Out­last II

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/ pub­lisher Red Bar­rels For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin Canada Re­lease 2016

The first Out­last was some­thing of a breath of fresh air for the hor­ror genre. Sure, its asy­lum set­ting was hack­neyed and, by cin­e­matic stan­dards at least, its nightvi­sion video cam­era shtick a bit old hat, but tight pac­ing al­lied to a dol­lop of park­our, the abil­ity to look over your shoul­der while run­ning away, and a wicked, self-aware sense of fun made Red Bar­rels’ ef­fort stand out. The stu­dio’s clever use of the cam­era and abil­ity to cap­i­talise on play­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions to com­pound scares brushed away the genre’s cob­webs and it didn’t pull any punches when it came to dis­turb­ing im­agery or night­mar­ish sce­nar­ios. Which is why we’re as un­sur­prised as we are ap­palled when we stum­ble past a blood­ied manger and into a di­lap­i­dated shack filled with the corpses of chil­dren.

For this se­quel the Mon­treal-based stu­dio was in­spired by the Jon­estown mas­sacre, which it came across while re­search­ing set­tings that could trig­ger the same sense of dis­lo­ca­tion and vul­ner­a­bil­ity in the player that was felt on ar­riv­ing at the gates of the first game’s psy­chi­atric hospi­tal. But while the game opens in a run-down town lo­cated deep in the Ari­zona desert, it’s still set in the same uni­verse as Out­last. (Red Bar­rels is keep­ing the link a se­cret for now, and may re­lease some con­nec­tive tis­sue in the form of a smaller side project.) And, as in the first game, you play an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist, in this case a cam­era­man named Blake Langer­mann, work­ing with his wife, Lynn.

The pair crash-land near the Ari­zona set­tle­ment while look­ing into the mys­te­ri­ous death of a preg­nant woman la­belled sim­ply Jane Doe, and in­evitably be­come sep­a­rated. As the demo opens we find our­selves at the base of a cliff just af­ter the crash and reach for our

glasses, which, like our video cam­era, have mirac­u­lously sur­vived un­harmed. From here things pro­ceed in a fa­mil­iar man­ner as we raise the cam­era by tap­ping the right shoul­der but­ton and ac­ti­vate night vi­sion by click­ing the right stick, zoom­ing in with the D-pad so we can scan the farm build­ings in the gloom ahead of us.

Doors slam in the wind (or un­der other cir­cum­stances), shad­ows rush past weak light sources, and dan­gling chains rat­tle. In the dis­tance, a woman – pos­si­bly Lynn – screams while we weigh up our de­sire to res­cue her with our need to search for bat­ter­ies to main­tain night vi­sion. Here, things ap­pear to have been stream­lined: all of the draw­ers we pass re­main mer­ci­fully dec­o­ra­tive, while our flash­ing quarry sits on shelves or be­hind fur­ni­ture. As well as a power read­out in the top-right cor­ner of the screen while us­ing the cam­era, there’s now also a me­ter that reg­is­ters left and right au­dio chan­nels to help you as­cer­tain where the var­i­ous ghastly noises the game bom­bards you with are com­ing from – al­though, given the high qual­ity of the stereo mix when us­ing head­phones, we’re not yet sure about the rea­sons for its in­clu­sion.

Where the first game kept a rel­a­tively level head for the ma­jor­ity of its du­ra­tion, only fo­cus­ing on su­per­nat­u­ral events to­wards the end, Out­last II gets into it more quickly. Af­ter an un­nerv­ing search around the town we find an old well and, on ap­proach, are prompted to tap X to in­ves­ti­gate. Al­though we’re brac­ing our­selves for some kind of fright, the gi­ant tongue that wraps around us and drags us into the dark is an un­ex­pected turn of events. As is the re­al­i­sa­tion that we’re now in a ven­ti­la­tion shaft, and soon af­ter that a brightly lit school room. Red Bar­rels con­tin­ues to toy with our sense of time and place as we move, in odd ways, be­tween un­con­nected ar­eas, the game oc­ca­sion­ally toy­ing with floor plans in a sim­i­lar man­ner to Lay­ers Of Fear.

The fi­nale of the demo takes place in a corn­field as we try to hide from, and then out­run, a grow­ing band of torch-wield­ing towns­folk. Stum­bling blind into the crop we quickly come up against a barbed-wire fence that can’t be vaulted. Work­ing our way along it, we run into one of the party chas­ing us, who calls out for his friends as we dash into the clos­est dark patch of corn and try to work our way back to the fence. Even­tu­ally, we find a way through be­fore the full hor­ror of our sit­u­a­tion is re­vealed in a chill­ing twist that we won’t spoil here.

Out­last’s bold mix of iso­lated dread and ac­tion-packed chase se­quences re­mains the core of the se­quel, then, but it’s clear from this short, of­ten ter­ri­fy­ing first show­ing that the stu­dio is go­ing out of its way to rat­tle play­ers who were only brac­ing them­selves for ex­actly the same beats as be­fore.

We find a way through be­fore the full hor­ror of our sit­u­a­tion is re­vealed in a chill­ing twist

There are hints of Res­i­dent

Evil 4 and Blood­borne in Out­last II’s char­ac­ters and en­vi­ron­ment, but de­spite a new set­ting and in­creased de­tail, it feels like a clear fol­low-up to the 2013 ti­tle

ABOVE Up­side-down crosses abound, along with scrawled re­li­gious text, pho­tos of chil­dren, and, later on, the butchered bod­ies of an­i­mals

ABOVE Stealth still plays a large part in Out­last II, but where you’d only have to out­wit one or two en­e­mies in the first game, here you’ll face en­tire gangs of hunters

TOP LEFT When it’s not so dark that you have to use your cam­era, the care­ful, cin­e­matic light­ing of the game’s en­vi­ron­ments adds to the build­ing ten­sion.

LEFT Screen­shots can’t cap­ture the in­creased sense of life in Out­last II’s creepy en­vi­ron­ments, in which grass and trees sway, doors flap in the wind, and flies buzz around blood­ied hes­sian sacks drawn over lumpy, uniden­ti­fi­able piles

The corn­field show­cases

Out­last II’s ex­panded en­vi­ron­ments, as well as the con­trast be­tween the game’s mo­ments of tense sneak­ing and sav­age chase se­quences

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