Outlast 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 24.04.2017

Review for Outlast 2 on PlayStation 4

In 2013, Outlast came out and was a daring surprise for gamers. It was one of the best examples of a horror game where the player-character has zero combative abilities and had a greater emphasis on stealth, platforming and general adventuring. The setting was a psychiatric hospital that had been completely overtaken by crazies of all walks of life. Since the story revolved around playing the role of Miles Upshur, a photojournalist who was out of his element and surrounded by depraved psychos, it made sense that combat was never an option. Even early in the game's plot, Miles sustains a crippling injury to his hand, which was basically the game saying that this man will not be able to defend himself at all. After Outlast had a successful port on PS4 and Xbox One, DLC chapter The Whistleblower was released, which expanded and explained much of the events of the core game. Outlast was an interesting if brief journey of the true ugliness of insanity, and explored some interesting topics about faith and religion. Naturally, Red Barrels would further expand on these concepts in Outlast 2, where the sense of danger would be greater and the scope much grander. Cubed3 investigates…

Outlast 2 is in the thankless position of being released after Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. It doesn't help that both games have a plot that revolves around saving a wife, but to its credit, Outlast 2 does have some really original story elements all its own that make it stand out should anyone make it to the end.

Much like the original's Miles Upshur, Blake is also a photojournalist who has a camera, which is tied to the game's mechanic of recording specific events and using night-vision mode at the cost of batteries. The game is always set at night too, so night-vision is something that people want to use, and batteries always remain a commodity since visibility is at its worst outdoors.

This was pretty much how the entirety of Outlast played: moving from point A to point B while relying on night-vision, scrounging for batteries and sneaking by threats or just running away from them. Once in a while there was some set-pieces or mild platforming to break things up a bit to give people a breather. It was a very linear and pretty short experience, but given the circumstances in the story, it is hard to imagine it playing out any differently and only cost about $20. Outlast 2 plays pretty much identically to the original, but with some minor tweaks.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on PlayStation 4

Blake's camera has a mic on it, which lets him hear if there are any potential threats behind walls or in thickets of tall grass or corn stalks. This minor addition is only sometimes useful since it only gives the vague idea of a threat's position, and usually the stalker's AI or vision is pretty weak anyway, so it's better to just risk crawling past them. Blake also has the ability to go completely prone and crawl on his stomach, which would be the biggest change if it weren't for the fact that Outlast 2 totally underuses this new mechanic. The fact Blake can crawl and fit in such tight spaces could have truly opened up this game and made exploration much deeper, because as it stands now, Outlast 2 is so tightly controlled and scripted that it clashes with the setting, creating so many missed opportunities.

The first game was set in a hospital, which was basically like a prison at the same time, so it made sense that options were limited for Miles' escape. Outlast 2 is set in what looks like the Arizona rockies, and presents so many possibilities that are never explored. There are plenty of head-scratching moments that are tied to the limitations of Blake's mechanics, like how he can only interact with specific scripted ledges, windows or doors. These are not fortified structures, either... Most of the game's dwellings look like, at best, the ramshackle cabins from Resident Evil 4 or the dilapidated huts from Dark Souls' Blighttown.

The entirety of Outlast 2 insists on following the developer's strict script and never deviating from the path with no sense of agency. Even much older stealth games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater had a very linear story, but managed numerous options to negotiate stealth gameplay with zero engagement. Games like Siren: Blood Curse, another horror game with an emphasis on stealth, allowed all kinds of creative ways to avoid threats and to explore environment, so something as advanced as Outlast 2 really does not have an excuse for such lazy game design that relies so heavily on following a script.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on PlayStation 4

The fact that Blake is always defenceless wears extremely thin pretty fast. It made more sense in the first game since Miles gets his hands mutilated, and that the game was beatable in about four hours, so the experience did not overstay its welcome. Outlast 2 is long... Really long. It took over 12 hours for a single playthrough, but it felt longer thanks to the trial and error stealth gameplay that results in many retries and the frequent scripted sequences that were basically unskippable cutscenes. The gameplay is just too simple to be interesting for such a long stretch, and the most frustrating part is that there are numerous opportunities for Blake to arm himself, but never once is the option given.

