When asked what the scariest game is on Xbox One, chances are Outlast will be among the suggestions. Not only was the predecessor remarkably well paced and came with an eerie setting, but it knew exactly how to make you shit yourself at all the wrong times. Swapping out the mental health theme found in the first game, Outlast II aims for a more religious sort of vibe and it works well in its favour. Not only have Red Barrells taken on board the few criticisms that were pushed forward regarding the first game, but they’ve fine-tuned the feeling of isolation and desperation that any player should be subject to in a survival horror.
With that being said Outlast II not only presents you with a ridiculously scary game, but one that’s not afraid to dive into some truly traumatic scenarios. You take on the role of journalist Blake Langermann who just so happens to be heading out with his wife Lynn on an assignment in the Arizona desert. Following an unexpected turn of events, Blake and Lynn are separated and from here you find yourself at the mercy of a band of Christian groups that have their own warped ideologies of the bible’s text.
Red Barrells took no prisoners when drafting up the story, and even the delivery of the dark tone. Bodies of dead children are hardly few and far between, and it doesn’t stop there. Outlast II has a surprisingly strong tie to sexual references and explicit descriptions. It’s important that you play this game with an open mind, because if you’re easily offended (or disgusted) then this certainly isn’t something you will enjoy. Fortunately I have a strong stomach and can shrug even the most gruesome of scenarios off, but with that said, I have no doubt whatsoever that some of the sections in Outlast II will turn players away.
That’s not a bad thing by any means, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how severe this game can get. In terms of story there’s a good deal of mystery that surrounds the overarching plot, and the several characters you engage with do well to convey fear, solitude, and faith, despite how twisted they all are. One character in particular has this Pyramid Head vibe to her as she patrols areas of the game with very little care for stubbing her toes, meaning if you see her, you’re fucked. She’s not the only stand out antagonist, in fact all of them do a brilliant job at keeping you not only on your feet, but intrigued too.
Gameplay is largely similar to the first outing, in which you once again have use of a night vision camera to aid you on your way around the vast dark surroundings. Batteries are conveniently scattered everywhere and you’ll need to remain vigilant of your camera’s battery life to ensure that you know when it’s going to run out. If I had a single criticism about Outlast II, it would be about how dark the game is. Obviously that’s the identity of the series, but I felt that the locations within were maybe a bit too dark, or at least so much so that you literally cannot see where you’re going when you’re in the outdoors and lack the night vision mechanic.
Night vision isn’t the only function that you can utilise in Outlast II. The camera also comes with a microphone which doubles up as a means to trace where your enemies are. On top of this you can also record (in 1080p as the camera constantly points out) specific moments that can be viewed via the journal. There’s no denying that this game is well rounded up in comparison to the predecessor, and comes with a highly detailed beefy map that offers up a nice diverse selection of environments to trek through. One problem that Outlast II may inadvertently suffer from is the fact that it’s releasing shortly after Resident Evil 7, which shares the same gameplay personality as this. That’s not a fault, but an observation that select fans may be tired of the formula before the journey even begins.
Outlast II is in every sense of the word, disturbing. The intention to outdo everything that was Outlast is more than apparent, but Red Barrells have done so in such a way that they’ve demonstrated no hesitance as to how far they’re willing to take you. Even fans of the first game will be shocked by what’s on offer, but maybe that’s the point. When you’re mouth isn’t wide open in disbelief, you’re ass is going to be 1 foot off your chair following each and every well placed jump scare that will attack you at every moment you let your guard down. Visually this is much more refined than Outlast and comes with plenty of locations to enjoy. The new camera functions are hardly game changing, but they’re well implemented and go hand in hand with the overall experience. Red Barrells clearly know how to craft a sequel, and it’s one that’s well worth your time and attention.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.