I’ve been a pretty big horror fan for most of my life, but the love affair with the genre easily started with games. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Clock Tower; even the more obscure stuff like Galerians and OverBlood were some of my favourites. I felt the genre was on a bit of a downward trend with first person horror games that were designed to be watched, not played. Outlast had the potential to buck the trend, but slightly missed the mark. Outlast II, with its new themes, settings and characters, feels like a better designed sequel that attempts to buck this trend.
The story of Outlast II takes place in the same world as the original Outlast but this is a largely standalone affair, with minimal links to the original game. You play as Blake, a journalist and cameraman who travels with his wife Lynn to the Arizonan desert to investigate the death of a pregnant woman. Through mysterious forces, Blake is separated from Lynn. Even worse, the couple are lost in a strange village cut off from society where a strange sect of Christianity live, who are convinced that the end of days is upon them and that Blake and Lynn have something to do with itI’ve purposefully described the story of Outlast II quite vaguely as it is best experienced completely blind. Fans of the original Outlast will love the way that Outlast II hits all the same beats when it comes to mystery and intrigue, providing a thrilling journey from beginning to end. The story in Outlast II is markedly different to the original Outlast – rooted more firmly in the supernatural and permeated with themes of religion and worship. Such a direction for the story works both to its strengths and detriment; some macabre, abstract stuff happens in Outlast II but there’s a lot of symbolism left up to the player to interpret long after the credits have rolled.
The jump in quality from Outlast to Outlast: Whistleblower was strengthened with a great sense of self-awareness. Developer Red Barrels were really in tune with what could be done better in future instalments and what prevented their debut title from being truly perfect. Outlast II continues this tradition. Most major issues that I had with both Outlast and Whistblower have been remedied in Outlast II.Outlast II eschews the closed in environments of Mount Massive Asylum for the wide open, Arizonan desert. This gives great variety in the locales you’ll be visiting, for sure, but it also provided Red Barrels opportunity to improve the way Blake can move around. Your character has a clear sense of momentum now, not unlike games like Mirror’s Edge, where running for longer improves your sprint speed. It’s a small change that heightens the tension and pacing of the game’s numerous encounters and it gives a sense of speed that illustrates that you’re truly putting everything into running away from your enemies.