Turned the Wrong Way, or Outlast 2 Review

Outlast 2's horrifying discovery

You know, the pause button is a very revealing tool in horror games. By the frequency of its use, you can easily determine not only the user’s level of fear, but also their level of engagement in the game. It’s easy to scare someone, but if the player always remembers that they can instantly shield themselves from all the horrors of the virtual world, then such horror games are worthless. The hardest part is to make the audience forget.

The first part of Outlast unexpectedly succeeded in this. Through the perfect duration, masterfully balanced pace, and moderate difficulty, it created a nightmare that literally consumes you for four intense hours and leaves no way out. Even I, a notorious lover of relieving tension with tea breaks, managed to complete it in one sitting. Yes, it’s scary, but what can you do?

It’s even more frustrating that in Outlast 2, the desire to take a break is stronger than ever. The coveted “escape” almost pulsates under your fingertips, tempting you to write to friends, check your email, order pizza, or finally learn to play the guitar – anything to postpone playing for an indefinite period. And it’s not because of the chilling cruelty, but because of the relentless boredom that accompanies it.

Meeting a gruesome fate

Red Barrels clearly intended to hit hard from the start, it’s evident. The sequel doesn’t waste time carefully building up the pace and doesn’t attempt to disguise the straightforwardness of its methods – instead, the entire script is written in an unchanging upper register and with a huge emphasis on SHOCK-CONTENT. Where previously they used hospital claustrophobia, unsettling music, and hidden whispers in the shadows, now it’s another village of fanatics where they burn, hang, and dismember anyone they come across, and we dutifully capture these provincial amusements on camera.

And at first, you wouldn’t even say that it’s bad. The first thirty minutes, while our hero shakes off the remains of the helicopter that brought him to this unfriendly land, Outlast 2 sets the stage for further events. Crucified corpses burn on the road, children’s bones crunch underfoot, and behind us, an old woman wails with a fiery, excuse me, pickaxe – it’s certainly excessive, but the sadistic cynicism that the game demonstratively revels in instills an extreme level of discomfort. They’re not welcoming here, and god knows what will happen to you next.

Heart-pounding chase in the dark
Steering wheel or racing controls

However, the problem with this approach is that nothing special happens afterwards. Outlast 2 mindlessly spends most of its trump cards on an impressive exposition, and then simply plays with combinations of two main elements – human flesh and a deranged religious community. Considering that it is impossible to squeeze much out of them by default, the subsequent path is more than half filled with tedious repetitions and tons of burnt human figures that appear in the center of the frame with the instrumental equivalent of “BOO!”. Undoubtedly, something is saved for later, but getting to this “later” is a dubious pleasure.

At the same time, to be fair, the atmospheric sequel definitely surpasses its predecessor. The previous one leaned more towards the new generation of horror films like “Grave Encounters”, while here it rubs shoulders with recognized classics of the genre alongside modern sources of inspiration. Not to mention that the plot itself echoes the eternal Lovecraftian motif, recalling, for example, “The Descent”, “The Shining”, “The Omen”, and even to some extent “Children of the Corn”. There are plenty of indirect references, and this medley has resulted in a strong and gloomy atmosphere, which, at the same time, is the only reason to take an interest in the on-screen action.

School of horrors in Outlast

School flashbacks are candid narrative fillers, even though they are full of impressive scenes.

But even he cannot justify the lengthiness of Outlast 2. The game is simply too long, excessively long for a “run and hide” attraction. Seven hours is almost Resident Evil 7, which had a solid foundation of concrete plans, working mechanics, plot, and everything that essentially makes up a full-fledged game. Outlast 2 offers… well, running and hiding. Mostly running, I would say.

The rules, just like in the first part, are simple: there are a number of bloodthirsty psychopaths wandering around, and you must slip past them without being seen. Behave quietly – they won’t see you. Make noise – you’ll have to run away from pursuers and find some dark cupboard where no one will think to look. The difference is that Outlast 2 doesn’t care about these rules and introduces stealth mainly to divert attention.

About 90% of the gameplay situations involve chases, pursuits, and running around. A significant portion of them is provoked by the scenario, when hiding from the antagonists is impossible by definition, but even when you are supposedly released into a small sandbox, the level design renders the usefulness of hiding places useless. The locations are either linear enough to easily rush through them, or they branch out into empty and meaningless mazes, and honestly, searching for an exit from them becomes annoying instantly.

Desperate hiding in Outlast

A simple and fast option is to press the sprint key and dash around the perimeter of the level. You may not succeed on the first try, but it’s still better than sitting in the bushes and watching the brazen locals gather around, gradually cornering you and provoking another chase session. It’s more necessary to run here than it is possible.

The remaining 10% consists of episodes where it’s completely unclear what they want from you. Like, for example, the highlight of the prologue, where the most dangerous enemy in the entire game is immediately thrown at you as the first obstacle, and you have to run away from him exclusively backwards, after which he disappears, only to reappear half a minute later at the whim of a scripted wand. I pondered over this wonderful situation for about fifteen minutes – and I’m almost certain that I would have completely broken it if it weren’t for a hint from kind people on Steam. Learn, game designers!

Well, and on the urgent matter: the main character still doesn’t know how to fight. This convention is particularly keenly felt when a dozen rakes stick out of every first dead cow, pitchforks lie around haystacks, and barns burst at the seams with an abundance of hooks, axes, knives, and other potential means of self-defense. It’s also possible to be afraid with a weapon in hand – the infamous Resident Evil 7 is a vivid proof of that. And the overall frantic pace also tempts you to punch someone in the face, but you can’t. We’re guests here, it’s not accepted.

Patching up with bandages

The need to lick wounds was supposed to enhance the player’s sense of vulnerability, but in reality, it only holds back particularly zealous speedrunners.

Outlast 2 is probably best suited for an outsider observer – someone who can fast forward through all the boring moments or read Reddit while you load the unfortunate checkpoint for the umpteenth time. For them, it will be an exemplary horror game, where you can hide in a barrel of blood, where rusty nails are driven into your hands throughout a whole cutscene, and where you anxiously watch the beams of flashlights in a cornfield. Such a person will definitely appreciate the first-class atmosphere, excellent visuals, and outstanding sound design, because all of this is truly present in the sequel.

However, what is lacking there is a normal game. Having lost practically all of the original gameplay ideas, Outlast 2 mixes genuine horror with an equally sincere sense of melancholy, which unfortunately accompanies the lion’s share of this dreary seven-hour marathon.

Moments of boredom in Outlast

How I understand you…

Outlast 2
PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Red Barrels
Red Barrels
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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