In Resident Evil 7, there was Jack and Marguerite Baker, constant pursuers who were invincible, but could be temporarily dispatched. The Bakers were varied in how they were threats, but still were scary in spite of the fact that Ethan (the player-character) could arm himself. Outlast 2 has Marta and Laird, and these reoccurring pursers usually will easily murder Blake in one or two hits. It is worse with Laird since he has a ranged attack that can instantly kill while trying to escape. Marta and Laird, while they have excellent and unsettling designs with amazing voice acting, they are not scary to engage - just irritants that cause a (quick) load screen.


 
There is some attempt to make Outlast 2 deeper than the first game by not allowing Blake to have regenerating health thanks to healing items. Blake can carry up to three bandages, all of which are only really useful for two things: fixing his slow moving speed when hurt or to remove the annoying blood on the screen. Outlast 2's health system is pointless and utterly worthless, because upon death, all his camera's battery power is restored, which makes battery collecting a waste of time. Autosaving checkpoints are generous and frequent since there is no real save system like the way a real survival horror game should, and there won't ever be a need for those batteries or bandages. Running low? Just go get killed and everything is restored. It is pretty shocking and baffling that this got by in testing considering the development time.

In spite of how heavily scripted Outlast 2 is, the game does manage to be utterly gripping and intense. It is full of so much macabre and grotesque imagery and attention to detail that it is clear where the developers put most of their attention. Outlast 2 is beautiful and it is impressive that such a small development team can deliver such an impressive display that is mostly on par with Capcom's Resident Evil 7.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on PlayStation 4

If there is any area where the title falters it is the facial animations of characters. The expressions are pretty much still where they are in the first game: mostly non-existent. While the blank and vacant stare might work for the patients of Mount Massive Asylum, they just don't for Blake's wife, Lynn. She is the first character to be seen and it feels like facial expressions is the one aspect Outlast 2's art department got slack with. Outside of the lack of care in character expression, this game proves how good art direction can make even an old engine like Unreal 3 look comparable to the latest advancements in technology.

Outlast 2 needed to expand its gameplay and instead feels more like another DLC chapter, just that it is much longer. This game shows so much potential, but it is squandered by believing this false song of disempowering the playable character in order to make it scarier. Silent Hill on the original PlayStation still is one of the scariest games ever made, and in that game Harry Mason could arm himself and even strafe and side-step - something that not any S.T.A.R.S members could do until the PlayStation 3. Harry Mason was just a writer, so Blake has no excuse why he can't use a pipe or plank of wood. It is even more embarrassing that there is an enemy in the game who has only one arm, is stricken with some kind flesh-eating disease, basically has no face, and can barely breath right, yet is able to strangle the life out of Blake... The protagonist is so pathetic that he can't even fend off a dying, one-armed man.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Anyone who loved the original Outlast will likely love this sequel. It is basically more of it and pushes the Unreal Engine 3 to its fullest potential, making it one gorgeous looking game. The attention to detail is really strong and the story manages some original twists. Making Father Knoth inspired by Jim Jones was a brilliant idea that really added some plausibility to this horrible story of depravity. It is sad the gameplay just can't reach the same heights as the atmosphere and presentation. Although there is a lot of trial and error in the game, it does actually reload gameplay very fast - almost shockingly fast - and it seems like nothing was compromised since the frame rate is a very fluid and stable 60fps. Outlast 2 manages itself very nicely and there might have been only one noticeable instance of texture loading. The lesson learned here is that disempowering is not always scary; sometimes it just gets annoying.

Developer

Red Barrels

Publisher

Red Barrels

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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