Review: The Outlast Trials


Posted on March 8, 2024 by Victor Tan

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  • 8/10
    - 8/10
8/10

Summary

The Outlast Trials takes its bone-chilling horror and extends it to a multiplayer aspect. The series retains its horror roots that scare you at every turn. Completing missions also makes you feel like you are improving, giving you goals to work towards. However, part of the fear is dampened when you realize that failure isn’t as painful as it used to be. Missions also take a long time, subtly encouraging you to play with friends.

Developer – Red Barrels

Publisher – Red Barrels

Platforms – PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC (reviewed)

Review copy given by publisher

The Outlast series is known for its bone-chilling horror, with danger lurking around the corner. The environments are dark, the enemies are relentless, and your weakness is obvious. Yet you cannot turn away because your objective is around the corner. Unlike other Outlast games, you aren’t some helpless individual hoping that danger goes away. If you play your cards right, you become a force to be reckoned with, completing objectives while stealthily moving past your enemies.

The Outlast Trials takes a step towards multiplayer horror by giving you a quick tutorial. You have been taken from the streets after responding to an ad. After being registered as a patient in a strange clinic, you must find your way out. Along the way, you are exposed to the series’ signature horror as you are helpless to defend yourself against incoming threats. Fortunately, you aren’t as helpless as before which is a double-edged sword in many ways.

Using the cover of darkness or hiding in certain locations isn’t new, but you can now distract enemies with glass bottles. Health medicines and batteries for your night vision are everywhere, letting you survive and plan. It’s possible to find ways to trick your enemies and stay safe. Even as you achieve various objectives, you can remain brave and confident, not letting your enemies scare you.

On one hand, it’s great to see that you can turn the tables on your enemies. You don’t have to let the jump scares and creepy environments get you down. Even their constant hunting and beatings don’t discourage you from achieving your goals. On the other, it does diminish the horror experience because you don’t have to be afraid. This is especially true if you learn how to use the rigs you obtain, which give you special abilities to make things easier.

However, it’s not an easy stroll in the park. You have to complete objectives that take you into dangerous locations that are trapped. While seemingly innocuous, you quickly learn that you are being stalked by an invincible enemy. You aren’t expected to be successful at first, but you grow with your experiences. As you learn what to do, you gain experience and become a better participant.

It’s great to see that failure isn’t the end of the world in a horror game. While failure is expected in any survival horror title, it usually means you would redo everything from the beginning. The Outlast Trials gives you something even if it is a small amount of experience. As you get better at avoiding enemies and start completing more objectives, you start growing and getting your buffer against the horrors.

This is especially true when the horrors include crazy enemies with a variety of effects. One has a stun baton, another rapidly drains your sanity, and a third has a drill hook puppet. The environments are dark, dreary, and bloody. It’s never clear what is or isn’t harmful to you. Sometimes surprises occur when you least expect them. The Outlast Trials does not hold back on the fear factor, which makes player growth and buffer significant. You grow as a player and see your progress, which encourages you to dive back into the horrors and learn how to master it.

One part of the game that is also a double-edged sword is the mission length. Completing objectives by yourself is a daunting task not just because of the enemies, but because there are several objectives. It’s possible to take around an hour per game just to complete everything, even more, if you are unlucky.

The duration serves to ramp up the horror because you aren’t done just because something went right. Threats are always around the corner and you can never let your guard down. But because you are in games that are built for multiplayer, there’s no good way to pause. Searching for areas you can hide in or empty rooms becomes your only way to get a break. Quitting the game also undoes your progress, forcing you to start all over again.

While the difficulty and length go down if you are working with others, it does feel like a misstep. Players aren’t going to be good at The Outlast Trials and the option to run solo missions exists. Multiplayer games can’t be paused for a good reason but solo games should have a pause option. Otherwise, it becomes a slog when you try to finish a mission and get close, but are too fatigued to keep going.

Having multiple players in a game also makes things easier because you can split tasks. Someone can be a “sacrificial” rabbit that distracts enemies while everyone else gets the job done. You can coordinate rigs to use abilities when it’s necessary. There are several strategies you can pursue but it also lowers the horror factor since you aren’t alone.

Part of Outlast’s appeal as a horror game was the sense that you are alone in a dangerous place. Having allies is comforting and refreshing, but also not as scary. Missions are completed quickly, enemies are avoided, and the game goes on even if someone falls. Multiplayer is enjoyable but it feels like the horror experience is duller because you’re not alone.

However, the horror experience is great when you are first starting out. There may be ways to dull the experience and make it more manageable. But nothing scares you more than the thought of a threat lurking around the corner. Even when you don’t see anyone, that doesn’t mean you are safe. The Outlast Trials delivers that masterfully, even with a few bumps.

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