Red Barrels’ Outlast made waves when it launched back in 2013, capitalising on the craze in the horror genre that had weapons taken away from players, in turn forcing them into handling conflicts in other ways. The developers’ second outing in the series, Outlast 2, is a much more refined approach to tackling survival horror, and its Switch conversion is an excellent one. It’s still as scary as ever — easily being one of the scariest games I’ve played in recent memory — and runs very well on the portable console.
Taking place in the Arizona desert, Outlast 2 pits you as journalist Blake Langermann. Alongside wife Lynn, both of you are heading out to Arizona in order to report on and explore the disappearance of a pregnant woman known as Jane Doe. It doesn’t take long for the chopper you’re in to go down and for both of you to become separated, and from there it becomes a quest for you to find your wife and figure out what the heck has happened to Jane Doe. All is not well in the Arizona desert, though, as it quickly becomes apparent that the place is inhabited by crazed cultists who have been converted into believing that the end is nigh.
Armed with just a video camera and some bandages, Outlast 2 forces you into careful exploration and navigation in order to avoid the enemies that inhabit the desolate landscape. And unlike the original, there are a hell of a lot more enemies you’ve got to avoid and navigate around, with Red Barrels designing a much bigger environment to journey through in this entry.
This works well in relation to the game’s narrative and plot, though the scares don’t come across as effectively as they did in the confines of Mount Massive Asylum. The Arizona desert gives you more room to move, and while it’s still a frightening experience filled with psychotic cultists and terrifying interactions, you never truly feel the suffocation and confinement that was perfected in the first Outlast. Similarly, the game’s story is a bit whacky, often treading a very fine line between believable and outright insane. While that combination does tend to work for the most part, I never felt like I was fully invested in Blake’s goals and motivations.
That said, taking something like this on the go is a cool way to experience Outlast 2, and the port is a fantastic one. I’m really impressed with how good the game looks, and it’s by far one of the prettiest games on the system so far; with god rays, characters, and open landscapes all rendered in great detail. It looks especially good in handheld, too, which is surprising as I was expecting a fairly big downgrade considering how large the world is. What’s gone on here, I’d suppose, is some magic in toning down certain objects and rendering distances that aren’t too obvious to spot, and it makes for a really immersive experience overall.
Similarly, the game’s controls are fairly easy to get your head around. Handheld feels a little bit more clunky than it does with a pro controller thanks to the smaller buttons, but it’s nothing too damaging to the experience. Playing docked and with a pro controller does rectify all of the annoyances that comes with playing with smaller buttons and effectively managing your inventory — as it is all about battery conservation, after all — but I never felt like I was at any noticeable disadvantage when I played the game handheld versus docked.
One of the new additions to this version of Outlast 2, which will also be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC when Outlast 2 on Switch launches, is the inclusion of a ‘Story Mode’ difficulty option for those wanting an easier, story-focused experience. Story Mode has less enemy encounters and fewer challenges, meaning you can engross yourself in the narrative with minimal worries of being taken out or chased by the slew of enemies the game throws up at you. It’s a welcomed addition, as Outlast 2 can be tough and frustrating at times as objectives can be fairly obtuse, and this should open up the game to a wider audience.
Outlast 2 on Switch is an excellent port. It’s one of the best one-to-one conversions I’ve seen so far for the hybrid console, and it’s certainly a game horror fans should check out if they want something truly terrifying on the go. The game’s not for the feint of heart in any sense, and it does have problems that pull it back from being a true genre classic. However, those wanting a new horror game to journey through — or for those who have just finished up with Outlast on Switch after its launch last month — should give this one a crack. It’s definitely well worth your time.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Outlast 2 on Switch is a great way to tackle what is one of the scariest horror games I’ve played in recent memory. The port is excellent, only marred by some inconsistencies seen in the game itself — horror fans should definitely check this one out.
An excellent port
Story is interesting
Sound and level design are top notch
Building upon what made the original a great horror experience