Outlast is a party game. Full stop. It’s the game that is best played with your best friends on a couch with you, screaming about how they just want it all to stop. It’s the kind of game that can produce moments like this:
With that being said, I did get a chance to play Outlast II on the PAX East 2016 show room floor. I have my grievances with the demo, as I aired out on our PAXCast. That aside, I’d rather just talk about the demo, what I saw, and what I thought of it in this preview.
It’s tough, with horror games, because you want to set the scene. Some pregnant girl disappeared in this area not too long ago, and you, some nameless man and a female companion drive around looking into it. Of course there is a car accident, and of course your companion goes missing, and of course you just have a video camera (for film purposes). In the actual game, you can take time to set this up, but we’re here, camera lifted, for effect, and we’re walking through this decrepit village.
Outlast had a lot of constrained environments, a lot of underground work, and already the sequel seems to be more open ended. Though walking through the village felt more like a linear, guided tour, the effect of being outside and feeling eyes on you from every direction was really effective. Religious idols, blood, and horrifying architecture of wooden shacks did help set a mood of uneasiness. The occasional eyes staring at you from the dark wooded area around helped, and everything felt more out there, more ambitiously abstract than the insane asylum of the original Outlast.
It’s also worth noting that the game is gorgeous. God-rays and lighting effects all around made the sheen on every horrific sight just gleam in a way it never did before. Outlast wasn’t ever a slouch when it came to looks, and that continues here.
What’s exciting is what actually happened next in the demo though. As I passed through some horrific sights, a mass grave, more blood, down and up to a spooky water well, I peeked into it. Some kind of giant tongue grabbed my character and sucked me into the well which began to contract like a throat. It was horrifying, but most of all, surreal, an effect that never really got played with in the first title. After the throat-well swallows you, you find yourself in a ventilation shaft, which crashes down to reveal you’re in a school classroom. Walking through the pitch-black halls at night just gets eerier and eerier until the lockers start opening and slamming and a mysterious creature throws you to the ground.
Let’s take a moment and focus in on just how terrifyingly empty, dark schools are. Like, public schools too, not your universities, your classified-up private schools, I’m talking your every-person’s classroom. The worst. But that loops back around to my feeling that there was a lot more world-dressing here than I remember before. The world spoke to me, and it was spooky. Every environment oozed fear, and it was super fun to walk around. Much like the original Outlast, this seems like a great game to play with friends.
The demo continued through the school a bit until you’re thrown from it and suddenly you’re back in the demon-worshipping village. Some crazy man throws you down some stairs, prompting you to begin a classic Outlast chase sequence, this time running through cornfields avoiding psycho farmers with flashlights. After jumping a few obstacles, you slide down a hill where I monstrous woman with a pick axe mutilates your crotch, and then the demo abruptly ends. So yeah, more character-mutilation, just like that finger scene in Outlast.
I really like the look and the vibe of the game. I don’t know about the setting, because it seems to jump around a lot, possibly into your mind and your own fears. Regardless, that kind of horror is exactly where I want Outlast to go. There seemed to be no tie-ins to the first, outside of the fact that you had a camera and picked up batteries, but we’ll see. Outlast II is coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One this year.