When it was released in 2014, Outlast was considered by many to be the scariest game of all time. While that may be a bold statement, the first person experience, which focused on a freelance journalist exploring an abandoned asylum, managed to deliver the scares. A follow-up was always going to have significant pressure to live up to the original and, depending on your relationship with the Good Book, Outlast 2 manages the feat.
A self-contained experience that doesn’t require any familiarity with Red Barrels’ first entry in the franchise (though for the total Outlast experience, the game is available with the original and it’s downloadable content, Whistleblower, as Outlast Trinity), in Outlast 2, you’re cameraman Blake Langermann, on assignment in the Arizona desert with your wife Lynn, investigating the murder of a pregnant Jane Doe. Your helicopter goes down, you’re separated from Lynn and forced to search for her in Temple Gate, a town populated by a splintered Apocalypse cult. One half is headed up by Papa Sullivan Knoth, a vile leader who rapes and impregnates his subjects and then claims they’re carrying the Anti-Christ and must be killed; the other half are the Heretics, who are in a hurry to bring about the end of days. Along with avoiding, hiding and running from the Temple Gates inhabitants as you search for Lynn, you also experience flashbacks to Blake’s own scarring religious upbringing at Catholic school, and the tragic death of one of his schoolmates, Jessica.
Like the original, this Outlast isn’t about fighting or boss battles. The goal here is simple survival. It’s about stealth and how you interact with your environment, the darkness and the limited light available, most of which come from Blake’s camera, equipped with night-vision and which is used to record pivotal moments while exploring the area. The camera runs on batteries, and not the long-lasting type, so you’re forced to scavenge for them as the game goes on. Run out and it’s a long, dark and sometimes annoyingly unplayable experience and exercise in frustration. Outlast 2 also features dialogue that is sometimes unnecessarily vulgar (it’s overuse of the word ‘fuck’ throughout feels forced, and this is coming from someone who regularly abuses the word), and its use of religious tropes and iconography is sure to offend the practicing Catholics out there.
However, the tension in Outlast 2 is consistent, the jump scares solid, and the story incredibly immersive, though be warned, the ending is far from uplifting. If your Sunday morning regularly involves a trip to church, you’ll want to stay far, far away from this one, but if you’re someone who loves a good and exceptionally dark tale, or a fan of movies like The Sacrament or The Veil, entering the world of Outlast 2 might just be the answer to your gaming prayers.
This review originally appeared in Rue Morgue Magazine #177. Order your copy of the issue here.