Outlast 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 27.03.2018

Review for Outlast 2 on Nintendo Switch

Red Barrels made an impressive port of Outlast on Nintendo Switch. In spite of a halved frame-rate, a decrease in some asset resolution, and reduced shadow quality, the horror hide-and-seek 'em-up translated very well on what is essentially a tablet. That being said, Outlast 2 is a more ambitious game that pushed the Unreal Engine 3 to its absolute limits. On other consoles, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, this was a game that ran at a very high and unwavering frame-rate, with no pop-up or any load times outside of a very quick respawn. Cubed3 finds out just how many children Red Barrels had to sacrifice to the devil in order to port Outlast 2 to Switch.

The original Outlast is a flawed but enjoyable experience. Exploring Mount Massive Asylum had Miles Upshur do all kinds of things in a confined area, like platforming, sneaking around in mini-labyrinths, and in some cases he had multi-part goals to accomplish that could be approached in different ways. It did not always play to its best strengths, but it had a very solid foundation to build upon. Outlast 2 takes that foundation and puts a massive tyre fire on it by neglecting the best aspects of its predecessor. Blake is an even wimpier protagonist than the mute Miles. At least Miles had the excuse of having a few of his fingers get cut off by the affable Dr. Trager, but Blake's only reason why he never defends himself is because he is a massive beta soy-boy... or maybe because Red Barrels has been duped into the false song that taking away power from the user somehow makes the game scarier. Listen up, horror-game developers: to this day, the first three Silent Hill releases are still scaring people who play them. Even Harry Mason had the guts to pick up a steel pipe to protect himself. It becomes downright immersion-breaking due to how many chances Blake has to arm himself with anything, but the game won't let him because of Red Barrels' misguided notion of de-empowerment.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on Nintendo Switch

This is not to say that Outlast 2 needs to become Condemned: Criminal Origins and become a first-person horror beat 'em up. If anything, the closest relative to something like the Outlast is probably the Project Zero (aka: Fatal Frame) series, since there is an element of relying on a camera for some gameplay mechanics. Outlast 2 even manages to make a half-hearted attempt to implement some of camera functions into the gameplay, like the microphone, which is sort of helpful for tracking enemies that are out of sight. However, 99% of the time, everyone is going to rely on the night-vision mode because of how dark everything is. Get used to the sight of everything being black and green.

There really needed to be more ways to use Blake's camera, which could have made for a deeper and more complex experience. Why not include a flash functionality that can temporarily blind threats, but at the same time would consume a big chunk of battery life? There are moments where the story toys with the concept of a camera being able to see things in ways people can't, but unfortunately the idea is never explored beyond a couple of instances. Even puzzles could have had interesting ways to implement Blake's camera, but there are none - the extent is having users go find a key item and come back to the door.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on Nintendo Switch

Blake's move-set is slightly expanded from Miles' to include the ability to go prone and crawl on his belly. This is another example of Outlast 2 being the author of the book, "What Could Have Been Great." The level design is far too linear and limiting to allow any players to fully take advantage of the range of motion Blake has. He can climb, swim, crawl, and jump with some decent playability and feels good to control. The problem is that the levels are basically glorified hallways that all lead in one scripted direction. Outlast 2 is a stealth affair with a horror coat of paint, and for the stealth gameplay to be interesting, it really needed to be designed in a way that allowed people to improvise and explore various routes. Being able to crawl would suggest that Blake could find hidden routes, but there are none. Being able to climb ledges and jump would suggest that there are hidden paths up high, but there never are. The way the game is designed often results in him just being chased all the time. The option to hide in things like barrels or lockers is still present, but often feels pointless given how there is no incentive to be stealthy. If there was an inventory system, like older survival horrors, maybe there would be a reason for people to consider their actions, but Outlast 2's gameplay is just too simple.

Since Outlast 2 first released in 2017, it has been given a few updates that tweaked the gameplay for a more enjoyable experience. When it first released, the standard difficulty was deeply skewed against players, which did not help the fact that much of the gameplay can rely on trial-and-error. This version on Switch has all these tweaks implemented by default, such as the camera's microphone function no longer sucking up battery power and some enemy behaviour adjustments. The biggest change to this version is the addition of a very easy difficulty, "Story Mode," which drastically reduces enemy perception and in some instances decreases their aggression. There are even some moments in this new easy mode where some enemy encounters have been removed entirely, like the very first appearance of the one-hit-killer, Marta. There are moments where this easier mode actually makes Outlast 2 a better game since the limited gameplay just does not lend itself to such a linear path that the developer created. As a result, there are more moments where there is less trial-and-error, so people can absorb what is happening around Blake.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on Nintendo Switch

Outlast 2 on Switch is one of the most impressive looking titles around. Much like with Outlast: Bundle of Terror, this port displays 720p nicely in portable mode and runs at 30 frames per second. It would be unrealistic to expect anything more but, as it stands now, Outlast 2 on Switch looks unbelievably close to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts. There are the obvious qualities that had to be scaled back, like texture detail, but in portable mode it is very hard to discern much of a difference. As with its predecessor, this is not exactly the kind of game that really needs a high frame-rate, but going from the other versions to this port may take some time to get used to. There are never any moments of skipping or even loading new areas; this is one smooth ride that plays like the other versions on the market. Even the extremely fast respawn times that kept the trial-and-error gameplay from becoming frustrating was faithfully translated on Switch. The only times Outlast 2 really looks bad is when there is lots of darkness, which has a terrible banding effect. While this may not be the definitive way to play this, it is a preferable way to enjoy the gameplay due to it having a baby mode, which makes it better.

Screenshot for Outlast 2 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Outlast 2 does not quite reach even the average moments of the first game. However, what saves this is Red Barrels' talented artists and voice actors. There is a terrible idea being spread around game developers that prevents them from making a good videogame, and it is the idea that a videogame can be too "video gamey." It is not clear if Red Barrels believes that some effective game design qualities are too "video gamey," but it does seem like Outlast 2 would have been a much better work of art if it did embrace the medium's full potential. Just by looking at the graphics and animation, it is obvious that there is a profound amount of talent behind this team. The developer even managed to have a compelling story with a decent build-up at the start that gradually gets more insane at a digestible rate. There is no option to disable or reduce the rumble in the controller, by the way - a feature that would be appreciated since the rumble here is exceedingly harsh and feels like it's a time bomb that's about to explode.

Developer

Red Barrels

Publisher

Red Barrels

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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