I was fairly late to the game when it came to OUTLAST. I honestly hadn’t even heard of it until I had seen an article where someone had mentioned it being one of the scariest games of recent times. There were a litany of ‘Let’s Play’ videos on the game (usually nonsense where people scream ridiculous things while playing games and somehow making more money than a full time worker at a back-breaking job), so it actually worked against getting me to play.
But I liked the concept of not being able to fight back, and only being able to run as an aspect for a horror game. Because let’s face it: In a horror movie scenario, 90 percent of horror movie armchair players wouldn’t do half the shit they yell at the camp counselors in FRIDAY THE 13th. As a gameplay mechanic, it’s simple: run, hide, and try not to die. As an added bonus, it was written by J.T Petty, who made two fantastic films (THE BURROWERS and S&MAN), and an above average MIMIC sequel.
So I played it, loved it and was scared as hell by it. Overall though, it lacks to some degree, because the story moves a little too fast and only picks up towards the end. I’m frankly, a little happy that I picked up the game at a discount. I will say that the DLC, Whistleblower, is far more superior and has one of the scariest moments in gaming, bar none. Two words: The Groom.
It’s about this time that you ask me: what’s the deal, pal? Isn’t this an OUTLAST II review. It is and here’s where we get to the goods. The plot is simple but a hell of a lot better than the original’s bare bones concept. You play as Blake Langermann, a cameraman for an internet news show and while investigating a missing girl in a small Arizona town, you discover a cult of insane people who are determined to kill every last child to prevent Armageddon. What follows is a game filled to the brim with taboos and terrors like scatological gross-outs (you make your way through a camp filled with village outcasts called the Scalled, people suffering from syphilis), child death, pregnancy horror, molestation and Catholic school, and the Apocalypse.
It’s torture porn, but at the same time, it’s a nerve-grinding experience. The pacing is such that you’re biting your nails as you find yourself running away from a knife-wielding crazy (it happens a lot, and gets scarier every time). It jumps back and forth between scenarios where you’re roaming through ghostly towns, looking over the carnage of the townspeople (again, gore) and hiding in cornfields as maniacs come to find and kill you (you’ll die a lot). Perhaps the parts that people have found the most aggravating (because it kills the pace, I suppose) is the parts of the game where you wander around Blake’s childhood Catholic school. It’s a chilling image seeing dead schoolgirls hanging above a snow-covered schoolyard. I didn’t feel that way as I felt so unsettled and unnerved that I dreamed walking down a brightly-lit hallway. There are several moments (bathroom stalls, library and computer lab) in the school that are without a doubt, better than some horror movies. And the way the game transitions from Arizona to the school are so disorienting and freaky, you’ll marvel in amazement as it’s happening. The game is also gorgeous as hell, the detail in the environments are full and lush, and if you had the time to linger and look, you’d see so much beauty in the blood.
I played the game twice and felt extremely scared both times, a dark setting over me as I navigated the landscape of Hell unsure of where to go and what would happen next. The tension will choke you out and frighten you with every single jump scare (of which there are plenty). But the developers and writers do something much better – they realize that to scare an audience you need moments of silence, and the game puts you on edge by giving you disquiet. But the developers and writers do something much better – they realize that to scare an audience you need moments of silence, and the game puts you on edge by giving you moments of silence where anything can happen, and often does. The droning, shredding score perfectly accentuates the terror unfolding as well and marries so well to the game and imagery.
A couple of negatives here, one being the whole inability to fight back. It’s a little ridiculous seeing as how Blake shows to be a versatile character and is capable of handling his own when grabbed. I realize that it takes away the fear when your character can fight back, but it also feels ridiculous when you’re running past axes and knives and can’t at least fight and kill someone. And the story doesn’t go into details on the ins and outs of the cult a little better, instead they offer a small snippet of dialogue that you wouldn’t think to dig into unless you watch the numerous recorded videos your character does throughout. Perhaps it’s the curse of the DLC, but when you pay $30 for a game, you expect a little more to the story. At least I do.
Still, story elements lacking aside, it’s an absolute buy. Outlast II is one of the scariest games I’ve played in recent years. It’s better than Resident Evil 7 in the scares department, hands down. It’s an unrelenting, harrowing and terrifying experience that will shake you to your very core from beginning to end. Red Barrels, the folks responsible for the game, and Petty, who returned to pen the game, should absolutely be handed a big horror movie to make. They’ll scare the shit out of you.