Outlast is one of my favourite guilty pleasure games – I even wrote an entire big wordy thinky ‘Look Ma, I’m a real journalist!’ piece about Outlast and Ableism – and the reason I call it a guilty pleasure is that it’s not particularly… smart about anything that it does. Artistically, it’s on the same level as Five Nights at Freddy’s – the first game, not the franchise – only if anything, FNAF might hold an edge because even when it was a single game, it held an impressive amount of background lore, whereas Outlast is very straightforwardly a ‘trapped in a spooky asylum, hunted by the crazy inmates, watch out for the jump scares and look forward to the three minute explanation at the end as to why this is all happening!’ experience.
But if anything, that worked in the developers’ favour, because Outlast is, at its core, what happens when a group of people take a bunch of tired, clichéd horror tropes, and instead of spending all of their energy subverting them for the sake of creating something smarter, spend their time absolutely refining the hell out of what made those horror tropes successful in the first place. As a result, Outlast is a game that isn’t exactly original, or groundbreaking, or… any of the positive words that you would generally use to describe a genre-busting game that defied all expectations and delivered a strong thematic message in a uniquely artistic way, but it is a really, really, really good horror game, because the environment and characters and soundtrack and sound design are polished to hell and back.
And then there’s Outlast 2.
Outlast 2 was… fine? With an emphasis on the audible pause before ‘fine’, and the question mark at the end, as if it’s an incomplete statement, or I’m proposing something rather than stating it. Outlast 2 was an exceptionally… decent video game. It had a plot and characters and I believe some music, and it was responsive, in the sense that I would press a button on my controller and my character would move, and… uh, there were some scary bits, which is good because without scary bits, it wouldn’t be a horror game, it would just be a strangely linear and uneventful platformer, I guess. It’s, uh… I’ll be honest, I’m having a really difficult time thinking of positive things to say about the game that don’t start with an ellipsis.
One of the biggest flaws about Outlast 2 is that I generally didn’t think it was even interesting enough to write an article about explaining why it wasn’t as interesting as the first game, but there’s a YouTube video by ‘Purposeless Rabbitholes’ named ‘Because It’s Scary: An Outlast 2 Analysis’ that made me think that I actually could fashion an article out of what I had to say about the game. I wanted to credit the inspiration for this article but I am also now slightly worried that I’m giving the impression that this will basically just be the transcript to a YouTube video with some minor modifications, but I assure you that these are all my genuine thoughts on the game.
And the biggest problem in the game can probably be summed up by the title of that video; because it’s scary. Outlast worked because it had plenty of moments that were anxiety-inducing, unnerving and outright terrifying, but they also worked because they made sense in the context of the story. Outlast 2, on the other hand, does things because they are scary. Full stop.
Now if we wanted to cover every single negative element of this game, we would be here for a while, so instead I’m going to narrow down this blog to talk solely about the elements of the game that aren’t just bad, but are noticeably worse than the original, and why that is. And to give off some false semblance of balance, let’s start with some token positives about the game.
So as reluctant as I may be to admit it, Outlast 2 is a decent game, and there’s nothing inherently wrong about averaging a six or a seven out of ten. At various points, it manages to recapture every one of the elements that made Outlast good; memorable villains, claustrophobic paranoia, going from nought to life-threatening chase sequence in the blink of an eye, etc. Outlast 2 definitely isn’t as consistent or coherent, but what made the original game so good is still present, albeit in smaller doses.
The soundtrack is great, which is difficult for a horror game like this because you have to balance the creepy, isolated atmospheric stretches up with the pulse-pounding, heart-racing moments when you’re surrounded by angry people who are dedicated to putting their pitchforks in your eye sockets. While the new setting doesn’t always work, it’s nice that Red Barrels at least tried to experiment with a new setting, and the music always fits, including one creepy tune for when you’re sneaking through a field of wheat, watching out for psychopathic pursuers and/or Theresa May, which builds and builds up to the world’s most tense single pluck of a banjo string.
While the quality of the writing is up for debate, the actual delivery and the quality of the voice-acting is consistently great, especially amongst the more interesting villains, like Marta, who replaces Chris Walker as the game’s most persistent and dangerous recurring antagonist. Chris Walker was a huge, hulking man who ripped people’s heads off for fun, but Marta is a lanky, stringy woman who looks like she’s approaching retirement age, talks like she’s been chain-smoking since before she was born, and seems unlikely to survive a particularly harsh winter; and yet, she’s more than capable of shrieking like a banshee, charging at you with inhuman speed and delivering a brutal one-hit kill with her pickaxe, which she has adorned with rosary beads and crucifixes.
