In The Outlast Trials I was gagged and taken into an operating room. A man with severely lacerated limbs is seen to my right as a doctor crushes his skull. A surgeon uses a circular saw to open the skulls of another patient. As I look ahead, a nurse approaches and informs me that the Murkoff Corporation obtained my public and private information. Then, she injects something strange into my eye. A nurse and a assistant join her, whose apron is more suited for an abattoir rather than a hospital. They drill into my skull, forcing me to wear a night vision headset. The Outlast Trials will make you decide if you are interested in the horror genre.
Outlast 2 and Outlast 2 were both psychological survival horror video games with high-intensity, first-person gameplay that took very few hits. But The Outlast Trials is a different story. Very It was thick right from the beginning. There is so much! Jumpscares, blood and gore. The third outing from Red Barrels’ scare ’em up series isn’t due until later this year, but, after going hands-on with its most recent closed beta, both its single and multiplayer features have sunk their hooks into me already – more than any game has this year since Elden Ring.
Fast and furious
This is something I do not lightly say. There are many great horror games in the future. It is scary. Silent Hill 2, Dead Space 4, Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil4 are just a few examples of classic horror games being remade in the coming months. Killer Frequency and The Devil in Me will also be available before the end 2022. And while The Outlast Trials isn’t doing anything revolutionary per se, what it is doing – at this point, at least – it’s doing very well.
The Outlast Trials was inspired by its series predecessors. There are also hints of Silent Hill and Left 4 Dead. BioShock is also a part of the mix. It’s bold, aggressive, and bloody unsettling. There are more crazed stalkers than you can shake a bunch of batteries at, as well as innocuous hiding spots. Everything about the twisted Cold War-era test site setting was designed to accelerate its gruesome and wanton violence. It seems that any previous restraints or consideration for horror tropes have been completely abandoned. Expect bloodthirsty medical professionals who’ve lost their marbles, myriad creatures who jump out at every turn, creepy mannequins, malfunctioning animatronics, porcelain dolls with spinning heads – and that’s in the tutorial alone.
The Outlast Trials really opens once you have this. Players can have their own rooms-meets cells in the hub area. There are also multiplayer features, such as arm wrestling, that make it easy to keep them entertained. Although this particular activity was not worth the effort during closed beta, I could not say if it or other pursuits would be more interesting once full release. What was far more interesting, however, was the Trial Board – a job board-like terminal where players can jump into self-contained missions of varying difficulty, either in single-player mode or in four-player co-op. Each equipped with ‘Rig’ abilities to aid one another out in the field – such as ‘X-Ray’, that lets you spot enemies through walls; and ‘Heal’ that delivers area-of-effective health recovery – I jumped into a mission titled ‘Kill the Snitch’ with three others.
Keep your style clean
This will likely be the opening mission of The Outlast Trials. I won’t reveal the details, but it is my guess. What I will say, though, is scrambling around the same space with three others while being chased by a hulking, chain-laden prison escapee, a mind-altering drug-shooting plague doctor, and a T-1000-alike copper armed with an electrified cattle prod, while you and your new pals try to restore power to multiple generators and search for keys sewn into the flesh of the recently deceased is… exhausting. It’s also great fun! Red Barrels’ willingness to challenge their own series is admirable. In a world where horror games are re-treading old paths or moving slowly from the shadows carved by the legends almost 20 years back, it is refreshing. Outlast has been about keeping players on edge of their seats, and the few times I’ve played The Outlast Trials, it seems that the seat is no longer necessary.
Is this the golden age of horror movies that can last? This question was asked earlier this year, considering the number of fantastic horror games we have received or can expect to receive in the coming weeks and/or months. While time will answer that question, The Outlast Trials suggests it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The better question is whether or not The Outlast Trials can sustain itself. My hour of play was a blur. I think that maintaining this pace will be the biggest challenge in the game. The Outlast Trials are still due before the end, but I’m sure we’ll find the answer sooner than expected.
These are the best horror games We are awake now, keeping our eyes open at night.