Review Roundup: Outlast 2 is a terrifying sequel that fails to innovate
You may be disappointed or you may love it!
In 2013, a little game by the name of Outlast hit the PC and redefined survival horror. It shifted the genre so much that survival horror veterans such as Resident Evil and even at one point Silent Hill took inspiration from it and other games of its kind. Instead of getting you very few weapons or little ammo, Outlast gave you nothing at all. While it wasn't the first game to ever do this, it certainly did it the best.
Outlast 2 is a lot more of the same, for some that could be exactly what they want. For others, that may not be enough to justify the price of admission on this haunted house ride. The embargo just lifted for Outlast 2 and the reviews are in. Some reviewers are head over heels with the game's story and themes while some couldn't get past the lack of innovation and the clunkiness that lies within. Below you'll find a handful of reviews on both ends of the spectrum.
Outlast 2 may be the single most qualified recommendation I’ve given in my history of writing reviews, and not just because of its occasionally stilted design. This is a game that often left me feeling like complete trash. It brought up some of the most difficult memories in my life, issues I had buried long ago. My reactions to that anguish have run the gamut, but more than anything, I respect that Outlast 2 has the singular focus and intensity to dredge up those emotions; that alone made it worth the time spent for me.
"Not for the faint of heart, Outlast 2’s relentless scares, unforgiving monsters, and provocative meditations on faith are an anxiety-inducing but cathartic horror experience. While it suffers from a couple of pacing problems and some finicky navigation issues, its careful - and sadistic - manipulation of my fight-or-flight reflex had me experiencing an overwhelming sense of dread throughout, which abated only once the credits were rolling. The ending, however, stayed with me for days."
is a terrifying sequel that builds upon the scares of the 2013 original. Even if its ambitious themes don’t always land and navigating through its world can be frustratingly inconsistent, there’s more wicked creativity at play here than I’ve seen in a horror game in a long time. Play it loud, in the dark."
In truth, Outlast's "no weapons" formula worked better as a shorter experience. Stretched over twice the length of the original game, Outlast 2's gameplay starts to wear thin, especially since too many of its scripted chases funnel you down preset paths. At the same time, however, I admire its purity, and to an extent, I'm willing to accept its shortcomings for the sake of true survival horror. The campaign is scary from start to finish and delivers on its promise of unrelenting terror in part because it never allows you to fight back. The atmosphere and sound design are expertly crafted, and Blake's hallucinations elevate the game's story above that of the first. It doesn't do much to build on the original formula, but it unquestionably provides a more polished version of the same idea.
Think of it as a ride through a really amazing haunted house: you don't have a ton of control and sometimes the ride breaks down for a moment or two, but it's basically guaranteed to leave you scared out of your mind.
Outlast 2 is one of the darkest games I’ve ever played and it goes to some very unexpected places…but I can’t help but think the first game was better. The sequel does little to distinguish itself from its predecessor aside from the setting and plot. This makes Outlast 2 feel too safe and not risky enough in terms of gameplay. If you’ve never played the first game, you’ll probably really love Outlast 2, but for fans of the original, it’ll feel like the sequel is treading old ground.
Violence is dealt with deftly, disturbing where it needs to be and even darkly comic when it’s allowed. It’s a pity, then, that the game is so inherently flawed. Horror games have to walk a line between joy and nastiness. You have to want to be afraid, yet still compelled to keep going into the darkness. Unfortunately, in Outlast 2, all I wanted to do was put down the controller.
Although Outlast 2’s scares are phenomenal, its narrative struggles to remain cohesive and wraps up hastily. This affected my investment into the story, where my connection to the characters waned frequently. It has clever tricks up its sleeve, and while scary in the moment, their effectiveness suffers in the long run, especially when connecting various story points is difficult. Shock value is relied on constantly, with overt religious themes portrayed in ways some could find carelessly offensive. Even if that doesn’t bother you, these topics are often handled without nuance.
Outlast 2 asks more questions than it answers, and too much is left to your interpretation. This ambiguity might have worked, but it makes the conclusion unsatisfying. Even with its hiccups, it is nonetheless an intense ride that makes you question your sanity. If gory thrills are something you seek, Outlast 2 provides plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat as long as you can look past the clumsy storytelling.
Outlast 2 releases on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on April 25th, 2017.