The Outlast Trials is a terrifying multiplayer FPS game where players must solve puzzles while avoiding psychotic fanatics that would make Leatherface blush. Developed by Red Barrels and a prequel to Outlast and Outlast 2, the horror survival title will shock and delight players.
I love horror and seldom find myself thinking that a film or game title “takes it too far.” After all, in a genre invented to shock, it’s a tall feat for a project to subvert my expectations enough to scare or surprise me. But, I — just like a lot of gamers, was thoroughly scared playing The Outlast Trials. And maybe I wouldn’t take it so far as to say that the game goes “too far,” but I will say that it does go places that I haven’t seen any other game go in quite a while.
It’s Gross and Gorey
For some people, the header of this section of my review is a plus; for others, it’s a negative. If you find yourself falling more into that latter category, The Outlast Trials is not for you. Not only will you be shocked at the level of unfiltered gore in the game, but there is also nudity and sexuality, and all of this is mixed up in a grotesque freakshow that’s often pretty disturbing to behold.
Pretty much every part of the game, down to the simplest portions like “find a key,” have the player digging in the entrails of desiccated corpses to retrieve said key. If you’re the type to have more conservative proclivities when it comes to your game content, you might want to pass on this one.
For someone like me, I loved it. Most of the time, I just stared in awe at the fleshy feast before my eyes. And while you think this would feel forced or artificial, the game keeps you engaged enough and builds out a world around you that makes the increasingly gory scenarios feel plausible.
Why is it Always a Generator?
The gameplay in The Outlast Trial is pretty fun. The setup is you, along with up to three teammates, must complete a series of increasingly difficult missions that involve solving puzzles while avoiding monstrous mutants roaming the level. Many of these puzzles are more easily solved by utilizing teamwork, which diverges from the franchise’s previous single-player titles.
Like other horror games of the ilk, players can hide in cabinets, under beds, and in other locations while using a variety of different items to keep them sane and in full health. However, there is limited inventory space, with only three available slots, which adds to the multiplayer element as everyone can equip items to share with the group.
There were times early on when I was completely confused as to what to do to advance in the game, and playing alone can be brutal. While I’m on that point — The Outlast Trials is meant to be a multiplayer game. If you really want to give yourself a challenge, you can try stealthing around and beating the game’s Chapters alone, but when I did that, it prolonged mission times to around 2 hours — not totally fun when most of it is spent hiding in the corner. Luckily, the in-game group finding system worked most of the time for me, and I got to meet some hilarious folks that made my day.
Might Not Be As Scary as Previous Titles
Yes, I’ll admit that this section of the review is pretty strange, considering the title, but hear me out.
Multiplayer games are inherently less scary than single-player experiences. And while I’ve heard a lot in the community say some of that pacing in this one is worse than the others, I’m not sure I totally agree.
The way single-player games are played is completely different. You may be alone in your den or living room with headphones late at night with no one to talk to when playing a single-player experience. This increases the feeling of apprehension, as you have no one to talk to take the tension off.
While some people are completionists, I know I’m much more likely to play a single-player game once through and then put it back. The game’s repetitive nature, leveling, and chapter selection system inherently make the game feel more like an arcade game than a single-player narrative, and I think that was the goal.
You can’t tell me hiding in a closet while a burnt-faced experiment slams open the locker right next to you or a psychotic gas-masked clown intent on filling you with toxic gas is not scary. And yes, while some of these thrills lose their luster after the 3rd or 4th playthrough of a chapter, that initial rush and fear were definitely there, at least for me and the guys I played through — as I’ve never heard such high-pitched squeals from a bunch of what I’m pretty sure were fully adult men. The one criticism I’ll give here is I do wish there were more diverse enemies on each level. Adding unique enemies depending on the level you’re on could help with game diversity.
Can’t Wait to See Where it Goes
For an early access title, The Outlast Trials does a lot right. You could tell a sufficient amount of bug testing was put into the game before it was released on Steam. The game feels polished and I never really experienced any performance issues.
The sound design is great, the graphics are realistic and immersive, if not sometimes a bit over the top — and it feels more complete than many other titles currently out as full releases.
There is already a seasonal map that will change throughout the year, giving players a reason to come back, and there’s enough to do inside the title to justify the price tag. The gameplay is fun and engaging, the scares are there, the story is compelling, and the game’s performance feels good. I would very much recommend The Outlast Trials, especially if you’re a fan of horror and have three buddies to play with.
The Outlast Trials Early Access Review
The Outlast Trials is a scary good time that is best spent with a group of friends. Solve puzzles, avoid psychotic maniacs, and stomach the sometimes over-the-top gore in this solid early-access FPS horror survival title.
The Outlast Trials is available on Steam.
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Reviewed on PC.