Before 2017 began, it had been quite a while since a game had properly given me a scare. Sure, we’ve had some cracking horror titles in recent years, but horror has changed a lot since I first started gaming. Nevertheless, one of my fondest memories in gaming was that moment I stumbled across Outlast. It was about one in the morning, and I’d just finished watching something on the telly before deciding I’d have a go on with the latest title professing to able to put the scare into me.

Then it happened… I screamed. I woke my dog. I woke my partner. I even woke my neighbour who was adamant I had no reason to scream at such a time in the morning. She hadn’t been playing Outlast. She hadn’t experienced the darkened hallways by camera-light, or walked past the catatonic patients of Mount Massive Asylum, before being chased by something out of a nightmare.

That was 2014 however, and since that point I have fared the delights of several new horror titles, including this year’s Resident Evil 7, so it was going to take something exceptionally frightening to make Outlast feel unique and frightening once more. Could Outlast 2 provide such an experience?

You are Blake Langerman, a cameraman/journalist who is on route to his latest news story alongside wife Lynn, as they look to uncover the mystery behind the impossible murder of a pregnant woman by the name of Jane Doe. Before landing in their rented helicopter though, an unfortunate accident sees the vehicle crash, separating Blake and Lynn. It is from this point on which the horror begins to unfold, sending you headfirst into an unthinkable tale of dark and gritty doomsday prophecies.

After coming round, and grabbing your seemingly indestructible and upgraded camera – the thing that will save your life countless times – you begin making your way through Temple Gate; a village inhabited by a sect that believe the end of days is upon them. The reason? Your wife’s unborn baby.

Unlike the first title, Outlast 2 swaps out the close confines of the Mount Massive Asylum for the wide-open stretches of the middle of nowhere. You’re in a segregated part of the Arizona desert. You have no escape, you’ve lost your wife, and the locals are completely loopy. That’s what you’re working with here. Of course, Outlast 2 doesn’t throw you into the well-equipped shoes of some military trained professional, capable of handling several enemies at once – that would be too easy. Instead your only defence is to run or hide… or run and scream if you’re anything like me. Yes it happened again.

One notable difference from the original is just how much time you will spend running and how little is actually to do with stealth. There are stealth elements to the game, whether you force them upon the moment by hiding and refusing to move, or whether you are in the vicinity of an over-bearing enemy who just won’t give up. More times than not though you will find yourself forced to make a break for the next area, to either progress the story, or to run away from the multiple enemies that are likely to find you if you sit somewhere for too long. There is one other reason you’ll want to move though, and that is simply due to the fact that without batteries for your camera, you can’t see much at all. And the only way you’ll be getting any of those is to progress.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is a horror game after all, but it would have been nice to actually experience more of each area before being forced to sprint away at the earliest opportunity.

You see, much like the original Outlast, Outlast 2, in a sickening kind of way, is an absolutely beautiful game. The attention to detail in every area, and every item, and not to mention the mangled bodies you’ll be finding along the way, is something which is rarely seen to such an extent in games. So being forced to rush past something so quickly can really take away from the experience, and it would have certainly been nicer to have had a little more chance to take a proper look around, or even have had something more to do in each area… helping extra people in need would have been great.

That doesn’t mean Outlast 2 is worthy of much criticism though. As you’d expect from a game that crosses the paths of religion and horror, Outlast 2 brings a unique story to the table and is one that’s a delight to play. It has enemies to fear, locations to dread and all the blood and guts to put you off that afternoon snack.

Another positive for the story this time round is that it’s a longer experience than the few hours found in the original. Whilst there are indeed achievements set for the speed runners amongst you once more, such as finishing the entire horrors of the desert in under four hours, my time with the game has certainly eclipsed that. After I’d finished jumping at the various enemies, four hours was only really enough to leave the Genesis chapter behind, and that was just the first of six which are available.

When you’re done though, there isn’t really any replay value to the game and for many people Outlast 2 will be a ‘one and done’ experience, due to the fact you’d have no reason to play through the heavily linear adventure a second time. But that doesn’t mean Outlast 2 doesn’t have all the right things to contend for horror of the year.

Another improvement to Outlast 2 and possibly one of the most important ones is with the A.I. The original provided a memorable experience, but tracking the movements of the near robotic enemy patterns became easy after a few hours. Outlast 2 freshens that up a little, with more life-like enemies who react quicker and better to any noises you’re making whilst shuffling around in the cornfields and shrubbery. That’s a big difference and ensures a much more engaging experience this time around.

Nothing is perfect though, and my biggest gripe with Outlast 2 is one that often saw me feeling frustrated with the game. The camera.

The idea of it is pretty much the same as the first outing – use it to light the darkened areas, and pretty much see where you’re going. This time round it comes with upgraded features; there is a microphone to help find those enemies that are lurking in the shadows – all of which have a habit of mumbling to themselves all the time – and there is a record feature that allows you to grab notable information such as documents, ready for perusal later when you’re out of enemy sight. Of course, these things require battery power to ensure you can continue to use them, but something that never failed to irritate was just how quick each battery would run out. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing and in a single area I easily found myself using three or four batteries just to get by unnoticed.

This becomes an even bigger pain when you’re navigating where to go whilst being chased. It’s pitch black, your batteries die and you’ve got no replacement. Several times I found myself having to simply give in to an enemy clubbing me to death just because my batteries were dying too quickly. With each respawn refilling my battery to the top, just so I could get through that area, this was a repeating issue that wasn’t helped by just how easy it is to lose your path throughout the game.

Overall though and Outlast 2 isn’t a bad game, sure it has its moments that can feel terribly unfair, but in this day and age, that’s something you should expect from a horror game. The story on offer is fantastic and any fan of horror would be kicking themselves if they didn’t try out the gritty and thrilling experience that is found within Outlast 2. From the enemies, to the environment, to the blood and guts and to the scares, everything in Outlast 2 adds to the unique experience that this game brings.

It certainly deserves the spotlight once more.

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