In the not so distant past of 2014, the original Outlast was a big part of PlayStation 4’s early days. As among a handful of large AAA releases, which were available on the platform at the time, it was given an opportunity like no other, as it was a part of February’s PlayStation Plus line up. And like many early adopters of the platform, I was eagerly waiting to play a title, which many has called the biggest horror game of the year. But once the push came to shove, and I’ve spent the first couple of hours with the original Outlast, I have deleted it off my console, and written it off completely, as to me, it was nothing more than an elaborate, three-dimensional game of cat and mouse.
My negative reception of the original Outlast, in turn, has made absolutely loath both the genre and the series. And I have completely disregarded both The Whistle Blower DLC to the original, and the recently released sequel. But now, six hours after initially starting Outlast 2, I can finally say that I was wrong in discrediting the title before having a chance to play it. And that’s because unlike its predecessor, Outlast 2 might just be one of the best horror titles of this generation.
The original Outlast, just like a large majority of the horror titles, had huge issues, when it came to its design. Overreliance on basic hiding spots, and the limitations of its hospital setting, had a severe negative impact on the enjoyment, and the suspense which the developer wanted to portray. As what should have been a horror, was nothing more than a simple puzzle game with only a single puzzle, and a singular solution. But thankfully, Red Barrels Studio, have completely reworked its horror-based framework, in Outlast 2, and created a title which is not just fun to play, but is as gripping as some of the best horror films out there.
Outlast 2’s story, is situated within a secluded part of rural United States of America, and entirety of the title is taking place within a number of expertly crafted locations. First of which is the village, on the approach to the chapel. And as a whole, this particular location serves the role of a non-invasive tutorial, as it teaches the player on how to interact with the environment, and most importantly how to survive within it. And by the time, one reaches the end of this chapter, and escapes through the window of the abovementioned chapel, he/she will be fully aware of what to look out for, when fighting for survival.
One could argue that after learning all the tricks, which Outlast 2 holds within its sleeve, the title may stagnate, and enter the repetitive loop, which the original was a victim of. However, thankfully, due to the constantly changing landscape, and both hostile and non-hostile NPCs which inhabit it, Outlast 2 always manages to keep one on his/her toes, as it never allows the player to get comfortable. Yes – AI controlled NPCs will obviously follow certain predetermined, scripted gameplay patterns, but they do so, within their own specific group/type, and Outlast 2, features a plethora of such. But it is better not to discuss their specific nature or names, as the brilliance which comes with each and every one of them, has to be experienced in person.
Outlast 2 features both a cast of diverse, maniacal, and psychotic characters, as well as an array of varied locations, and thanks to the work which Red Barrels have put into this project, both the NPCs and the locations are equally gross and visually stunning. And the game of meticulously crafted lights and shadows, only further improves the title, as the constant changes in player’s peripheral vision, create an immense, chilling atmosphere which makes one feel uneasy at all times. Just like somebody is constantly starting at the back of your head.
When it comes to the visual façade of Outlast 2, its gameplay, and level design, one could argue, that it borders on the status of a masterpiece. But unfortunately, due to certain flaws which are existing on the mechanical level, the horror doesn’t always come from the gameplay, but sometimes from in-game glitches, and at times incredibly poor sound design.
Within my six-hour long stay, in the world of Outlast 2, I have come across a handful of glitches which have either ruined the scene, or have outright killed me. At times, the player character would refuse to jump over certain waist-high obstacles, but after restarting due to dying, he would vault over the fence/wall without an issue. Also, diving underneath cut down trees, or through fence holes, was always a gamble, as upon pressing circle on PlayStation 4 controller, sometimes the player character would swiftly dive through/underneath the obstacle, but during certain scenes he would lay flat on his stomach, and would attempt to slowly crawl, as he was getting slashed, stabbed, and kicked.
The abovementioned mechanical glitches are an issue, especially when forcing the player to restart a checkpoint due to getting stuck in the window of a barn, but in the grand scheme of things, they are not as impactful as the questionable sound mixing. As during certain story cutscenes, music tends to be significantly louder than the NPCs, and if not for the subtitles, it is possible to completely miss certain, extremely important conversations. But some, who like me have finished the title, could argue that missing certain portions of dialogues, may be for the better, as unfortunately, Outlast 2’s plot doesn’t always hold up, especially when dissected piece-by-piece.
Within the first playthrough which may last between four and ten hours, many will pick a point or two where they’ll go ‘’huh? This makes no sense at all’’. And this is because things such as the fact that a rural American community doesn’t own a single firearm, but has electricity and plenty of electronic appliances, are questionable. But by the time one is graced with the credits, he/she will completely forget about certain flaws, mechanical or otherwise, which Outlast 2 possess, as in the end, it is both a tremendous video game, a work of entertainment, and above all a great horror. And I, one of the biggest critics of the original, without any shame, can admit that Outlast 2 is a magnificent title, and I can unconditionally recommend it to every fan of the horror genre, even the same fan, who just like me, resents the original.
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