Ahh the horror genre! Every year we are given entries into the genre that become cult classics such as The Exorcist and The Human Centipede…and then we get those that leave us wanting a refund (YES I am looking at you Paranormal Activity Series). But what happens when you get a series that can push the boundaries of what CAN be scary even further? This is Outlast II and why it does horror so great and does psychological horror even better.
The Outlast series was originally released on September 4, 2013 on PC and has been critically acclaimed as one of the top horror games of all time. Since its initial release, developer Red Barrels has gone as far as to release The Whistleblower DLC, and more recently, Outlast 2. All three entries have been successful in instilling an urgency of fear, keeping you on the edge of your seat around ever turn and every door opened. The reason for this instant feeling for fear can be broken down into four parts; story, setting, audio, and gameplay.
First, Outlast knows how to tell a story that gets you hooked, enough to begin exploration. Each of the entries start off with a tragic event; from an institution that has performed experiments that have caused hundreds of deaths to the mysterious death of a pregnant woman in the middle of the Nevada Desert. Because of these events, there is always a “noble crusader” willing to right these wrongs and compelled deliver justice to the unspoken. These events always tie back to a central figure, Murkoff Corporation, a “charitable organization” that wants to push the limits of what science can do for human society. They are responsible for conducting experiments to the psychiatric patients at the Mount Massive Asylum in Lake County, Colorado and to the people in the rural area in Supai, near the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The experiments can cause superhuman strength or even total mind control over a massive area. The treatment of these patients at Mount Massive Asylum is what causes the main protagonist from the Whistleblower DLC, Waylon Park, to send an anonymous email to freelance reporter Miles Upshur. Miles interest in their treatment sparked an interest to deliver a story exposing the atrocities of Murkoff Corporation to the world. During both Waylon and Miles exploration of the Asylum, they are subjected to some of same experimentation, including dismemberment. Both characters come into contact with the patients and staff over multiple occurrences, exposing more of the story behind the curtain.
The direction of Murkoff Corporation is ever so present in Outlast 2 when reporter Lynn Langermann and her husband Blake Langermann travel out to Supai, Nevada to investigate the mysterious death of a pregnant “Jane Doe” out in the Nevada Desert. Things take a turn for the worst when a bright light and deafening noise cause their helicopter to lose power and crash land. You then take control of Blake, separated from everyone, scared and only equipped with a high-tech camera. As you traverse through the desert terrain, you run into your pilot, strung up like an ornament and skinned to bleed out. Descending further down into the town below you come into contact with the townspeople. The townspeople are the result of an experiment by Murkoff Corporation in which they used microwaves to brainwash massive crowds of people by trapping them within their deepest fears. The townspeople have been divided by this effect into two groups; Anti-Christ Christians, lead by Father Sullivan Knoth, who want to destroy the seeds of parents in order to prevent the apocalypse and the Heretics, those who approve of the birth of children to save them but are still violent in nature. These microwaves go off multiple times, allow you to escape in desperate scenarios while also causing harm to Blake, causing him to hallucinate and alter his perception of reality and fiction. After he has rediscovered his wife, he is informed that his wife is “pregnant with his unborn child” and you are lead to believe this is true for the duration of the game.
The setting for all three entries takes place in locations true to real life. The first game and DLC take place in an insane asylum, institutes that have a dark history for their experimentation and treatment of their patients. Due to the barbaric nature of locations such as these, it isn’t hard to be fearful walking through the dark, with images of the events playing in your head and the ominous fear of such events occurring to you. In Outlast 2, you a placed in a desert town in Northern Nevada. Dark caves, dim houses, tall grass and cornfields are what you are greeted to and what you begin to feel will be the final resting place for your character. As Blake starts to hallucinate as the story progresses, you are transported to an old catholic school where night vision on your camera is a must for dark classrooms, hallways, and libraries.
I had to stop typing for a moment because I saw something weird out of the corner of my eye. Now I hear breathing which is weird because I’m the only one here and-