getting up to some shady stuff. Freaky body horror abominations. Buckets of blood and gore meant to invoke visceral terror over slow-paced horror. The whole "no way to contact the outside" cliché. And more goofy jump scares than a Conjuring movie. No wonder people didn't like Outlast 2 as much - we've seen it all before!
1 Worse: Artificial Intelligence
A hide and seek game like this primarily requires one thing - smart enemies. And for the most part, Outlast delivered. That said, there were a few shaky moments when the enemies derped and broke the immersion. Thanks to the increased budget, the artificial intelligence was greatly tweaked for Outlast 2, resulting in a far more realistic experience. They'll simply open doors instead of breaking them down, they'll pursue you through crevices and holes, and they'll thoroughly search a room instead of just giving up after five seconds. It's great stuff, and it really gets the heart pumpin'!