Thinking about Outlast 2

At the time of its release, I truly did not expect that Outlast would become one of my favorite games of 2013. Combining stunning visuals, a questionable intimacy with derangement, and quality scares, French Canadian developer Red Barrels have established themselves as experts in the horror genre with the release of their first game, Outlast.

Whistleblower, Outlast‘s expansion released recently and with its end comes a desire for more. It’s no secret that Red Barrels is looking into developing a true sequel to Outlast; based on Whistleblower‘s ending (along with the main game’s), we can expect the fallout of Mount Massive Asylum to be pretty significant.

This brings me to the article’s namesake: Where does Outlast go from here, and what are some things I hope to see from a sequel? Let’s think about it, shall we?

Story

Outlast has a fairly straightforward story on the surface: you’re a guy stuck in an asylum for the criminally insane that have been experimented on by an evil corporation to make them even more insane. Where Outlast‘s story shines with promise is the background information found within the game’s notes. The Murkoff Corporation’s desire to create nanomachine sentience came from decades of research, greed and nazi-occult origins. Murkoff wasn’t going to win any awards for humanitarianism, that’s for sure, and their research – like in any good horror story involving scientific experimentation- backfired on them.

What I’d like to see from Outlast 2 is a much more story driven game. Outlast‘s narrative is effective in driving players from point to point, but it’s not exactly compelling stuff. Outlast 2 would greatly benefit from characterizations not only from psychopaths, but also the protagonist and supporting characters.

Regardless of how Red Barrels’ approaches the story of Outlast 2, whether they include a new protagonist, the return of Waylon, or even Miles, the silent protagonist shtick only works for so long and has its limitations. Personally, I wouldn’t mind the protagonist having a personality this time around instead of being a shell for the player. I understand the immersive potential of a silent protagonist – allowing the player themselves to do the reacting, but a few lines of dialogue wouldn’t break relatability with the playable character.

The Murkoff Corporation’s Morphogenic Engine and the Walrider project was a success – unfortunately for them. Journalist Miles Upshur witnessed the horrors of the asylum and this led him to becoming the host of the Walrider: Murkoff’s experimentation with sentient nanomachines.

Waylon Park, former Murkoff employee and star of Whistleblower, escaped the asylum with a story to tell the world. Miles, too, escaped the confines of Murkoff’s heinous research facility and with him the potential to recreate the nightmare he so sought to expose.

For the same sort of chaos to unfold in Outlast 2 as it did in the first game, the Walrider is going to have to affect another population of people. If Miles has any influence over the Walrider – which he may have considering Billy allowed Doctor Wernicke to live when he was its host and Mile’s saving Waylon from being killed by Jeremy Blaire at the end of Whistleblower – then perhaps we can expect a visit to another Murkoff facility; a place ravaged by Wal-Miles’ revenge. Would Outlast 2 take place in another asylum? I doubt it will, and I don’t think it should.

Horror

With the success of Outlast, it is my hope that the sequel will be bigger in scope, but do nothing to lessen its survival horror aspects. It’s important that Outlast 2 retains the feel of the original with a story that focuses on the dangerous implications of having the Walrider released into the world.

Within Mile’s personal notes it was suggested that the Walrider’s presence began affecting his mind, taking its toll and leading him to insanity. This was not fully explored within the game and I believe it’s just what Outlast 2 could use to differentiate itself from the first game and Whistleblower.

Psychological horror within Outlast 2 would allow Red Barrels to ramp up the type of scares seen in the game by no longer being constrained by plausibility.

Outlast features a lot of jump scares, well done jump scares, but there comes a time where a series of surprise “boos” begin to feel old and unexciting. A psychological aspect to Outlast 2 would mean that Red Barrels could incorporate some subtlety and a higher level of imagination to the scares.

What I personally find far more effective than something jumping out at you is the fear of one’s self. Playing as a character that’s losing their grip on sanity allows Red Barrels to do far more in terms of creative scares. In a series like Silent Hill, the world around the player ranges from the standard dilapidated building to abstract and impossible architecture with strange paths and and turns. Giving Red Barrels’ talented artists free reign to design environments that do not have to adhere to reality would be effective in scaring the player in surprising new ways.

Gameplay

Outlast‘s gameplay is simple and functional, and I don’t think it will need to be overhauled extensively, just tweaked enough that more variety can be found in its sequel. For starters, I have seen complaints regarding the game’s stealth mechanics becoming too repetitive, and had the game been longer, I too could have seen it become an issue.

