In 2013, an indie game development company called Red Barrels released Outlast. As of writing this, the game has sold over four million copies. It is a psychological, first-person horror game that takes place in an abandoned mental institution. Well, it’s not so abandoned actually. You play as journalist Miles Upshur, who gets chased by creepy figures throughout the hospital while documenting everything you see with a camcorder. Those creepy figures include 7-foot giant creepy men, a naked doctor who wants to convert you into his “wife”, and you’ll even run across a priest who sacrifices himself. To be completely honest, the first night I played this game, I had a nightmare of it.
Anyway, the unethical Murkoff Corporation bought the hospital and had been experimenting on patients who have become mutilated and deranged. You have to eventually work your way out of the hospital after tons of jump scares and hours of insane amounts of horrifying anticipation of not knowing what lies ahead of you. Outlast was a masterpiece that was well-received throughout the entire gaming community, and a DLC was produced that was titled “Outlast: Whistleblower”. You then play as a man who gave Miles the tip about the hospital in the first place. It follows a similar play-style, and it is a beautiful addition to the original game.
For years, fans longed for a new game. They wanted another version of it, an updated one with the same horrifying affect as the original. After four years, a sequel (Outlast 2) was dropped. This new edition took place in a completely different scenario, and it was just as in-depth (maybe more). You’re a journalist named Blake Langermann, and you’re traveling with your wife Lynn. The helicopter you are traveling in crashes, and you land in a wasteland of evil and death. A corpse greets you, and you set out to find your wife. The game is a psychological masterpiece, as you flash back and forth between a traumatic school experience with a priest and the current scenario you’re in. The trauma continues to haunt you all throughout the game, as you battle two horrendous religious groups – the “Heretics”, and a cult led by a man named “Papa Knoth”. They’ve taken your wife and you have to get her back while encountering some gruesome witches and creatures that will make your skin crawl.
This game is extremely creepy, as it is very religiously based. The camcorder affect is the same as the original gameplay, and you still need to find batteries in order to keep your night vision alive or else you risk having to roam in complete darkness. This aspect is a little scarier in Outlast 2, as you’re in a very open world – the desert and woods. The first game was in the hospital, where one could walk against the walls and have some guidance. One advantage of the recent edition is that the camera has the ability to track sounds and movement, helping out with the mostly open world. Jump scares were more prominent in the first Outlast, and they were important. They lead to key pursuits that lasted for what seemed like forever, while the jump scares in Outlast 2 didn’t always have much meaning. Some did, but some others were just a bird flying by you or something of that manner.
The overall atmosphere in Outlast 2 was much more terrifying, as the game felt a little personal. Your wife was in danger and needed to be rescued, and you weren’t just fending off for yourself. Keep in mind, you have no way to defend yourself in any version of the game, so it’s twice as scary as traditional horror games. The second version also focused mainly on religion, and the level of evil and cult-like activities is frightening beyond belief. An example of this is the “Book of Knoth”, the cult’s own version of the Bible. This aspect makes the game very creepy and honestly disturbing to a certain degree. Keep in mind, all of those details are all in good taste and are simply to make the game better. Outlast 2 seemed to be a bit longer, and the story actually reconnected to the first game in a not-so-direct way. There were subtle clues that connected the two story lines, and you should play the first before you dive into the second.
Overall, I’d rate the original Outlast at a 9/10. The scares were good, the story line was very developed, gameplay and graphics were extremely advanced and technologically complete, but it seemed too much of a typical horror game. Outlast 2 would get a 10/10 in my book, as it adds in aspects that have been rarely dove into in the horror game genre as well as fantastic graphical aspects. Additionally, the game had more to offer story-wise and it took on a more psychological aspect – that mainly means that it wasn’t just a bunch of jump scares. The completely disturbed and mental aspects were mind-blowing, and this is hard to say considering how messed up the first Outlast was. Both are definitely worth playing, but Outlast 2 was just a smidgen better in my opinion. Red Barrels did an absolutely fantastic job with both, and the entire gaming community needs to keep their eyes open for future releases from the Canadian development team while also making sure they don’t bump into Papa Knoth!