Dean Abdou reviews Outlast 2…
Outlast 2 is the sequel to Outlast which was released in 2013. The story features a journalist named Blake Langermann, along with his wife Lynn, roaming the Arizona desert to explore the murder of a pregnant woman, Jane Doe. Unfortunately, Blake and Lynn get separated in a helicopter crash, and Blake has to find his wife while traveling through a village inhabited by a sect that believes the end of days is upon them.
Outlast 2 improves on many features which we had introduced to us in the original Outlast game whilst also introducing to us a few new ones. The enemy AI are more difficult to escape, there’s a lot more interaction available with the world that we’re presented and it delivers us a whole new original story.
Unfortunately Outlast 2 has its fair share of flaws. Whilst there are elements which really make this game quite enjoyable it still stumbles on a few things. One instance of this is with the characters of the story. When playing as Blake as the story progresses there isn’t any real drive to save his wife Lynn Langermann as she is quite under-developed. All we have to go on is the fact that we crashed with her and she is our wife so therefore we have to find her. No real relationship is built between them. In fact you will find yourself just focusing on surviving and trying to find the next way out rather than being dedicated to finding Lynn. If this game was an open world survival I would guarantee you that a majority of players would most likely leave Lynn behind. You also slowly begin to get annoyed with Blake within the game, especially with the over abundance of exponential dialogue that comes from him. There are one too many moments where Blake just states the obvious in the game which to an extent has a bit of a condescending tone to the player.
As for the antagonists in the game, Knoth who is the leader of Temple Gate and Val who is the leader of The Heretics, are again these are very under-developed characters. The most I can share about these factions and their leaders is that they’re part of a twisted cult who are obsessed with children. Knoth and Val were once friends but went separate ways as Val began to believe that Knoth was wrong about the God that he follows. Val is full of lust whilst Knoth is quite the opposite and believes that anything of the sexual nature is a sin. Other than that I honestly couldn’t say much more about them as they weren’t really fleshed out in the game and story. There are collectables that you can find and pick up to help you learn more about the world you’re in but the game relies too heavily on the chance you’ll find these. The only reason I do know about Knoth and Val’s division is due to these collectables.
However it isn’t all doom and gloom for character development as there is one character that really stuck out for me and that was Blake and Lynn’s old high school friend Jessica. We only really see and learn about Jessica during the flashback sequences of the game but whenever they took place they really successfully captivated the player. Jessica is quite the mysterious element of the game but truth be told she’s the only character that is really well developed throughout the story.
As for the overall story itself, Outlast 2 technically consists of two story lines happening simultaneously, one of them being set in this village that you’ve crashed in and one of them taking place in the past at Blake’s old high school.
The main story that takes place is about these two cults, Temple Gate and The Heretics. The followers of Temple Gate strongly believe that it is up to them to stop the birth of the Antichrist so they kill the children that are born there. The Heretics believe that the children should spared and that the people of Temple Gate believe in a false God and so they instead follow a path full of lust. Both of these cults are equally insane and are out to kill you so that you don’t interfere with what is going on. Obviously as Blake your objective is to rescue Lynn from these maniacs and get the hell out of that village.
The second story which takes place in the past is about Blake, Lynn and their old high school friend Jessica. It takes place entirely at a religious high school and as the story progresses you begin to learn more and more about what has happened to Jessica. This story is played out in reverse starting from the end and ending from the start. You immediately learn what has happened to Jessica but you play through in reverse seeing everything that led up to it. Things at this high school aren’t quite what they seem and you come across your fair share of horrors here that you have to survive.
Overall I was not invested whatsoever in the main story which takes place in the village. This war between Val and Knoth was quite frankly boring and although the factions initially interested me I quickly became uninterested in them. I found myself looking forward more to when we would enter a flashback sequence to play through because the story of Jessica was what really captivated me in Outlast 2. My only negative thought about this side story though is the relevance it has to the main story. Besides the school being a religious school and the fact that Jessica was Blake and Lynn’s high school friend, there is no solid link between the two stories which is a shame as the Jessica storyline was the strongest aspect of Outlast 2.
As for how the game ends, well it doesn’t really conclude itself properly. Nothing is really tied together or answered, and if anything the game leaves the player asking a lot more questions about what on earth was going on at that twisted village. There’s the positive that it leaves this open to many theories but it was just extremely unsatisfying. At the end of it you feel like you didn’t really achieve anything. Besides learning the truth about Jessica, there is no closure to the overall story.