This isn’t a positive so much as a negative that I frequently hear pointed out that I disagree with; Outlast 2 has a very loose connection with the first game, and this connection is only discovered optionally. When you come to a lake a little over halfway through the game, if you purposefully go the wrong way and check out the otherwise empty rocky and impassable coast, you can find a note from someone who sounds suspiciously like an employee of the Murkoff Corporation from the first game, which strongly hints that they might have something to do with why everyone in this remote village has caught a severe case of murderitis. A lot of people weren’t happy that the only connection between these games was hidden away, but despite bearing the name ‘Outlast 2’, I think it’s pretty clear that the game is trying to stand on its own merits and not really expand or continue the plot of the first game, so it doesn’t bug me.
And that’s all of the positives I can think of, so let’s kick off the negatives.
When the graphics are of a similar quality and the gameplay is pretty much the same and the soundtrack/level design/everything else that isn’t plot-related are all of the same standard as the first game, it can safely be assumed that a more negative reaction to a sequel can be at least partly down to a failure to live up to the first game’s plot, and Outlast 2 is a fantastic example of just that. I will now outline the plot of Outlast 2, and I would throw out a spoiler warning but honestly, there isn’t really much to spoil.
Blake Langermann and his wife Lynn are the cameraman and reporter duo filming a story on board a helicopter about a Jane Doe murder victim who was discovered, yadda yadda yadda, mysterious circumstances, big booming noise and flash of light and the helicopter crashes. When Blake wakes up, the pilot is very thoroughly dead and his wife is missing so he goes searching for her in a nearby unknown village filled with violently religious fanatics, who it turns out have captured his wife, who they believe is pregnant with the Antichrist. As you do.
Blake and Lynn briefly reunite before she’s captured by another group of violently religious fanatics named ‘Heretics’ who seem to be opposed to Violent Religious Fanatic Group No. 1. Blake travels through the village looking for Lynn, then travels through a second, diseased village looking for Lynn, then takes a casual raft-ride looking for Lynn, makes it to the mining facility where the heretics are hanging out, makes it to the underground mines looking for Lynn, and eventually finds Lynn. I honestly just summed up 90% of the game and about 6 hours of gameplay if it’s your first time around, but nothing else really happens except for Blake continually moving in a single direction while occasionally being chased, attacked, assaulted, molested, vomited on, crucified, buried alive and then molested some more. And in case you think I’m exaggerating for comedic effect to make it seem like this game is more miserable than it seems, then no, all of those things actually happen.
So by the end of the game, you finally rescue Lynn, who for some reason looks far more pregnant than she did at the beginning of the game, and when you finally get her to safety, she dies in childbirth, her final words being “There’s nothing there,” which imply that it was a phantom pregnancy and Blake is imagining the baby that he now believes he’s holding. He has a nap – which frankly, he has earned by this point – and when he wakes up, the villainous leader of the religious cult village gives a little speech and then kills himself, and then Blake walks outside holding the baby that may or may not exist, there’s another flash of light like in the beginning of the game, roll credits, that was Outlast 2.
So you might be thinking to yourself ‘What a miserable, depressing and unrewarding slog through a series of unpleasant events ranging from mildly to majorly offensive.’ And to that I would say, welcome to the genre of Survival Horror video games. But it’s worth noting that even when compared to the original game, which had an extremely depressing ending on its own merits, Outlast 2 is just relentlessly bleak, because it doesn’t even give you the joy of very occasionally pulling yourself out of the mess that you’ve found yourself in.
The easiest comparison to make is that Outlast, the DLC story Outlast: Whistleblower, and Outlast 2 all feature sections where you are captured and imprisoned and either tortured or mutilated or come very, very close. In Outlast, Dr. Trager straps Miles Upshur to a wheelchair and then cuts off two of his fingers. In Whistleblower, Waylon Park is drugged by an inmate known as ‘The Groom’ who comes incredibly close to doing some very, er, invasive surgery on him. In Outlast 2, Blake is captured (twice!) by Laird & Nick, leaders of ‘The Scalled’, which comprises of the members of the religious cult who quickly found out that shunning all medicine in the belief that God would protect them resulted in an awful lot of face-herpes. Basically a gang of anti-vaxxers, give or take five years. The first time you get crucified and have to wait for them to leave before ripping your hands off the cross and through the nails, and the second time they luckily just bury you alive a little bit.
