Let me start by clarifying that I don’t mean this to be a strict review or criticism of Outlast 2. If I were to arbitrarily give it some kind of score, it’d probably be a pretty decent one. The game is overall immersive and fills me with dread, with an intriguing, unnerving story and collection of characters at its base. That’s all I think I could really ask for in a game of this genre.
As of the time of writing this I have yet to complete the game, so reviewing it would be premature since I haven’t gone through the whole experience. As I assume anyone reading this probably hasn’t played or finished the game, I’ll be keeping this pretty much spoiler-free.
While I have had some heat-of-the-moment criticisms of the game, upon further thought I have changed my mind on most of them. The conclusion that I’ve reached is that the game can be pretty awful if you’re an overthinker.
Thanks to my brain purposefully making things more complicated than they had to be on several occasions, I ended up repeating certain chase and stealth scenes so many times that they lost any essence of horror. The dread I felt on the first run-throughs of these scenes quickly turned to frustration on repeated attempts, dulling my problem-solving ability and making me think the routes and solutions to these sections were something ridiculous. They never were.
I haven’t been able to discern whether the lack of intuition was due to my brain’s failings or the game’s. Because I’m a fan of beating myself up mentally, I’m leaning more towards the former.
When it comes to repetition diminishing the feelings of horror you’re supposed to be experiencing, this isn’t something unique to this game, or even the horror genre as a whole. The reason I hesitate to form any of these opinions into an official criticism of the game is because I’ve come to realize that one of the major problems a horror game developer has to face is that gameplay has to be involved in the storytelling. Gameplay is necessary to get you immersed in the hardships and fear of the character, and some sort of threat has to be involved to do so (otherwise, you might as well just be watching a movie). Because the possibility of failure has to exist, horror-diminishing repetition is also extremely likely. Overall, Outlast 2 has managed to get over this major hurdle.
Most of us have seen some really shitty horror films or played some really shitty games that throw a jumpscare in every two minutes. If no time is taken to establish an atmosphere or sense of reason around the jumpscares, then the audience reaction is going to turn very quickly from “AAAAAH!” to “Ah, fuck off with this shit.”
This game has its fair share of jumpscares (RHYMES ARE FUN), but you can forgive it because the atmosphere is usually dripping with “Nope”ness. The same can be said of repeatedly having to play a chase or stealth section. In most cases, when you finally get through those harder bits, the game’s atmosphere is able to efficiently drag you back to the horror you felt the first time you played the previous section.
There are some scenes that didn’t quite have that impact, though, in which I found myself thinking “Oh. This shit again. Sigh.” Without giving away too much, once you get to the mines, in particular, there seems to be a lot of being chased by one type of enemy (albeit, a well-designed, scary one) with very little variation in gameplay. Run. Crawl under a thing. Jump. Squeeze through a gap. Rinse. Repeat. While this is par for the course in horror games, this section really starts to feel like it’s dragging on. The environment, while interesting in this section, can’t really be observed much or treasured because you’re running away from things all the time.
Overall, Outlast 2, though regularly frustrating, accomplishes everything a horror game should. It also does an excellent job of taking stereotypical horror concepts (such as being pursued by mutants in an isolated desert) and making them incredibly interesting.
Have you finished or started to play Outlast 2 yet? What do you think about games as a storytelling medium when it comes to the horror genre? Feel free to let me know or berate me in the comments!
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION TIME:
On a side note, I’ve been streaming this game live on YouTube and Twitch. Stay tuned to my channels (https://www.youtube.com/Gustavostopher https://twitch.tv/gustavostopher) if you want to see my reactions and thoughts to the end of the game in the future.
Also, check out the first video of some of the stream highlights so far here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KclUECd64T4