I’ve been a gamer all my life, and an avid horror buff since my early teens. My tastes have developed and changed drastically over the years, resulting in a deep pool of games I’ve played casually on and off, games I’ve poured countless hours into, and games that I’ve thrown away in boredom after five minutes. There’s no real reason or rhyme to why I play the games I do; mood dictates, and mood is a fickle bitch.
Since my gaming career began, however, there have been a handful of games that I’ve played on a whim and fallen head-over-heels in love with, and continue to analyze and obsess over to this day. I don’t fall easily, but when I do, I fall hard.
I can count on one hand the amount of times this has happened, and the critically acclaimed survival horror game Outlast is definitely on there.
I played it (slowly and fear-stricken over the course of a week or two), beat it, then promptly started a new game and played it through again in one sitting. Following this, I confidently bought the DLC Whistleblower, got chased around by a cannibal with a buzzsaw and a misogynistic serial killer who wanted to marry me, and ended up loving it more than the original campaign. Thus, a new love affair was born.
Red Barrels is a team of horror enthusiasts who brought Outlast to life, originally for the PC in 2013 and then for the PS4 and Xbox One in 2014. Based around the tried and true formula of throwing an unsuspecting reporter down the rabbit hole into Wonderland (disclaimer: Wonderland has crazies and cannibals) with your white rabbit being a mad preacher who believes you to be his apostle and the queen of hearts a big hulking monstrosity who looks like somebody tried to “fuck-start his face with a cheese grater” (protagonist’s words, not mine).
It’s as good as it sounds. Terrifying, but amazing, and easily the best horror game I’ve played in years, touching upon a lot of mature subject matters and disturbing themes. The love for the genre that the team has is evident in every blood smear on the walls in Mount Massive Asylum. They aren’t afraid to “go there”, wherever there may be, and it made for an incredibly shocking and delightful experience.
I had my money at the ready when Red Barrel’s officially announced that they were making Outlast 2. I literally didn’t need to know anything else about the game, apart from the fact that it was getting a sequel.
They announced it in October of 2014, shortly following the Xbox One release, and stated that though it will take place in the same universe as the first game, it’ll have an entirely different location and cast of characters. They also went on to say that they won’t release the game until they are too afraid to play it themselves.
The statement fills me with equal amounts of joy and disappointment; not because I’m nervous that the game will be less-than-stellar (I have all the faith in the world in this company), but because Red Barrel’s is only a very small indie team, it will take some time before I get my hands on Outlast 2, despite work on it having begun as soon as Whistleblower was released. In the mean time, however, I’ve begun thinking of what I would personally like to see in the sequel to Outlast, and what I think could be improved upon.
Give Outlast 2 a female protagonist
I’m the sort of person who gets the most enjoyment out of a game when I’m able to play as a character that matches my gender. It’s an immersion thing. This is not always the case – obviously both Outlast and it’s DLC are literally all-male casts, including the main characters. It didn’t necessarily affect my enjoyment of the game, but I kept thinking of how different the game would’ve been from the perspective of a female reporter instead of a male.
Many would argue with me that this doesn’t necessarily matter, given Outlast is a first-person survival horror game and the protagonist has been silent both times, but the NPCs still refer to and react to you as a male. The Groom in particular comes to mind; how different would the last half of the DLC be if the whistleblower that Gluskin was chasing after was a woman who didn’t require the unorthodox surgery he was administering on his fellow patients?
Or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference at all; the guy is the definition of deranged and his case files didn’t give me the impression he was really out to get married anyway, despite all his rambling declarations of love and devotion. Isn’t that just like a man?
Expand the inventory system, but leave weapons out of it
A lot of the terror in the game came from being entirely unable to defend yourself. You literally had three choices – run, hide, or die. Adding weapons to the game would remove that entirely, and in doing so, would remove an aspect of what made Outlast so special.
While I’m all on board for the protagonist being thrown into the deep end of the pool without floaties, I would like to see the inventory system expanded. Item pickups, or even mini in-game fetch quests like what Bloodborne had; maybe retrieving that suspiciously crusty stuffed teddy for that lunatic will yield a key – that sort of thing.
Choose another popular horror setting to keep the theme going
I love asylum settings for horror games and movies, and I always have. But given Outlast 2 is meant to be breaking away from the first one and not having much (if any) correlation with it, I would like to see Red Barrels set the sequel to Outlast in an entirely different setting.
Maybe in a small, abandoned town in the middle of the woods with a quarry and industrial area? Give us different areas to explore; we were cooped up in the asylum for the duration of the first game, after all. Or maybe a hotel, a la The Shining, if you want to maintain that air of claustrophobia and helplessness. Just… for the love of God, not outerspace, please.
Branch out from the linear story-telling, and have multiple endings
Outlast‘s story was fantastic, but it was linear. You only had one ending, and nothing you did throughout the game affected the outcome. It would be interesting to see Red Barrels introduce different game mechanics, taking a leaf out of Silent Hill‘s book in that the subtle things you do throughout the game affect how it ends for you.
If anything, it would add to replayability, and that can never go amiss, right? If we’re keeping the camcorder, maybe how much we film affects whether people believe us when (if) we get out alive and tell people about the things we’ve seen?
And last, but definitely not least – bring back the Walrider
This is going into spoiler territory and on the off chance you haven’t played Outlast yet, I won’t elaborate. If you have, though, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Give us closure there, and maybe even take the opportunity to bring back a familiar… err, face.
Is Outlast 2 out yet?