Outlast II Hands-On Preview [E3 2016]


When Red Barrels first brought us Outlast back in September of 2013, the independent, Montreal-based developer did so with a level of quality and panache that isn’t often seen within the genre. At least, not when it comes to the debut of a previously unheard of indie, whose first effort ends up being a scary, effective and fun to play romp through a terrifying location.

Now, a few years later, Red Barrels is working towards the release of its first sequel, the aptly titled Outlast II. And, with it, fans know to expect something as scary as it is immersive, which is why the anticipation is real.

During a Microsoft booth party at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, I was able to make my attempt at surviving the playable Outlast II demo, and did just that. It wasn’t easy, though, because I quickly became disoriented, and feared what was around every corner.

In Outlast II, we’re Blake Langermann, a cameraman who’s excited by the weird and disturbing. Together with his wife, Lynn, he’s set out to the Arizona desert to find out exactly what happened to a pregnant woman who was found murdered under mysterious conditions. It isn’t long before things take a turn for the worst, though, as an accident results in separation, not to mention an injury that makes it tough for Blake to walk.

I saw all of this in the demo’s introductory cutscene, which makes me sure that what I played was, at the very least, an unfinished version of the game’s opening. It didn’t show a lack of polish, though, nor did it skimp on any scares, and I came away excited for what the full release will offer.

Little has been said regarding exactly who the enemies are this time around, or what their motivation is, and that’s to be expected. However, based on my time with Outlast II, I’m under the impression that we’ll be dealing with some sort of deranged cult. I say that because my demo took me from the desert’s rocks to an off the beaten path type of all but deserted town, where crazed lunatics looked to be feasting on human organs. There, I searched for my digitized wife, while discovering the horrors that were hidden within each shack and behind each door.

The shock value was true, the atmosphere was ripe, and playing with headphones on allowed for total immersion within what was an otherwise busy and noisy booth. These things forced my senses to heighten and the hairs on the back of my neck to stand at attention every time I entered a new area or heard the ramblings of a nearby madman.

Of course, as you’d expect, it didn’t take long before my existence was noticed by some of the cultists, who chased after me as I sought for cover in a large and maze-like cornfield. There, I ducked and hid, before trying to worm my way to the exit, all while enemies searched for my whereabouts using flashlights.

I did get caught once, I’ll admit, and the game’s disorienting layout certainly made for a challenging encounter. When I thought I’d made progress, it turned out that I’d simply gone around in a circle, and it took some time before I was able to find the exit. This made my anxiety increase, and also made for a much scarier scene than a direct, point-to-point sprint would have.

Needless to say, Outlast II has cemented itself as one of my most anticipated games. That said, I’d be lying if I were to say that it wasn’t already close, thanks to how impressive (not to mention frightening) the original game and its DLC were. Things have obviously been taken to the next level with this sequel, though, and that’s something that has me very excited.