“Horror, at least in its artistic representations, can be a comfort. And, like any enlightenment, it may even confer – if briefly – a sense of power, wisdom, and transcendence.”
That’s a quote from contemporary horror author, Thomas Ligotti, on what makes horror so captivating. For the record – I agree with him; a unique, primal catharsis spills forth when horror hits its mark. The paradox of feeling drawn to that which unsettles is a beautiful thing. Horror does not repulse – it seduces.
Outlast 2 bills itself as a horror game. Here is a screenshot from the Red Barrels website confirming as such:
If Outlast 2 is a horror game, it is in aesthetic alone. I am not seduced by Outlast 2. I am revolted by it.
Theoretically, this game is about Christianity – how it might go awry, how its darker sides might manifest. This religion is featured prominently throughout the story, and is the origin point of the action that takes place therein.
In practice, Christianity is a weak excuse for the authors of this game to relish in rape, child rape, murder, and child murder. Every note you find – every line you hear – gleefully describes these acts in ways that are both shallow and inartful. I am not disturbed by the notes. I am disturbed by the person who wrote them – the real-life human being that treated such horrendous concepts as blasé commonalities to be relished in. There is not even a modicum of exploration or consideration of these notions, nor their very real place in the history of Catholicism. Outlast 2’s content is unadulterated surface-level invocation.
[I have now written and deleted several paragraphs concerning the incompetence of Outlast 2’s ‘plot’ – of its inability to write characters, action, or narrative momentum. There is literally nothing to say about it, beyond the previous sentence. The net sum of the story is null, literally. Nothing is won. Nothing is gained. Nothing is lost. It barely deserves even this minor footnote]
Of all the bile spewed by Outlast 2, its attitude towards women is the most troubling. Outlast 2 despises women. It hates them. You will be forced to watch and/or listen as women are raped, tortured, murdered, or worse, again, and again, and again, and again. You will read about it, constantly. You will pray that you do not have to hear the screams of a child as she is molested once more as you continue through each new area.
Mid-way through the game, there is a setpiece where you watch as a woman is tortured and murdered in front of her husband for information. On this act, your character says:
“They always… hurt women to punish men. It’s sick. It’s cowardly.”
This is not a self-aware wink-and-a-nod concerning the narrative of Outlast 2. It is a 100%, unironic endorsement of gendered-torture-by-proxy as trope – the very thing upon which Outlast 2 hinges its story.
Do you think, I wonder, that the people who wrote that line understood that they had just described themselves? I doubt it.
This is the mind that conceived Outlast 2. I shudder to consider it, and I pity the hands told to realize its twisted vision. Someone out there – some poor soul – was put in charge of rendering a mound of dead, naked children. Discussions were had concerning whether or not to render their genitals. Fortunately, for both the player AND the character modelers, they chose not to. A small relief, built on the naked backs of dead children.
I simply cannot imagine having to work on this game. The psychological weight of working at Red Barrels must be immense. Perhaps this is why, beyond its narrative failings, Outlast 2 fails to function even as a game.
[Again, Outlast 2 leaves me with nearly nothing to discuss. After all the talk of rape and murder, I’m not sure what is left. What needs to be said? That Outlast 2 poorly executes on its encounter based stealth game format? That it fails to communicate goals during its setpieces? I can’t think of even a single space that compliments its various mechanics and moments. Outlast 2 confuses hindrance for tension, and all that that implies. I am weary of writing about this game, in the same way that I was weary of its exhausting play mere minutes into the game – so now I must release myself]
Outlast 2 is despicable. I am embarrassed to have played it. Quite frankly, it should concern us that this game is currently pulling high 70s on metacritic.
You will never read another review like this from me ever again. I cannot fathom a more upsetting game than Outlast 2. I do not score the games that I play, but I must make an exception for Outlast 2. I truly believe this is one of the worst games I have ever played. It deserves a score to match.
Thanks for reading,