I’ve been in a horror game mood ever since I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil Biohazard
earlier this year. And although Outlast 2 also takes place in the southern United States; this is a very different type of horror game by comparison. The game begins with a message detailing the game’s main premises; you (Blake) are a camera man (of course…) and your wife is a reporter, the two of you are setting out for Arizona to investigate the death of a pregnant woman who was found wandering around aimlessly on a highway. So when the real game begins, the helicopter you’re travelling in crashes in the middle of a crazed cultist town, your wife gets captured by the religious cult and it’s your job to find and rescue her. The cult claims that your wife is pregnant and holds the bane of humanity’s existence within her womb, and some other crazy cult of ghoulish heretics wants to see to it that this “anti-Christ” child is born, so essentially you and your wife are trapped in between some kind of religious war.
The message shown to you at the start of the game also makes sure you understand - one of the game’s dumbest elements – that you and your wife are not “fighters”, so you’re essentially defenceless no matter how anorexic, malnourished and diseased your enemies may be. The name of the game here is running and chase sequences, hiding from and juking your pursuers, and sometimes you’ll power up a generator or solve an incredibly simple puzzle in order to progress but under the pressure of someone being on the lookout for you. This world is dark as hell so you’ll require your camera (in night mode) in order to see properly, however this camera requires batteries so you’ll have to be on the lookout for spare batteries hidden within the environment if you’ll wanna have any chance of surviving. Occasionally you’ll be transported from the nightmare in Arizona to a nightmare in an elementary school that seems to have something to do with your past. I generally liked these school sections because they kind of remind me of the “other world” experiences from Silent Hill
The sprinting mechanics aren’t good; you get caught onto things very easily which is a problem for a game where you’re constantly being chased. I didn’t always feel like the controls were responding the way I wanted them to, Blake wouldn’t always crawl when I wanted him to, he’d close windows when I wanted him to jump out of them, he’d burst through a door alerting everyone when I’d be trying to be stealthy. The game’s design is also very redundant and often frustrating; if you accomplish one chase sequence you’ve basically seen them all. It sometimes takes a lot of trial and error just to find the sometimes weirdly placed or esoteric spots the game wants you to go in order to progress (while being chased). The puzzles were too overly simplistic to even call them as such, and the game got so intent on sending you back and forth between the school and the present that it started feeling contrived and pointless at times.
I must say though for as frustrating and redundant of a game this is mechanically; it’s quite stunning visually and sonically. The graphics in this game are terrific and skin crawling at times; I love all of the religious horror, the creepy ass corn fields, gory set pieces, and lots of little details in the environments. There are some returning antagonists of whom I really liked the designs for and they use a lot of artistic visual horror in the school sections but I really don’t wanna spoil any of it for you. Red Barrel Studio really nailed the visuals here, the only thing totally undermining it all is the fact that the game has you using you camera in colorless night vision mode for the majority of the time. This game is also a master class in audio work, the sound design in this game is terrifying and I really liked writing and voice acting that really does justice to the “crazy religious cult” trope.
So in the end I was digging this game’s narrative for the most part, I’m really taken by religion as a tool for horror and I was interested in what about Blake’s past linked him to the nightmares at the elementary school. I think visually and sonically this game’s design rocks, so as a pure horror experience this is all pretty solid stuff… Buuut; this is also a video game fundamentally. Blake’s total defenceless in the face of most of these weak ass anorexic enemies is lame, and when the design and mechanics are so consistently frustrating, buggy, overly simplistic, and redundant I’d actually recommend you just watch a playthrough of this game online to be brutally honest.