One of the few, and I mean few, criticisms I had with the Nintendo Switch (before my purchase) was the lack of any real horror games. The portability of the Switch seemed perfect for the survival horror genre, more so you can play these somewhat intense games in the safety of a well lit, populated cafe where no monsters can get you! During the first calendar year of the Nintendo Switch’s release, there wasn’t really anything to get the old pulse racing. Now, a couple months into 2018, this could be the year the Switch becomes the mobile horror platform I had been hoping for as two of the scariest video games of all time have been ported over. First, the Outlast: Bundle of Terror was released and now, ladies and gentleman, Outlast 2 has been released to terrify the Nintendo Switch community.
Similar.y to Outlast, you step into the shoes of an investigative journalist attempting to solve a rather gruesome mystery. This time, you’ll play as Blake Langermann who, well, I suppose he isn’t technically an investigative journalist, that’s the job of Blake’s wife, Lynn; you are her trusty cameraman. The two of you are off to rural Arizona to investigate the disappearance of a missing pregnant woman known only as a Jane Doe. Obviously, the investigation fails before they even start as the helicopter carrying the couple crash lands. When Blake regains consciousness, he finds his pilot skinned and crucified and his wife missing. Over the next 7 or so hours, Blake will attempt to move Heaven and Earth to find and rescue his beloved from the hands of two rival religious cults, all the while trying to survive the horrors himself.
There are plenty of horrors to survive in Outlast 2, and I am not just talking about the numerous enemies you’ll have to run and hide from. Outlast 2, visually speaking, is one of the goriest and most gruesome games released. All throughout the game world, you’ll be treated to numerous mutated corpses, tortured souls and so much gore it makes the Saw films look like PG-13 affairs. Due to Outlast 2 being nearly twice as long as the original, getting to these horrors can take a fair amount of time. The first hour or so, you’ll be learning the game mechanics and Blake’s abilities. Much like the first Outlast, Blake is just a normal dude, and he isn’t Chris Redfield, so you won’t be shooting everything that moves…well, you will but with a camcorder and not a shotgun. So learning how to crawl, climb and use the camera can become quite tedious. I mean, it isn’t a safe tutorial area, there are still enemies to watch out for and some horrible sights to witness, but the opening hour is more of a teaser of what’s to come.
The switch to a religious plot is a stroke of genius by Red Barrels. Some of the greatest horror stories revolve around religion, the ultimate battle between good and evil, and Outlast 2’s story is no exception. There is nothing original here, mind, it is what you can imagine, but it doesn’t make it any less entertaining, and there is a fantastic Resident Evil inspired part of the story that will completely blow you away. During your journey, you’ll also suffer from flashbacks from your time at school. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but these sequences are as great as they are terrifying and revolve around an old school friend named Jessica.
The Supai region of rural Arizona you find yourself in is huge in comparison to Mount Massive Asylum from the first Outlast. This is not an open-world map by any means, and the game will generally guide you through every area with minimal exploration needed. That has always been a complaint of the modern survival horror game, that there really is no exploration required, and sometimes it feels like you are just being lead down each path, but when each path is full of unimaginable horrors, you end up not minding so much. There is, of course, some exploration off the beaten track here, but it is usually optional, and it is done simply to find such things as letters, medkits and batteries for your camcorder.
Yes, the dreaded battery power is back! Much like in the first game, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the dark in Outlast 2, which will require you to switch on the camera’s night vision mode. This still looks fantastic, and somehow it makes the rural landscape you find yourself in look more terrifying. However, the same problem occurs in that the battery lasts about as long as I can in a foot race, which isn’t a very long time at all these days; I blame the beer and burgers, but enough of that. So, in a way, Outlast 2 does encourage you to explore in the limited way you can, but really, it is only to find more batteries. Blake’s camera also comes with a sound recorder which you can use to track enemies through walls and such to stop you from just blindly opening doors and running into someone, or you can simply just listen to the demented ramblings of the two cults’ members. The sound recorder will also drain your batteries, so if you have to use that while using night mode, you are screwed, buddy. Developers Red Barrels has addressed this with an added difficulty setting called ‘story mode’. Selecting this difficulty will not only make your playthrough easier in terms of enemy encounters and how aggressive they are, but the sound recorder will no longer drain any power from the battery. Many people may scoff at the idea of reducing enemy encounters in a survival horror game to make it easier, but horror is such a broad genre that not everyone will want to play a game on the edge of their seat all the way through. The inclusion of this easier setting just shows that Red Barrels want to create experiences that cater to a wide range of player needs and preferences, which is great.
Outside of the story mode difficulty, there are a lot more encounters with enemies than in the first Outlast. As I stated in that review, getting enemy encounters right is difficult. Too many and it becomes routine, too little and you don’t really care. The first Outlast perfected the frequency in which you’ll have to run/hide from someone. Outlast 2’s increased frequency is not a bad thing, but it can lean on the just routine reaction when you see them. Well, that goes for everyone aside from Marta. Marta is to Outlast 2 as Chris Walker was to the first one. Every time you either see or hear her, you generally feel a sense of dread and despair. When Marta or another cultist does spot you, it is time to move and move quickly. Generally, due to the bigger environments, hiding isn’t the necessity it was in the first Outlast, and if you are caught and subsequently killed, the consequence isn’t that great as Outlast 2 autosaves every 10 minutes or so, meaning if you do die, it won’t take long to get back to where you were.
Outlast 2 performs exceptionally well on the Switch and is one of the best looking games available for Nintendo’s hybrid console. There are no noticeable framerate drops either in docked or handheld mode, and there are some minor rendering issues, mostly just landscape objects, but it isn’t anything that will ruin your playthrough. The only issue I encountered was when playing in handheld mode, the game seemed rather quiet and I had to use headphones, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but just be prepared to use some if you want to play on the go.
Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 27th March 2018 (Nintendo Switch), 25th April 2017 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)