Due to the game’s no-combat nature, running and hiding from threats is a necessity. Outlast’s enemies must be avoided in order to remain alive, and there are all but a few ways to escape from foes: hiding under beds or hiding in closets. What Outlast 2 could do is ramp up the stealth aspects and incorporate some means for its protagonist to not only stay out of the line of sight, but also misdirect.

The AI of enemies in Outlast behave much like heat-seeking missiles. Once a target is seen, they take chase only stopping when the target is out of the line of sight. If enemy AI is improved to include more states of awareness, then mechanics like misdirection via a thrown item or distracting sound could be added to the game, further expanding the game’s stealth aspects.

As for the game’s main tool: the video camera, I don’t think that Outlast 2 should change its use all too much, but, perhaps, include more points in the game where the camera’s reliability is at risk, whether that be a result of psychological or physical interference. For example, traversing an area that appears different through the camera and through the player’s eyes. This could work with environmental “puzzles” as well.

And that’s about all I can really say about what I want from Outlast 2. In the end, the sequel will in the hands of Red Barrels, but I do very much hope for the best from it. If there was one thing I’d really like to see, it would be a psychological aspect; there are many ways the developer can go with that path, in terms of both level design and horror.

So, what do you want from Outlast 2?

               
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COMMENTS

  • Regine

    To be honest I don’t think that outlast 2 should have a protagonist that speaks. Think of it this way. How scared would the players be if the protagonist of the game is always commenting on something even remotely scary? Not at all. Also Miles and Waylon might not have spoken at all during the game but that doesn’t mean that they were just shell like characters. The players were able to see both characters personality through the notes that they both wrote. Like Miles. If you read every note he writes then it’s obvious that he has a sense of humor, dark as it was but it’s still there. And the players find out that Waylon was a devoted husband in the beginning but as Whistleblower started to end he becomes more focused on himself and getting Murkoff. I’m not saying that your article isn’t good but the tiny stuff does make a huge difference. Lol that was too long…

    • Jai

      “To be honest I don’t think that outlast 2 should have a protagonist that
      speaks.”

      That’s because you’re a moron. Sorry, but I’m so sick of developers catering to people like you who just don’t understand what good horror and good storytelling is.

      “Think of it this way. How scared would the players be if the
      protagonist of the game is always commenting on something even remotely
      scary? Not at all.”

      What the hell are you babbling about? Since when does a character SPEAKING remove the ability to feel fear? Alien Isolation alone blows your whole ‘theory’ out of the water.

      I personally find it LESS scary when the protagonists don’t speak, for the simple reason that it reminds me I’m playing a videogame, that the character isn’t real, believable or relatable, and therefore pulls me out of the entire experiences. This is why (most of the time) ‘silent protagonists’ suck, and are a terrible idea in videogames, and boggles my mind that developers are still using them because people like YOU make them think it’s a good idea.

      “Also Miles and Waylon might not have spoken at all
      during the game but that doesn’t mean that they were just shell like
      characters.”

      Actually, it does. That’s exactly what it means. A believable character with depth does not choose to remain silent throughout a horrifying experience. Characters that don’t speak and just make guttural noises are EXACTLY what ‘shell like’ characters are. It’s lazy writing and storytelling.

      “The players were able to see both characters personality
      through the notes that they both wrote. Like Miles. If you read every
      note he writes then it’s obvious that he has a sense of humor, dark as
      it was but it’s still there. And the players find out that Waylon was a
      devoted husband in the beginning but as Whistleblower started to end he
      becomes more focused on himself and getting Murkoff.”

      If the only way to get a sense of a character is by reading multitudes of in-game text documents, then that’s a badly executed character. Sorry, it just is. Outlast could have been an amazing horror experience and a great narrative driven game, but because of their decision to go with a silent protagonist it is almost impossible to empathise with the main character and take seriously any of the events of the game.

      “I’m not saying that
      your article isn’t good but the tiny stuff does make a huge difference.”

      I AM saying your comment isn’t good, and the tiny stuff does indeed make a huge difference – having a character that speaks is a tiny thing that would make the game a lot scarier. Having a silent protagonist makes it less scary. Done.

  • Robert C.

    I honestly just want outlast 2, as stated above there is so much more freedom now, especially with the miles-wallrider character, it should make for an interesting game.

  • CRAYZ33T

    I agree with Regine, look at the character narration in Daylight, that was annoying. “Is somebody there?”

    • Colton

      Yeah i agree.

  • Colton

    I just really want an outlast 2 but instead females to chase you. Dont you think having them scream would be even more intense? Every place in outlast 1 would be part of the male ward. I think two should explore the female ward! But the wallrider would be miles.

