Article by Derek Brown
Edited by Katie Tarrant
Developer: Red Barrels
Composer: Samuel Laflamme
Sound Designer: Francis Brus
Reviewed on: Steam
First things first, I’m a bubble blowin’ baby. Horror games and I have had a rocky relationship to say the least. I’m a jumpy, shouty creature and they tend to poke me in all the right places. That being said, I LOVE them. Whether it’s watching a ‘Let’s Play’ through my fingers or bouncing up and down in my chair on my own, horror games hold a special place in my heart.
Outlast II puts you in the shoes of investigative journalist Blake Langermann who, along with his wife Lynn, journey to the Arizona desert to investigate the murder of an unknown pregnant woman. Upon approaching the location of the woman’s disappearance, their helicopter crashes and the two become separated. Blake is thrust into a world of countless horrors as he attempts to navigate a cultist village and rescue his wife.
Subtlety is the name of the game in Outlast, ethereal ambiences that put you on edge, nuanced stabs that push you off; Francis Brus’ sound design complimented the score wonderfully. Your camcorder is an important part of the game, allowing you to see in the dark as well as record key moments in the story. This time however, it comes equipped with a microphone that allows you to ‘hear’ through walls. A very helpful tool when hiding and trying to find your opening to run for your life. All sound is silenced to focus on the audio on the other side of the wall, which is distorted and sometimes garbled, making you lean in to better hear what’s being said. The interface of the camera itself is very pleasing and sounds ‘safe’. A sigh of relief when you shove a new battery in and sight is restored. The bleeping of a dying battery makes your heart palpitate and you panic to find a fresh one.
The Foley in Outlast is well mixed and sounds true to the visuals on screen. You become very aware of what noises you are making and worry who will hear it. The sounds you hear in the other room are terrifying and well placed within the world. Stuff is happening all around you and the sound design reflects that. Doors opening and closing, random footsteps or creaks that have no owners. The creaks in the floorboard are convincing, satisfying and keep me on edge.
While most the Foley and design is stellar, I found some bits to be a bit lackluster. One gripe would be with the footsteps, they occasionally have a ‘clip clop’ sound to them depending on what material you are on. On the raft, cascading down the rapids, it was strangely silent and lacking the oar splash that would have satisfied my ear. Ambience is also lacking in that segment, and sometimes you thrust open doors and they merely creak or make no sound at all.
Just as he did with the first game, composer Samuel Laflamme does a phenomenal job at keeping my heart beating at all times. Both the underlying mood setter and the icing on the cake, the score to Outlast is haunting and coarse. Stinging at the right moment and lurking in the dark, I was on high alert throughout my entire play through. Sam’s score growled and hissed its way alongside you as you crawled through the game, providing that continual sense of fear. When it finally let up, it only did so for a split second, allowing you to collect your thoughts but never letting you forget the situation you’re in. There are some points that I wish had more of a punch from the score. *Small spoiler alert* For instance when you are being attacked by Laird and Nick, the score reacts but not in the way that would have made the situation more dire; a lackluster scene in an otherwise terrifying landscape of sound. Another moments was when you’re cascading on the raft, the lack of score made the scene very empty.
I felt the performances of Blake (Shawn Baichoo) and Lynn (Erika Rosenbaum) were well delivered and solid throughout. Blake’s comments on his situation were appropriate and coincide with your own reactions. Every line from Sullivan Noth (Vlasta Vrana) was bone chilling and grandiose. Tamara Brown as Marta and her cold cutting monologues set my hair on end. Additionally, the constant panting of Blake made me have equal shortness of breath. Agony is heard in his voice as you take more damage or exhaust your stamina, and I find this to be a great and obvious touch as some other games lack this sort of detail.
All things considered, I think Outlast 2 is a great addition to the franchise. It makes me jump and yelp like a small dog. Some things are lacking and the controls fight you sometimes (see: yelping) but that didn’t seem to distract from the experience too severely. I think that Outlast 2 is a great addition to any survival horror lovers collection.
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The Sound Architect