But now, let’s look at how these sections of the game end. In Outlast, you escape from Dr. Trager, sneak around him to steal an elevator key, and use it to escape, but he forces his way in once you reach the next floor down. In the one and only instance of the protagonist, Miles, showing any kind of strength, you struggle with him while the elevator descends and manage to force him back until his legs and lower torso are firmly outside of the elevator, but his head, arms and upper torso are all firmly within. You can guess what happens next. It’s the one moment in the game where Miles fights back, and it’s amazing. He even gets a cheesy action-movie one-liner if you take out your camcorder and film Trager’s body. “How to make Trager juice. Step one: Squeeze.”
In Whistleblower, you’re saved from ‘The Groom’ when another inmate attacks him, but you have to go back into his lair immediately afterwards to find the key you need to leave. He attacks you again and tries to hang you, but you struggle enough that you end up coming down and he ends up going up and gets impaled on a loose… something. I’ll be honest, it’s not a death scene that makes a whole lot of sense, but like Miles, it’s the only time in the game where you’re fighting back, in a sense, and what matters more is that you’re so close to the end that this is the last part of the game that it’s possible to die in, and the ending to Whistleblower is by far the happiest ending in the trilogy.
In Outlast 2, after getting crucified, Blake finds some bandages and then goes on his merry way. After being buried alive, the same thing happens; you escape and then run like hell, which is understandable, but around the seventh time when something indescribably horrible happens to Blake in a cutscene, you really start to wonder “Is there ever going to be a scene where, like, some comeuppance happens, or I escape through my own merits, or get even the smallest kind of victory over the people doing this to me? Or am I just playing through the interactive story of the gap year of an extreme sadomasochist?”
It’s not just the little instances either, it’s how the stories of each game end. Outlast ends on a bittersweet note, where Miles successfully finds out what’s happening and manages to put a stop to Project Walrider, but is seemingly gunned down by security before he can get out. Whistleblower has an uncharacteristically joyous ending, where Waylon not only successfully escapes the asylum with proof of all the crazy unethical things he’s seen, but it’s revealed at the end that Miles actually survived and the Walrider is now under his control, complete with the most relieved/blissful music as it turns out that this horrible, disgusting, nightmareish story actually has a happy ending for both characters.
Outlast 2 ends with Blake failing to save Lynn, possibly now insane and holding a baby that probably doesn’t exist, and all other major characters are dead – not killed by you, of course, that would require Blake to have had an impact on the storyline in any meaningful way – and you’re very possibly dead too. So everything that you went through was for nothing, you didn’t really have any effect on the events that unfolded, and there’s no pay-off whatsoever for all of the really horrible things that happened to you.
I can see why people were annoyed that it wasn’t clear how this tied into the first game, because while I said that it wouldn’t be necessary if Outlast 2 stood on its own merits, it very clearly doesn’t. The story is ‘Everything sucks and is bad. The end’ and none of the characters are memorable enough to make the experience worthwhile, least of all the protagonist.
Speaking of which!
If you’re curious about the picture, it’s because there’s an unlockable game mode in Resident Evil 2, the original and the 2019 remake, where you play as a human-sized block of tofu. It’s hilarious and great and probably at least 80% of the reason that the game got a 2019 remake in the first place. But if you want to know why I’m bringing it up now, it’s because when I tried to think of how to best summarize Blake Langermann, protagonist and main character of Outlast 2, the first thought that came into my head was a bland, white, flavourless block of mushy, colourless and odourless substance occupying the space where a protagonist should be.
In a list of video game characters who display the least personality, the only reason Blake Langermann wouldn’t place very highly on the list is that you might forget that he even exists. I’m not asking Red Barrels to write me an Oscar-winning screenplay here, but compared to the previous protagonists, Blake is just one big pile of nothing. He has no character traits other than being far more likely than most to trip and land in an unskippable cutscene in which he is tortured for a bit, and has no motivation other than his wife, which makes him less of a relatable everyman and more like a bad Borat impersonator.
