Found-footage horror films are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine…well, so are video games, but you know what I mean. It might be my affection for the latter that leads to my affection for the former, actually; people always talk about how found-footage movies are cheesy and unbelievable, but that’s part for the course when it comes to video game storytelling, so I’m not all too shaken up about it. In any case, the chance to combine the two with a game like Outlast 2 is deeply appreciated, even if it scares the poop out of me.
When Blake Langermann and his wife Lynn crash land in a remote part of Arizona, things end up getting a little spicier than they bargained for. The town of Temple Gate isn’t known for its hospitality, after all. In fact, it’s more of a deathtrap than anything, as Blake rapidly discovers as he searches for Lynn and has some run-ins with the locals. Blake’s a cameraman, not a fighter, so he’ll have to rely on his wits and stealth to stay alive.
If you’ve played the original Outlast you’ve got a pretty good idea of how this one goes, since it’s much the same. In fact, this series’ flavor of non-combat horror has become pretty popular since it was originally popularized by 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. You can’t really defend yourself against the many cultists that are going to come after you, so your only recourse is running or, more often, hiding. Most of the game is fairly dark, so you’ll need to use your camera’s night vision to help guide your way, but it’s got limited batteries and you’ll need to keep it topped up or risk being blinded.
The idea is for the experience to be tight and tense, a series of deadly encounters where you’re escaping by the skin of your teeth. Depending on how you feel about being helpless, that might be the case…or the game might just end up feeling like a series of frustrating deaths and restarts. Outlast 2 is relatively generous with checkpoints, at least, and new features like an on-camera microphone that allows you to hear through walls help make ninja action a little more reasonable.
Gameplay aside, you’re probably playing Outlast 2 for the scares and story. It delivers in spades. I get the feeling that someone on the development team has watched the fantastic V/H/S series of horror films; the “Safe Haven” segment of V/H/S 2 in particular is strikingly similar to the point of the whole game feeling like a direct homage. It’s a gruesome experience that indulges in shock value. There’s plenty of taboo topics brushed upon, and that’s saying nothing about the incessant tide of gore. There’s no shortage of people who’d love to remind us that we’re not allowed to like that kind of thing from games in 2017, but rebels who do so regardless are likely to have a good time with Outlast 2.
Those same rebels will need to be sure they’re in the right mindset for a game like Outlast 2, though. This isn’t Resident Evil 7; there’s still plenty of scares, but being completely unable to defend yourself gives them sharper teeth. At the same time, it can make for aggravating moments where you spend considerable time replaying segments due to no fault of your own. Dedicated horror fans who stick with Outlast 2, though, will find that what it lacks in gameplay it more than makes up for in terror.