Here We Go Again
Having just escaped from a crazy old man, I hid myself in a nearby barn. After shambling through the rafters, I came near the exit. Grabbing a note to read more about the area, I placed it down to see a pale, dark-haired woman in the window. She was asking God if He “wanted me.” Then she disappeared in the darkness, and I hesitated to leave the building.
Just a few weeks ago, Red Barrels released Outlast on the Nintendo Switch. Now they’ve brought the sequel, Outlast 2, to Nintendo’s hybrid console. Having reviewed the previous entry in the series, I praised it for its horrific elements and atmosphere while criticizing it for a confusing finale and some fetch sequences that were a bit too tedious for their own good. Going into Outlast 2, I was curious to find if Red Barrels had refined their formula or lost their edge.
Is Outlast 2 a worthy sequel, or a cheap horror game?
Outlast 2 is set in the same universe as Outlast, but it happens in a completely different part of the world. Where the first game had you exploring Mount Massive Asylum, this one sees you explore an isolated forest in Arizona, where danger awaits at every turn.
You take control of Blake Langermann, a cameraman who is investigating a strange murder with the help of his reporter wife, Lynn Langermann. While in a helicopter, it’s not long before everything goes awry and you crash in the trees. You wake up to find yourself alone, and you do your best to look for Lynn. Along the way, you start to find bodies strewn on makeshift crosses, and the fear starts to set in.
Outlast had a good atmosphere to make you feel confined and vulnerable, but Outlast 2 blows it out of the water. Not relying on jumpscares as much, Red Barrels instead built the tension at every corner. Whether you’re witnessing a woman mumbling to herself amongst a heap of bodies or see crazed religious fanatics shining flashlights trying to find you, there’s almost never a dull moment in the game. Even the painful “find three objects and avoid being killed” portions from the first game are tightened up in Outlast 2. They’re still there, but you’ll mostly just be finding one object.
This more organic way of building tension led to a much more frightening experience. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, checking my corners, and panicking whenever I saw an attacker headed straight for me.
One of the biggest changes to the game is that it centers around a group of religious fanatics, grounding this fictional story in a grim reality. This is something that could, theoretically, take place- and that made me all the more fearful.
That said, some of the frantic moments in the game were bogged down by how the world is set up. The forest is much more open that the cramped Mount Massive Asylum. While that makes for more visually interesting set pieces, it can be difficult to find where you need to go sometimes. Too many times did I have to let myself be killed by a terrifying monster because I couldn’t find where I was supposed to go.
Retrace Your Steps
The story in Outlast 2 also improves on the first. My going in the woods with an objective to find your wife and get out- it gives a more realistic sense of urgency as opposed to the first game. Along the way, you’ll learn more about the cults that live there and grow to become even more scared of them as time goes on.
However, there’s more to Blake than someone trying to find his wife. Throughout the game, you’ll be transported to the Catholic High School that he attended as a young boy. It’s there that you learn about his childhood friend, Jessica, who torments Blake to this day. The further you get into the story, the more Blake’s memories and his reality start to blend together. Spoiler alert: both are equally terrifying.
These two plot lines have nothing to do with each other- their only connective thread being Blake. That said, when the stories come together in the end, it leads to a much more satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion than the first game ever did. It’s definitely more symbolic and open to interpretation, but that approach fits the religious implications of the game.
Screaming Away from Home
I have to take the time to point out how impressive it is that Outlast 2 runs so well on a handheld console and looks as good as it does. From what I understand, it only take Red Barrels a few weeks to get this game on the Switch. By the quality of the port, though, you wouldn’t be able to tell.
The game plays nicely in both handheld and TV mode but, to get the full experience, you need to either play in an isolated room with headphones, or move your TV to the basement and turn up the volume.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Outlast 2 was provided by The Red Barrels.