In very recent times I’ve played no less than three horror games where a camera has been my main ‘weapon’, all in hope of attacking the darkness. In most of these games, the camera’s purpose is to provide insight into another realm, one that exists on top of the real one. It gives a glimpse into a supernatural dimension through a polaroid, an old 35mm film, or in the case of DreadOut 2, that of a smartphone. When native Americans in the early nineteenth century first saw pictures taken, they believed the camera was a device that was capturing their souls. In DreadOut 2 it’s that exact same camera which can banish souls and ghosts into oblivion – all at the touch of a button.
DreadOut 2 is an Indonesian survival horror game; a direct sequel to the first in the series. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played the original though, because the developers have seen fit to include a handy story update from that game in the menus. This is a third-person adventure, as you play the part of 17-year-old Linda, the survivor from first time around, as you are dropped into a prologue. You’re in a school and something terrible is happening. People are hiding in lockers, a strange voice is taunting you. Your only tool is a smartphone camera that acts as your torch, instruction list, and also photo mode.
It’s the camera which is vital in DreadOut 2, and as you happen upon something that is not quite right, you can move into photo mode and see the spirits in their dimension. By taking pictures you can hurt them, banishing them forevermore. After the prologue, you find yourself in a small city and it all becomes a bit of an open-world adventure – walk around, accepting tasks and taking on jobs for people. However, most of DreadOut 2 takes a linear approach, leaving you to do battle with big bad hosts via your phone.
The story is an interesting one, full of characters and sub-stories as well. But I’ll be honest with you right now – and this could just be me – but rarely did I ever have a clue as to what was going on in DreadOut 2. I’m putting it down to the insane logic that horror games use.
The gameplay consists of controlling Linda in the third person, moving around the space. She slightly jogs along, covering the map, examining objects and collecting quest items along the way; expect to be found taking part in plenty of fetch quests as you go. It gets dark too and it’s here where you’ll want to utilise the light from your smartphone to light the areas around you. The open-world moments are fun and it’s always good to go out and explore the world with its characters and little side quests. But it’s that main bit of the game, the bit where you tackle the spooks that haunt the world, which is the focus, as you try to banish them back to hell – or wherever they have come from.
Here you use the camera to take pictures of the ghosts, perfecting the frame to deal the most hurt. More powerful attacks can be used to deliver a big blow by holding down the shutter button, whilst the flash of the camera can stun your enemy as well, giving you time to get into a better position for another attack.
It all works but feels extremely clunky at times; you’ll never be sure if you’ve made a hit or not. You can also use melee weapons that are found scattered around, but they feel very slow and awkward – I’ve tried to avoid that route whenever I could. There is a choppy feel to the whole game in fact, with some interactions and movement that are a bit jarring. It’s a bit of a shame.
Visually though, DreadOut 2 works well with some great level design and excellent lighting effects that exaggerate the creepy vibe. The open world areas found in the daytime scenes are pretty good as well, especially considering this has emerged from such a small development team. The sound design does a great job of being dramatic and tense in all the right places, especially in the boss battles.
DreadOut 2 does a good job of creating an interesting, open-world adventure that has an exemplary use of a camera as the weapon of choice. The atmosphere and visuals are good and there is plenty to do with some nice side quests. However, the story is hard to follow and at times things are more than a bit clunky, whilst the game stutters in the open world areas.
If you’ve played the first DreadOut, then you should find some enjoyment here, but you should be aware, this one will feel frustrating at times.
DreadOut 2 is available from the Xbox Store