Game mechanics wise, Outlast 2 introduces a few new features which really improves the gameplay compared to the first Outlast. The player himself has a few new tools to use in this horror world and the enemy AI are both more challenging and have their fair share of surprises.
You find yourself once again using your trusty camcorder to film everything happening in this twisted village. Just like in Outlast you have the ability to switch the camera to night vision mode so that you can see a little more clearly what’s going on along with also being able to use the zoom function to check out things at a distance. One of the new camera features that have been added is the ability to switch on the camera’s on board mic and use that to listen out for things that may be heading towards you or anything behind closed doors. When switched on a little microphone monitor bar pops up on the left hand side of your screen. The bar will start peaking when there’s something in a certain direction therefore warning the player to either hide or run from whatever it could be. To keep the camera functioning you’d need to find batteries around the world and stockpile on them similar to Outlast. You can also find bandages around the world which you can use to heal yourself up whenever you get injured.
Environmentally wise there’s a lot for the player to interact with. There are lockers, barrels, cupboards, beds, just all sorts which can be used to hide. You even have the ability to hide under water but when you emerge your vision will be distorted for a short time adding an extra challenge to escaping from enemies. Whilst it is great to have all these options you come to find that you very rarely ever actually hide from the enemies, it is a lot easier to just sprint away from them. One helpful gameplay mechanic is the ability to lock doors. There were quite a few instances where when running away if I did take a wrong turn I could quickly run into a house, lock the door and when timed correctly, jump out the window just as the enemy AI breaks in so that you can make a quick run past the way they were blocking. A feature which I feel the game could benefit from is having the option to just shove the enemy AIs out the way. I enjoy the idea that you don’t have the ability to use weapons as it really adds to the horror survival aspect but something as simple as just shoving the AI out the way would really add to the game just so you don’t completely feel like a useless tool.
Throughout the game there are quite a few different bosses that you will come up against. Each of these bosses are unique and don’t feel repetitive so they all present a new challenge to the player. There are often moments where you’d think you’d be able to outsmart these bosses but quickly find out that they are a lot smarter then you would initially think. Of course with there being a lack of melee function in the game the only thing you can really do is just run away from them and hide but thankfully it isn’t quite as boring as it sounds. It is a lot more challenging and it adds that extra layer of enjoyability and fear to the game.
In terms of the fear factor Outlast 2 definitely delivers in being able to make the player jump in fear but I was rather disappointed that this was mostly due to easy jump scares. Whilst jump scares are great ways to definitely instil fear they’re also just cheap and easy scare tactics. There are only a few instances where proper psychological fear is used to scare the player and these few moments are honestly the best points of the game and leave more of an impact. These moments don’t rely on using dramatic music or a quick flash of scary imagery, instead they take their time to build up the fear within the player, using nothing but the sound from the environment and just playing with your mind to finally deliver that last blow to make you scream out in fear. To no surprise these moments actually all take place within the Jessica storyline in the high school.
Graphically wise Outlast 2 is a very gruesome but fantastic looking game. The amount of detail in this game is phenomenal and it’s a shame that you have to see a majority of it through night vision mode so you don’t really get to fully appreciate it. There are some very gruesome moments which had me feeling quite sick so I have to hand it to the studio for going into such detail to evoke that kind of reaction out of its audience.
Outlast 2 is a game that consists of some really enjoyable elements along with an interesting side story about Jessica and it is great to be back in the world of Outlast. Unfortunately it also had the potential to be something even better but it never fully reached it. If the story was refined a little more with a more conclusive ending, game mechanics tweaked ever so slightly and if they made the main protagonist less exponential or be completely mute similarly to the original Outlast then I believe it would’ve been a game that would have me walking away in amazement rather than walking away in annoyance. I’m very divided in whether it is a game I would play again because on one hand another run through would allow me to try and catch anything I missed within the story but on the other I don’t think I could put myself through that annoyance once again. I do hope that some form of DLC or maybe even a standalone game gets made continuing on from the Jessica storyline as that is the only part of the game that really left a positive and memorable impression on me.
+ Enemy AI are a lot more challenging compared to the original Outlast
+ A lot of unexpected moments in the game which keep you on your feet
+ Very interesting side story about Jessica
– Blake and Lynn Langermann are very bland characters
– Relies heavily on using jump scares to frighten the player
– The main story was not very interesting at all
– There wasn’t a real definitive ending to the game
Reviewed for PS4 (also available on PC and Xbox One)
Outlast 2 is available from the 25th April.