Sitting alone in a lightproof booth at Pax East 2016, I was unsure what to expect from the follow-up to Outlast. I assumed I would be experiencing something unnerving, filled with jumps, and I had a feeling there would be some form of supernatural elements. Beyond that, though, I was going in blind.
I managed to play around 15 minutes of the demo on the show floor, and after a few deaths, a sense of uneasiness, and a minor stumbling block to progress I finally managed to finish the demo on display. It’s hard to describe what it was like to experience. At its core Outlast 2 is a horror game. You, as Blake Langerman, with the help of your wife Lynn, are trying to investigate the murder of a pregnant woman. As you are on route to your destination, your helicopter crashes and you are now frantically trying to find your wife.
You wake up alone; picking up your glasses and turning on your camcorder so you can see though the night, you spy a farmhouse in the distance. As you investigate the dark, seemingly abandoned landscape, you will hear screams, flashes out of the corner of your eyes and notice unearthly markings all around the farm. From the start, Outlast 2 sets up an uneasy world, one that you can never truly feel comfortable in. From the landscape to the bloody beds you will walk past, things feel off.
There is no clear idea from the demo at what is really going on behind the scenes of this dark farm house. Something bad is certainly happening, and as you slowly experience more of the game, bits and pieces will be uncovered. You as Blake are looking for your wife, but as the player, the drive to learn the secrets within Outlast 2 will drive your exploration.
Much like the previous game in the series Outlast 2 builds the sense of apprehension and fear, and keeps that feeling going as you play though the game. Even in low-key scenes, the game will never let you get comfortable and will constantly play with audio and visuals to keep the tension high. The game also manages a balance; although the tension stays high, the team at Red Barrels did not overuse jump scares or horrific scenes. Little actually happens to the player, but when it does it is terrifying.
The demo takes Blake though a series of locales, including a few I was not sure how I ended up in. After a few twists and turns, I found myself in an old schoolhouse. This is clearly to give players of the demo a vertical slice of scenes from the game. The breakneck pace people need to move though the booth can only leave so much time to experience early segments, so these cross-sections give a better picture of what the team plans for the final release.
Once you start running for your life in the game things, get interesting. Because you are constantly looking though the lens of the camera, the progression of where to go can sometimes feel disarming, and this is especially true when running. As I ran from the angry farm people, I could only hope that moving towards the light was the right way. There was little indication of where to go or what to do, and getting lost and disoriented was a constant issue. This not only raised the tension I was experiencing as I played though the game, but built the anticipation for what I would experience at the end of this farm from hell.
Outlast 2 is a horror title that does not want its players to feel comfortable. It is a dark and twisted game, built from the ground up to make the players feel anxious and scared. How do the crosses, hellish farmers, and an old haunted school all fit together? That is a question that will need to wait until the game releases this fall on PS4, Xbox One and PC.