Legitimately, this is a list of all of the character traits that Blake Langermann expresses over the course of Outlast 2.
- He loves his wife.
That’s it, end of list. That’s not a personality, that’s not even enough information for him to go viral on Twitter as a ‘wife guy’ for the day. He could’ve at least called her curvy, or watched her fall down a steep hill. As soon as Blake is introduced, the plot kicks off with a helicopter crash and Lynn going missing, and for the entire rest of the game, Blake’s only goal is to find Lynn, and while he eventually does end up in the same vicinity as her, he never actually does anything to help. When he finally reaches Lynn near the end of the game, he’s accosted by the leader of the Heretics and blacks out for a bit, and when he wakes up, the townspeople are attacking the Heretics and he just wanders away and coincidentally bumps into Lynn, who must have escaped on her own in the chaos. Great job, Blake. 10/10. I’m sure your presence was noted and appreciated.
Maybe failing to save Lynn and then watching her die in maybe-childbirth shortly afterwards wouldn’t be so bad (God, that’s a horrible sentence to write) if Blake accomplished literally anything else, but he doesn’t. Miles had the goal to uncover what was happening at Mount Massive Asylum, and he does, but Blake never makes it his aim to find out what’s going on, and for that matter, it’s never explained what exactly is going on, other than Murkoff’s possible involvement, so what does Blake’s journey matter? What was the pay-off for any of this?
While I would like to point out that I have nothing bad to say about the voice-acting of Blake, I do need to point out something staggeringly bad about his lack of characterisation. Miles Upshur and Waylon Park both had official voice actors, but neither of them actually have any lines, ever. The extent to which they speak is panting and grunting and screaming if they’re attacked or killed, and that’s it, although when they film events with their camcorders and take notes, they quickly establish a decent enough personality for the protagonist of an indie survival horror game. Miles is a journalist whose initial goal to uncover the truth is replaced by a desire to just get the hell out of Mount Massive Asylum alive, but his curiosity slowly returns over the course of the game as he realises how important the situation he has found himself in is. Waylon, who starts his campaign generally already knowing what’s going on, only wants to escape and return to his family. Miles’ notes are cautious, sarcastic, angry and serious. Waylon is much more terrified, focussed solely on escaping, and would never think of a snarky one-liner to use right after watching someone die. Neither Miles nor Waylon have a single line of dialogue, but they both have decently established characters.
Blake has a voice actor, communicates with several characters, vocally reacts to the things around him, and I honestly couldn’t tell you a single thing about him other than he loves his wife and he spends a lot of time swearing nervously, which is understandable but not entertaining. Him discovering something terrible and shouting “What the fuck?” or “Oh, shit shit shit shit shit shit!” in response accounts for roughly 70% of his dialogue. Also, rather than noting down his reactions to the events he witnesses, he just narrates over the clips as they play back, but these narrations can all be summed up as either “I have to save my wife!” or “Wow, there’s some messed up shit happening here!” or occasionally “Wow, I have to save my wife from the messed up shit happening here!”
I hate it when people force comparisons with more popular works of media too – I promise I’m not going to start theorising which Hogwarts house Blake would be sorted into – but Blake is suffering from a dire case of ‘Season 8 Jon Snow Syndrome’. His decisions have no impact on the plot, he has little to no motivations, and the entire plot is just him blandly reacting to things happening to or around him which don’t change his character at all. There isn’t a single scene in the game in which Blake’s appearance or actions have a lasting impact on any other character, or the story as a whole.
Tofu. Fantastic for protein and amino acids. Terrible for video game protagonists.
It’s not bad that the setting in Outlast 2 is so different from the first game; it’s a positive, if anything, that they decided not to just retread old ground and have Blake run through a serious of claustrophobic corridors while being chased by angry incoherent crowds as you struggle to determine which of the several identical doors that you run past can be opened. It’s just a shame that the new setting wasn’t able to retain the benefits of the old setting, like the aforementioned claustrophobia, or… having any idea where it is that you’re supposed to go.
Outlast 2 isn’t completely terrible in this regard, but I found myself far more frequently running wildly around a location, often while being chased by murderous locals, desperately trying to work out where exactly I was supposed to go. Sometimes the answer was “Of the several buildings in this town square, you were supposed to go into exactly this one,” which in all fairness was the only building with a noticeable porch light, but other times in the wilderness I was apparently supposed to run into a dead end, search for an exit, give up and turn around, and only then see a few bloodstains around an outcropping of rock that’s only visible if you arrive at your destination and then immediately turn around. As you do.