    • Samuel Bellomo

      I don’t own this picture

      • Samuel Bellomo

        I think it might answer your question

      • Colton

        Awesome! Thanks man! How did u get this picture/screenshot?

        • Samuel Bellomo

          I got this picture off the outlast wiki thats wh I said I dont own these pictures.

  • I would love to play as an anti-hero, or someone who is struggling with something deep, like mental illness, or drug abuse. I also thing there should be puzzles, not like those “solve the code to get to the next room” puzzles, but like things where you have to set up a trap so you don’t get killed.by someone around the corner. I also think too much speech would reduce the scariness of what they are seeing, like if some cannibal is eating something it would be dumb if the main character asked “What are you eating?” But if someone is attempting to kill you and they are muttering about some hallucination, you should be given the chance to calm them down by choosing one of a few automated responses, or you can type the message you want to convey, or you could have the constant option to speak, but you can only talk if you choose to do so. I would also love to be able to try to distract a killer by throwing a rock or creating a diversion. But my biggest hope is playing as multiple people, like playing as Waylon Park sometimes, but also play as his wife or kids, also playing as another person would be cool, and at the end you should be able to play as Miles Upshur trying to stop WALRIDER from taking over his mind completely. Also I think it should take place on a much larger scale, like a whole city or state that has been taken over by WALRIDER and some very crazy loyal subjects that have created other monsters similar to WALRIDER, because at the end Dr. Wernicke said that this would spread if Miles didn’t stop it.Plus it would be awesome to have a couple small jump scares spread out into a lot of psychological horror with scary things that don’t jump out, but are everywhere, and then foreboding stuff about something horrible got more and more common until you see who or what caused it. And being able to choose to fight a certain enemy if you have very limited defensive resources would be cool. And the only problem i have with the original Outlast is when you have to go on a long mission to find 3 things. I mean having to go on a very short trip to find one or two things would be alright if those times were used rarely, but having to go get things all the time takes away the fear of what might come next in the main story. However, if the same people who were in charge of the original OUTLAST and OUTLAST: WHISTLEBLOWER are in charge of the next addition to the series, even if they don’t do everything that we’ve recommended, I still have faith that they will make it a great game.

    • Regine

      Basically the Evil Within right? Because that is basically what you just described. Lol NEWS FLASH! Outlast 2 is being developed~~

  • Nicholas

    Yes they did! Miles talked when Target was wheeling him off to the room where Target proceeded to chop Mile’s index finger and ring finger. Miles says, “kill me.. kill me.” For proof watch the game movie with subtitles, skip to the traced part and you’ll see!

    • LivPlayerJ

      Sry but no he didnt

  • Nicholas

    Waylon didn’t talk though. You were right about that.

  • Jai

    I absolutely agree regarding the whole ‘silent protagonist’ thing. Silent protagonists suck, seriously, they are a terrible idea, I don’t know why devs keep thinking they make their games more ‘immersive’ – they don’t. All the do is remind us that the character is just a character, that they’re unbelievable, that we’re playing a videogame, and therefore makes it impossible to empathise or relate to the character or take the game world seriously.
    They make games LESS immersive.

    The only two games I’ve played where ‘silent protagonists’ actually worked were the Half Life games – which were the first narrative driven games that did a silent protagonist (and by extension, the Portal games) – and Bioshock, which feels like it doesn’t work in the first half but turns out there’s a very good reason WHY your character doesn’t speak in the second half (when you get to the ‘WYK?’ bit…;) ). EVERY other game has suffered because of a silent protagonist: Dead Space 1, Metro 2033, Dishonoured, Outlast – the list is endless. All those games felt more unrealistic than they needed to.

    This whole crap about how a ‘silent protagonist’ makes the game more ‘immersive’ because “You ARE the character, maaaan!” is exactly that: crap. It only works if all the OTHER characters are mute, too – but if all the other characters are talkative, having conversations with each other, and they’re supposed to be having conversations with you, but your character is just standing there like a lemon and not speaking back – it just reminds the player that what they’re seeing is not believable or realistic, it actually makes it feel LESS like we ‘are the character’.

    I really hope devs wake up and realize that silent protagonists only work when they’re done RIGHT, and that just slapping one in a game does not automatically ‘presto’ it into a more ‘immersive’ experience.

    And I hope they start with Outlast 2.

  • steropas

    saw the ending of the demo outlast 2 blake dies maybe we later play as lynn cause of that which if it is the case i dont wanna be harsh but i hate it

    • LivPlayerJ

      Blake doesnt actually die. They are going to change the demo like they did for the first game. In the original demo for outlast miles got his head ripped off by walker which ended the demo. The actual game ended very differently

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