The Outlast Trials Review – Don’t Go Alone

The Outlast Trials on Xbox Series S

It has been over 10 years since Outlast began horrifying gamers with its creepy stealth horror gameplay and bone-shattering jumpscares. This latest instalment is the first Outlast game to include a multiplayer option. Well, I say “option” but going into the Trials without a team is not for the faint-hearted.

The last time I played Outlast was in the summer of 2014, so I had a bit of an idea of what to expect. Of course, this doesn’t mean you must play previous Outlast games before trying The Outlast Trials, far from it. The game’s intro gives you a good sense of what you are getting yourself into anyway: dark, disorienting, violent, and disturbing, all the good stuff you would want from a psychological horror. I had quite forgotten just how horrific Outlast could be and couldn’t wait to begin! How naive.

A disembodied voice whispers nasty things into your headset as the game loads but whatever, I’ve heard worse things from my eighth grade math teacher. After a bit of light kidnapping and a touch of grotesque torture, you wake up in a cell with a bed. In the corner is a TV which flashes phrases like NO GOD, FREE YOURSELF, and TRIALS ARE SALVATION. After looking around it becomes clear that this is to be your home for the foreseeable future.

outlast-trials
Image Source: Red Barrels

You can decorate this one-meter-square cell with all the homely decor you desire as long as you have the funds. The decor is fine, but as you won’t be spending your time in the cell there isn’t much point.

The Director’s voice comes through the radio sounding smooth and trying hard to be reassuring, but it is as comforting as a teddy bear stuffed with razor blades. You can customize your character in the mirror above the sink but the customization has no bearing on the game. I guess it just gives your teammates something to look at while they attempt to revive you later. Everything substantially cosmetic, like outfits and new packs or decor, costs money which is earned by completing Trials and Challenges. 

When searching the options I noticed that many of the female faces look weirdly childlike. Not sure how I feel about the fact the female faces look like young boys, even when you give them different hair, but no matter. You don’t get to see yourself very often anyway. Just choose something to suitably impress the creatures hunting you. They should have something pretty to look at while they choke the life out of you.

The Outlast Trials
Image Source: Red Barrels

You enter a Trial at the Terminal. If you are lucky enough to have friends, you can go as a team of up to four. If you are brave enough you can choose to go solo. With no friends playing Outlast Trials, and no one on the server, I had to start my Outlast Trials experience alone.

The facility’s ‘therapy’ is all under the guise of finding a “better you” and your “rebirth”. The whole time you will feel like something terrible is heading your way. The Trials and MK Challenges are designed to “maximize your mental and physical health”. To be fair, my FitBit registered the playtime as a fat-burning session more than once.

It is safe to assume the first trial is the easiest. It is a trial by fire, or you could say it is a trial by electrocution, poisoning, and bludgeoning. You get a few small hints on how to use items but that’s it. On my first attempt, a giant meaty weirdo chased me around as I scrambled for any weapon I could find. As I inevitably became injured and had to get my hands on some meds, the lock-pick mini-game to open the med kit box almost killed me with electric shocks. It can be pretty terrifying when you are one mis-click away from death.

You start with three respawns, so three attempts at getting through the trial in one piece. Little did I know that the Break For Emergency boxes on the wall contained an extra respawn. So desperate was I to not make any extra noise that I ignored these completely during my first attempts. If you are trying to complete these Trials alone, I highly recommend smashing every one of these you find!

outlast trials trailer
Image Source: Red Barrels

On my first go, I failed when I was almost at the end. After an hour of hiding, screaming, and desperately trying to find meds, I died while trying to open a garage door by what I can only assume was a sadistic guard with, let’s say, an electrifying personality.

On my second attempt, I died within literally a button’s press away from completing the trial. And yes, it was at the hands of that damn cattle-prod-loving psycho. He’s tenacious, I’ll give him that. By my third attempt, I had learned the routes each enemy took and the best way to outrun them. It soon becomes clear that the more you play, the better you play and the easier it becomes to outwit and outrun the clumsy and, at times, easily distracted enemies.

The graphics are top-tier. I could almost feel the blood and viscera as it rained down upon me. The detail is perhaps too good, as you get vividly tea-bagged by a giant mutant while he bludgeons you to death. At times, it does feel like The Outlast Trials is trying too hard to be shocking. It soon becomes less frightening and more silly. The sadistic mutants become predictable but this doesn’t detract from the fun of it all.

When I eventually managed to join other players, the game became a whole new experience. Playing with a team, you get a unique experience I haven’t had with other multiplayer horror games. You fight over hiding spaces, try to outrun each other, and have to remind one another that your survival requires coordination and communication. With no actual weapons, it becomes clear that your team will rely on each other to survive the Trial.

In the future, I hope for a polish-up of the AI, more levels to attempt, and hopefully more monsters! The Outlast Trials is unique in the way it manages to create a heady mix of stressful, gross and riotous. It needs a bit of work, but right now it is a whole lot of intense fun that can only get better with future updates.

4

Outlast Trials

At times, it does feel like Outlast Trials is trying too hard to be shocking. It soon becomes less frightening and more silly. The sadistic mutants become predictable but this doesn’t detract from the fun of it all. When playing with a team you get a unique experience I haven’t had with other multiplayer horror games.

Pros

  • Excellent graphics
  • Tense horror
  • Riotous fun
  • Unique gameplay

Cons

  • Difficult as a solo player
  • Enemies become predictable
  • More variety in levels needed

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on Xbox.

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