In 2013, Montreal based independent development studio, Red Barrels dropped a gameplay trailer for a survival horror game on YouTube. The 4-minute long trailer featured an intensely gripping chase sequence through the blood-smeared corridors, claustrophobic prison wards, and dark, looming hallways of asylum, with a good old jumpscare at the end, that got everyone on the internet talking.
This game was Outlast, which has become quite the sensation since its release, simply because of its unique gameplay experience. The plot follows the protagonist: Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist, who after receiving a mysterious message from an unknown source, finds himself in the bowels of Mount Massive Asylum. He is chased by its crazed inmates as he tries to unravel the secrets hidden deep within the facility.
The gameplay involves playing cat-and-mouse with the many horrors if the asylum. The player cannot fight back against the inmates and can only run and hide, with a camcorder and its night-vision feature as their only weapon. Resourcefulness is key, as one must use the camcorder judiciously lest its battery runs out. Later, a DLC was released titled Outlast Whistleblower which is just as scary if not scarier than the original. It delves deeper into the secrets of the asylum and its sinister origins.
In 2015, Red Barrels dropped the first teaser to a sequel, and eventually released gameplay footage. Upon its release in 2017, it received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. The story follows the protagonist, another investigative journalist, whose helicopter crashes into the untamed wilderness of Arizona. He must rescue his wife from the crazed cultists and heretics who inhabit the place, before escaping from their clutches.
The essential gameplay elements are the same as those of the prequel. The camcorder returns with its night-vision feature and also comes with a handy microphone. A new inventory system is introduced that allows one to view the number of batteries and bandages that one currently possesses. As most of the game takes place outdoors, it loses some of the cramped and claustrophobic surroundings that made the prequel so effective. The chase sequences felt repetitive and the gameplay depends on trial-and-error most of the time. However, the story was much more psychological and felt much more personal, and dealt with the very ambitious theme of Faith. Overall, Outlast 2 was a worthwhile attempt at building on its prequel and is a worthy successor.
In October last year, a teaser image, titled “Where freedom ends”, was released on Red Barrel’s blog page. Two months later, they would go on to release a poster of their upcoming project, ‘The Outlast Trials’. It will act as a prequel to the two games before and will be set in the same universe but in the Cold War era. The player can play alone or with up to 3 friends. In June, Red Barrel dropped a teaser trailer for the game, that got all the fans excited and terrified at the same time. From the trailer, it is vaguely evident that the theme of mind control experiments will be at the crux. Release dates and platforms for ‘The Outlast Trials’ are yet to be announced, although a 2021 release is anticipated.