The worst sections are either the wide-open areas, which are plentiful once you start hanging out in the diseased area – and worse when the boss of that area, who can one-hit-kill you, starts hunting for you as well – but later on when you reach the mining facility and the mines, and you get back into familiar Outlast territory of repetitive chase sequences through obvious linear paths, it doesn’t feel like a return to form, but more like the developers just started plagiarising their old work.
All of this is complaining about artificial things, however. The biggest problem I have with the setting of Outlast 2 is that it doesn’t really lend itself to any kind of broader message, even if you’re really stretching to find some kind of thematic coherency to grab onto, which the first game, flawed and stupid though it was, undeniably had.
Maybe it would have been better to name this section ‘Themes’ but I didn’t want them all to sound like I was extrapolating more problems from the plot. But in spite of how Outlast is very up front with its gore and its immaturity and its ‘Look, the scary naked twins have their wangs out, how scary!’ then it does have easily discernible themes, due mainly to the setting of a mental asylum. It’s never the sole focus of the game, or something that’s even explored in any depth, but when the whole story is uncovered, it turns out that the reason the Murkoff Corporation were experimenting on extremely mentally unwell people is because nobody in this fictional world would notice or particularly care if a bunch of them died or mysteriously disappeared or started claiming that the people in charge were abusing them. You can’t tell me that doesn’t have a really obvious message regarding the treatment of mentally ill people.
There’s even a patient you find in the first game known as the Pyro, named so because he’s calmly sitting in a burning cafeteria and waiting to die, and he gets a surprisingly poignant speech for a game that’s otherwise so merrily dumb. “I had to burn it. All of it. Murkoff took so much from us. Used us. Turned us into these things, because nobody cares about a few forgotten lunatics. So let it burn. Burn the whole god damned thing down. Get out.” If Miles records this speech, he writes in his notes “I’m not the only victim here, not by a long shot. I watch a man wait to burn to death, the most painful death imaginable, rather than stay in this place.”
So… what does Outlast 2 have to say?
It’s rather obvious in its sinister portrayal of religion, and when you stumble across the terrible things that the villagers here have done, you start to think it might be a portrayal of how bold religious fervour and the belief that you are righteous can result in people doing truly evil things. The cult in the game is rather reminiscent of Jonestown, especially as the game ends with the discovery that the villagers who survived the rest of the game have all committed mass-suicide via poisoning. But then you remember the elephant in the room.
All of these people are acting under the influence of whatever shady thing Murkoff are doing, and it is by no means an assumption or a stretch of the imagination to say that they are just as insane as the inmates of Mount Massive Asylum were. So, with that in mind… what exactly, if anything, does Outlast 2 say? Religion can be used as an excuse to do terrible things… if the people doing those terrible things have already been driven insane by some pre-Resident Evil 7 Umbrella Corporation knock-off?
A lot of research and a lot of effort went into the portrayal of the religion present in Papa Knoth’s Temple Gate community, but for the life of me, I cannot think of a message that it portrays that’s as clear and simple as the inconsequential but undeniable theme of the mentally unwell patients in Outlast being taken advantage of by people who assumed that their testimony would be written off and their presence would not be missed.
If there’s one thing the original Outlast did well, it was creating a bunch of memorable villains, even if it also had its fair share of creepy naked twins and that weird cannibal guy in the DLC who wants to kill you because he’s a cannibal, ooh, creepy. His arc of the game unsurprisingly ends with an easily-missable moment where he sticks his head out of a window and shouts “No! You were mine!” while you’re running away. Truly an arch-nemesis to rival Moriarty.
But while Red Barrels didn’t focus too much on making their villains the most unique or groundbreaking, they absolutely refined the hell out of them. Dr. Trager isn’t just a generic creepy doctor, but an emaciated man with a sharp sense of humour who can respond to your escape by either screaming furiously or casually blaming himself for not starting off with your tendons instead of your fingers. Eddie Gluskin AKA ‘The Groom’ from Outlast: Whistleblower is… you know, it would take so long to explain that I’m not going to bother. Let’s just say that you’ll never look at a man in a waistcoat the same way again.
