Well here’s what happened to me today:
It all started when my helicopter crashed.
If only it had ended there; but no such luck.
Instead I was dropped off about two dozen more cliffs, trees, rocks, holes, ledges and other assorted precipices, any one of which should have broken every bone in my body.
I was beaten unconscious so many times that I ought to be in a coma.
I was chased over hill and dale, town and field, cave and rooftop by mutant cultists of all shapes and sizes.
At one point–I swear I’m not making this up–I was nailed to a cross by something that looked like that little guy that crawled out of the other guy’s stomach in Total Recall.
And believe me, that wasn’t even the worst of it.
After my experience with Outlast, you might think that I was prepared to hate this game from the very start, and I was. Still, there’s a brief moment early on–much like in the first game–that almost makes you think this time could be different. You’re standing there, looking out over a haunting moonlit valley, making your way through the dark and foreboding woods, and you begin to recall this forgotten sensation known as suspense. Then the mutant cultists show up and your heart sinks as it becomes clear exactly what the next 9 hours of your life are going to be like.
Yeah, I’ll give em one thing: this is a sequel that, if nothing else, is true to the spirit of the original. So in other words they’ve learned absolutely nothing. Just another torture chamber straight out of the notebook doodlings of an angry fourteen-year-old.
The story, if you insist on calling it that, is mutilated bodies, piles of viscera, mountains of dead babies, severed limbs, impaled corpses, diseased cultists, religious iconography twisted and defiled in all the usual tiresome ways, notes filled with profane screeds, and knives and hooks and farm implements of all kinds put to unconventional uses. For all the coherence here, these images might as well have been drawn out of a hat and presented at random.
Occasionally they interrupt the slide show with confusing flashbacks which are supposed to be disturbing and surreal, but really are just an excuse to jump from one blood-drenched setpiece to the next so they don’t even have to bother coming up with a plausible sequence of events.
What does it all mean? Who cares.
If Outlast was predictable, this is just senseless. Within the first ten minutes, anyone ought to be able to tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s going to be no point to any of this. Nothing to save; nothing to fix; nothing to learn; nothing to redeem; nothing to care about; and thus nothing to invest in.
Re-read the first part of this review, and you can get a sense for the passivity of the whole experience. You have no agency whatsoever. For all the fast-paced action, this isn’t a game in which you do things, but in which things are done to you; and when it comes down to it, you only have one real choice to make here:
Either you submit yourself to this hazing ritual, moving forward while they pummel you with a numbing hailstorm of savagery and vileness, staring helplessly through your night vision camera onto a world where no light will ever shine, or you don’t.
(Hint: you should pick the second one)