How I’m Still Scaring Myself: Outlast 1 & 2

I’ve already shared a bit about some of my favorite horror games, but I have so many others. I wanted to clue you in to another fantastic horror series. It’s fast-paced, gory-as-all-get-out, and terrifying from start to finish. I’m talking about Outlast.

The name does the game no favors. To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand the title at all. I suppose you are attempting to “outlast” the crazies who want you dead, but a more evocative moniker might have put this series on my radar sooner. The games themselves are loosely connected, with some shared mythology, but the unifying factor is much more about the way in which the game is presented. In Outlast, you rely heavily on a camcorder to carry you through dark and oppressive environments, using its night vision and microphone to get your bearings. But using your camera drains its battery epically fast. In order to keep yourself from being lost in the dark, you’ll need to both conserve battery by using the camera intelligently, as well as find extra batteries whenever you can. All the while, you’ll be piecing together some truly disturbing stories that will test your characters’ sanity.

Outlast & Whistleblower

The original Outlast hit PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in February of 2014, a few months after its PC release. That’s where I first discovered it, as a free download via the PlayStation Plus program. As I said, the name didn’t evoke any feelings in me, but the creepy cover image, of a monstrous man partially obscured by darkness, piqued my interest. What followed was a marathon gaming session in which I, in several hours, played through the entirety of Outlast in a single sitting, riveted from start to finish. Never before had a game provoked the sensation of fear that Outlast did. It wasn’t so much dread as it was a panicked, fight-or-flight terror. Though you won’t do any fighting; in Outlast, being completely helpless is part of the experience. Hiding under beds or in closets while murderous psychopaths search for you is tense, but even more so is the genuine fear when you’re in an open chase with a maniac hot on your heels. The story, which I won’t spoil, goes in some interesting directions, and it’s cool enough to carry you through the entire experience. The gore factor is incredibly high, including dismemberment and worse, so if you’ve got a weak stomach, find something else to do (that goes for all the games in this series, to be frank).

Now, with Whistleblower, I’m actually still in the middle of playing it now. I missed out on it the first time around, for some reason. But I can say that it maintains the same frantic atmosphere as its parent game, while giving you a closer look at the villainous Murkoff Corporation and the events that led to the tragedy of the first game. And like before, it’s not for the squeamish.

Outlast 2

The first full-fledged sequel hit stores in April of 2017. Seemingly disconnected from the plot of the first game (at least at first), you take control of Blake Langermann who, along with his wife Lynn, is investigating a strange cult that is suspected of murdering a pregnant woman in the wilderness of Arizona. A horrible helicopter crash separates you from Lynn and leads you into the heart of cult country. With only your camera, you set out to rescue your wife from these mountain-dwelling maniacs who, let’s be honest, probably want to kill her. Along the way, you experience a series of playable flashbacks to Blake’s time in Catholic school. Wandering the halls of a place that will feel especially familiar to anyone who attended a religious school (and even to those who didn’t, as the locker-lined hallways look just like any public school) is chilling, especially when you know anything could happen at any time. These flashbacks focus on a tragic event from Blake’s and Lynn’s past, and metaphorically, they tie in nicely with the main story being told in Arizona. The way the game plays with space is incredible, as the transitions from real world to flashback and back again are handled seamlessly. One minute you’re climbing into a tunnel, the next, you find yourself crawling through an air duct in the old school. Or open a door in the cult’s compound and find yourself suddenly in the principal’s office. You never know quite what to expect. The gore factor is amped up once again, and I’ll reiterate once more, this is not for the weak-stomached. If you can handle it, though, Outlast 2 tells a fascinating story about fanaticism, guilt, and shame that can stand up next to almost anything in the horror genre.

The games are all available digitally on the storefronts of every major platform, and a complete physical collection is available for PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.