And then there’s my favourite villain in the game, and one of my favourite villains in all of video games, Chris Walker.
Chris fulfils the very basic purpose of showing up every few minutes to try to kill you, but I like all the little touches Red Barrels made to make him stand out. Instead of pure muscle, they made him pretty obese – not that it slows him down – and the injuries on his face aren’t from fights, but self-mutilation caused by extreme anxiety, as revealed in collectible documents. He has a unique musical track and chains around his wrists which always give off a telltale clinking shortly before he runs into you, he is persistent as hell, showing up in 7 of the game’s 8 chapters to try and murder you, his dialogue is sprinkled with old army language, as he was initially admitted to the asylum as a soldier suffering PTSD, and in a great twist, despite looking as straightforwardly evil as possible, he actually has the somewhat noble goal of protecting the world from the Walrider Project, which he uncovered while admitted. Unfortunately, his methods include murdering everyone else in the asylum so that the truth can never get out, which is pretty mean if you’re one of the people in the asylum, but once you find out what the Walrider Project was, you start to realise that there are plenty of people with worse ideas than Chris Walker.
So, my man-crush on Chris Walker aside, what are the villains in Outlast 2 like?
Well, the Big Bad is Sullivan Knoth, who goes by Papa Knoth because that’s pretty weird, I guess, and he is the leader of the cult of villagers trying to murderize you. He sees himself as a prophet and… yeah, that’s about it. There’s Marta, his right-hand woman, the scary lanky lady with a big pickaxe. Her personality is that she is extremely devoted to Knoth. Val is the leader of the heretics, who are naked but covered in mud and branches and live in the mines, and naturally Val always sounds very aroused. And the leader of the diseased village is Laird, an angry evil dwarf with a bow and arrow who rides around on Nick, a large hunchbacked and simple-minded man. Basically Master Blaster from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but evil.
The observant ones amongst you may have noticed that I said less about all of those villains combined than I did about my one true love, Chris Walker. And that’s because there is more to say about one single villain in Outlast than there is about the entire Rogues Gallery in Outlast 2, who are mostly limited to the single chapters they appear in. Knoth only appears twice in the entire game. Val appears once in the first chapter, and twice in the penultimate chapter, and that’s it. Marta is sort-of persistent, but only appears in the village sections of the game, and even then only four times, before making a reappearance at the ending. Laird and Nick appear fairly frequently during the diseased village, but they’re introduced and die in the same chapter.
But Outlast 2 is also full of collectibles, like recordings and notes that you can find. But unlike the original, which was set in an asylum so it made sense that patient reports loaded with exposition and backstory were just lying around the place, there isn’t really much to uncover about these characters. The Gospel of Knoth frequently shows up, but it’s boring, repetitive, and we get it; he’s evil. There are some letters from Val which confirm that Val is indeed quite insane and horny. The closest you come to uncovering some extra information about a character is a letter from Knoth to Marta, in which he reassures her about the apparent doubts that she’s been having about the morality of murdering people. But unlike in Outlast, where Chris Walker’s dialogue while looking for you included “You don’t have to hide from me,” “I’ll make the pain stop,” and “We have to contain it,” indicating that there was more in that head of his than a visceral desire to separate yours from your shoulders, Marta’s dialogue begins and ends with frenzied shrieks and screams as she tries to plant her pickaxe in your groin, so none of this apparent depth in her character is ever apparent.
This is something that also ties into what I said earlier about Blake not having an effect on the story. Let’s go over all of the main villains in Outlast 2 again, and how they are defeated. Laird and Nick, leaders of the diseased village, are very mean to the other inhabitants, and while you’re escaping, they take revenge by pushing Laird and Nick out of a hole in a building. Val is the next to go, because when you finally make it into the heart of the mines and reunite with Lynn, you immediately have a weird flashback/hallucination and when you wake up, the heretics are being attacked by the townspeople and Val has been/is being killed off-screen. Next up is Marta, the hyper-persistent fiend who has attacked you a whopping five times over the course of the entire game, who corners you and Lynn, only to be killed when a stray bolt of lightning knocks a church spire off a nearby roof and it impales her, in a moment which straddles the line between ‘incredibly stupid and anti-climactic’ and ‘honestly actually still kind of cool’. Once Lynn gives birth to the baby who may or may not exist, and then dies, then Blake has an angry nap and wakes up later to find that Papa Knoth himself is sitting in front of him, and Knoth can also see the baby, maybe, and for some reason he says that he is unable to kill the baby himself, and he talks for a minute about no longer hearing the voice of God, and then he slits his own throat.
