Out­last II

DE­VEL­OPER Red Bar­rels / PUB­LISHER Red Bar­rels / WEB­SITE http://red­bar­rels­games.com/games/out­last-2


The orig­i­nal Out­last was one of the most fright­en­ing hor­ror games we’ve seen, with dy­namic hide-and-seek me­chan­ics see­ing you evad­ing psy­chopaths in an aban­doned asy­lum. It balanced grisly jump-scares with emer­gent play, plac­ing the onus on the player to stay alive in its elab­o­rately con­structed haunted house. Out­last II seeks to up the ante, in­creas­ing the in­ten­sity and dou­bling the shock value.

You in­ves­ti­gate the mur­der of a woman in a re­mote part of the Arizona desert, but the trail leads you into the mid­dle of a bloody bat­tle be­tween two back­wa­ter Chris­tian cults. One is an uber-right­eous evan­gel­i­cal com­mune that be­lieves the birth of the An­tichrist can only be pre­vented by mur­der­ing their chil­dren; the other is a hereti­cal cult seek­ing to trig­ger the apoca­lypse.

If you think it al­ready sounds full-on, you don’t know the half of it. Within min­utes of your he­li­copter crash­ing in the parched Ari­zo­nan moun­tains, Out­last II forces you to walk across a pit filled with dead ba­bies, and the game then bom­bards you with atro­cious im­agery of death and suf­fer­ing. At var­i­ous points your char­ac­ter is sex­u­ally as­saulted and lit­er­ally cru­ci­fied.

Out­last II is as sub­tle as a wreck­ing ball to the go­nads, which is a shame be­cause these cheap and nasty trig­ger points be­lie some more in­ter­est­ing ideas. In­ter­spersed within this night­mar­ish ghost train is a sec­ondary story re­volv­ing around a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence in Catholic school. It’s told through mo­ments in­ter­wo­ven seam­lessly within the level de­sign, lead­ing to am­bi­gu­ity about whether they’re mem­o­ries or metaphors for your char­ac­ter’s un­re­solved guilt.

Me­chan­i­cally, Out­last II suf­fers from a sim­i­lar is­sue of im­bal­ance. There are still points where you must hide and sneak past cultists hunt­ing for you, in­clud­ing a su­perb sec­tion in a corn­field. How­ever, a far greater em­pha­sis is placed on high-in­ten­sity chase se­quences. The lat­ter half of the game is so thick with chases that it goes from fright­en­ing to ex­haust­ing.

Yet Out­last II’s big­gest prob­lem is that the mys­tery un­der­neath the hor­ror isn’t that in­ter­est­ing. Its lin­ear se­quence of farms and forests doesn’t hold the same in­trigue as the first game’s labyrinthian asy­lum, while the story be­hind these com­mu­ni­ties and how they were cor­rupted is never prop­erly ex­plained. In­stead, most of the doc­u­ments you find are ex­cerpts from the ram­bling ‘gospel’ of the com­mune’s leader, and let­ters be­tween the cultists about how they want to have sex with God.

Ul­ti­mately, Out­last II tries too hard to shock and scare. It’s def­i­nitely hor­ri­ble and ef­fec­tively scary, but not in a way that’s en­joy­able or in­ter­est­ing. It’s a shame be­cause, in those frag­mented mo­ments when it stops to take a breath, you can glimpse po­ten­tial shin­ing through the blood and dark­ness.

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