I know that this is all pretty bad but I really just want to emphasize on the final part; this is only Sullivan Knoth’s second in-person appearance in the game. He is the primary antagonist and the second time he appears is at the end of the game when he commits suicide.
Oh my God, I just realised that Sullivan Knoth has fewer scenes in this game than the creepy naked twins in the original. Right, that’s enough, moving on to the final point.
The Random School Flashback Segments You Get Dropped Into For No Reason That Aren’t Connected To The Main Story In Any Way And Feel Like Unnecessary Padding And-
You knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. My sister who doesn’t know what Outlast is but who made the mistake of calling me while I was writing this knew it was coming.
So, in case you’re not aware, at random but regular intervals in Outlast 2, Blake is transported to a warped memory of his Catholic School childhood, where he gradually relives a traumatic event that is slowly built up to a dramatic reveal, even though it’s incredibly obvious from the beginning that it relates to one of his childhood friends being killed by a creepy teacher who was probably also molesting her. And if reading that made you feel something along the lines of ‘… Ew…’ then just imagine how fun it is to play.
I’m not really sure how to go about criticizing this because every single aspect of it is bad. From a gameplay perspective, it’s boring and repetitive and for the first 50% of the times you get magically transported to your hallucination, there isn’t even anything there capable of harming you. Not that the second 50% is any better, because when a monster does show up – a very disgusting bloody man-monster made of several grabby arms and an extremely long tongue, clearly intended to be Blake’s interpretation of what the creepy teacher was doing – then outside of its creepy design, it’s also pretty dull because it just chases you around and kills you in one hit if it ever catches up to you, no matter the difficulty setting.
That’s not the main difficulty of these sections though, that would be – well, I suppose that would actually be staying awake to play through them – but second place would go to just finding your way around the school. If you’re blindly wandering around a forest or field of wheat, desperately trying to find out where you’re supposed to go next, you can at least pick out the odd landmark or maybe get a hint as to where you’re supposed to head. In the school sections? Have fun running down the same corridor filled with the same lockers with the same locked doors on every side, except for the one or two that open but with absolutely no indication of what makes them different.
These are just minor complaints compared to the sheer meaninglessness of how unpleasant this is. This has absolutely no connection to the story other than revealing that Blake had a prior experience with a bad person in a position of religious power over him. But the behaviour of the creepy perv teacher and the behaviour of the thoroughly-brainwashed townspeople isn’t really comparable in any way, and it doesn’t reinforce anything else about the story, or provide us with any new information on any of the characters. It’s like Red Barrels are just pointing at the screen and telling us “Hey, you know how this whole story is that Blake is repeatedly traumatised by horrific events? Well, guess what? In the past, he was also traumatised by horrific events! Didn’t see that coming, did you?”
And that honestly sums up the overwhelming problem with Outlast 2. Meaningless and unpleasant. The reason that most of the issues I’ve listed are to do with the plot are because that’s what was such a let-down this time around. Outlast was miserable and gruesome and gory and defeatist, but you still accomplished something, and Outlast: Whistleblower even goes far enough to reveal that in both the original campaign and the DLC, you actually succeed! The horrible things that you go through result in a victory against the people who are responsible for what you went through. I understand that there are many horror films, books and games that end unhappily, but I can’t think of a single one that ends as pointlessly as Outlast 2.
Outlast 2 is a video game in which nothing you do matters, you fail at everything you set out to do, you’re not directly involved in any of the ways that the story develops, and the story itself ends with every character that isn’t you dead, either killed by each other or by themselves. Blake Langermann could have called in sick, never gotten involved in the plot, and everything would have played out in exactly the same manner.
Combine that with the thoroughly unpleasant experience of repeatedly being tortured, molested or mutilated in first-person, a complete lack of any characters you can even remotely sympathize with – either because they’re barely on-screen or because, like Blake, they have the personality of a sweary cardboard cut-out – and those fucking school sections, and you have the recipe for one of the most disappointing video game sequels in recent memory.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is what went wrong with Outlast 2. Thanks for sticking around until the end! I promise, next time I’ll write something about a game that is equally stupid but in a much more uplifting way.