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The Outlast Trials review- Creepy cooperative fun

The Outlast Trials review- Creepy cooperative fun

The Outlast Trials is a cooperative horror experience for late-night gaming sessions with friends.

The Outlast Trials is a co-operative horror experience made for late night gaming sessions with friends, but quickly loses its charm if you’re forced to play with randoms, or worse, by yourself.

When I learned the third game in the Outlast series was to be an online survival game, I was admittedly sceptical. As a fan of the first two games, I wasn’t sure multiplayer would be a great fit; what made the originals so terrifying was the isolation you felt being trapped in a dangerous location, with no one to save you from the murderous fiends out for your blood.

Take a look at the spooky trailer for Outlast Trials below

The idea of adding allies to the mix led me to believe it’d take away the effectiveness of the spooks and scares, and I’m pleased to say I was wrong to feel this way. Outlast Trials is horrifying and a fitting continuation that takes the series in a new, fresh direction.

To put it briefly, players create their own character who’s been drafted into a series of experiments that test the resolve of the human mind and body. After a brief introduction cutscene and tutorial which you can skip if you prefer, you’re thrown into an institution that acts as a hub world to select missions from, also known as trials.

These trials are set across a number of different locations, all of which are purpose-built testing grounds for you, the labrats, to explore whilst accomplishing objectives. These objectives typically involve committing an atrocious act in the name of science, like the first trial, which forces you to wheel a snitch through a police station to be electrocuted to death.

Outlast Trials-
Red Barrel

You can play trials solo or with up to three other players, who can be people you know, or randoms. Crossplay is also supported, but was unavailable during my time with the early access version of the game. The environments the developers have put together are all fantastic from what I’ve seen so far. Graphically Outlast has always looked fantastic, and with the power of new-gen hardware Outlast Trials is the prettiest look at the psychosis-filled world so far. I particularly loved how you could see glass windows in various parts of the facilities with scientists on the other side examining your progress and recording your reactions to the horrors you’re being subjected to, in addition to the broken bodies of your fellow test subjects who weren’t lucky enough to escape.

Once you’ve put together your team, or decided to fly solo, you’ll begin a trial and put your survival skills to the test, though not before having an arm wrestle or playing a game of chess, both of which are minigames available in the lobby area which I thought was a nice touch. The trials themselves play out like the previous Outlast games, you’re locked in a building with a series of puzzles and missions to complete before you can leave.

Trial difficulty and complexity scales with the amount of players, like having to switch on two generators in a group of four, whereas two players or less would have to switch on just one. This ensured each game felt fair and didn’t ask too much of the players involved, whilst still providing a decent enough challenge.

Outlast Trials-
Red Barrel

Throughout the missions you’ll be hunted and pursued by a wide range of enemy types. Some are passive, and will wait till you’re nearby to strike you. thers will always be on the move so you constantly feel the need to check your corners and look behind you.

The default enemies are typically rabid attackers with sticks or blades, but each mission features a more memorable antagonist. Highlights include a police officer with a taser, and a woman with a puppet that tries to stab you to death. Some enemies were more intimidating than others, but when it came time to run for my life and I could feel them breathing down my neck as I ran? They all felt equally terrifying.

While you can’t fight back there are a few things you can do to evade them. Enemies can’t see in the dark but you can thanks to your night vision goggles, which have been helpfully screwed into your skull. You can also throw bottles and bricks as distractions or at the enemy directly to stun them, as well as hide inside and under various parts of the environment.

Your character isn’t just vulnerable to physical damage though, you can also be psychologically damaged leading to hallucinations of the Skinner Man. Low-level psychosis will see this spector lunging at you from around corners, which scared the socks off me at times, but if your psychosis becomes too much to bear he’ll become volatile and hunt you down until you’re either dead or can find an item to cure yourself. Because he’s basically in your head no amount of running or hiding will make him lose track of you, making him the most terrifying enemy in the game.

Outlast Trials-
Red Barrel

My overall experience with the trials themselves was good. Outlast games have always excelled at creating an atmosphere and shocking the player with its body horror and Outlast Trials is no exception to that rule. There were several moments where I nearly jumped out of my skin thinking I’d lost my pursuer, only for them to be on the other side of a door I’d opened or emerge from a corner I didn’t see before. That being said, it does become quite easy to evade an enemy once you’ve been spotted since, as terrifying as they look, their AI isn’t very clever.

Difficulty felt pretty inconsistent, as when I played by myself or with my colleague Dan it felt like there was a significant level of challenge and strategy to what we were doing, as usually one of us would have to distract a psycho while the other completed an objective, occasionally meeting up for a job that required two people. When playing in a group of four random players the whole thing felt like a cakewalk. While more players means more objectives to complete before progressing, I didn’t notice an increase in enemies or any change in their behaviour to make them more aggressive. There was even a moment where all four of us stood throwing bottles and bricks at one of the pursuing enemies, completely bullying them to the point they didn’t even feel like a threat anymore.

If I was partied up with three other friends I’d imagine the match would be even easier since we could talk about where we need to go on the map, and while it would probably be great fun and a big laugh to watch one of us get chased down by a giant crazy person I’d say it would take away from the serious horror-tones the game is trying to get across.

Outlast Trials-
Red Barrel

Overall I’d say there are two ways to play Outlast Trials. Either by yourself as just another Outlast game, where you can fully-embrace the horror at the cost of missing out on the cooperative experience, or with a group of friends as the game intends but lose the challenge and spooks you’d typically want from a scary game.Neither is the right or wrong way to play the game, as whichever you enjoy most is likely the reason you’d want to play in the first place. Perhaps some post-launch updates will balance the scales a bit, for with my experience the choice was either authentic horror-experience or silly time with friends.

The Outlast Trials is an example of a beloved series trying something new, and for the most part it works. The trials themselves are enjoyable, with huge maps to explore, memorable psychos to avoid and enough spooks and jumpscares to keep you entertained for a long time. The game is made, and works best, with multiple players in mind, and while that does take away from the overall horror, what replaces it is a barrel full of laughs as you watch your friend get ripped out of a locker and smacked with a big stick, and that’s good enough for me.

Pros: Fresh spin on a renowned horror series, great visuals and atmosphere, escape room-style gameplay fits the series well

Cons: Remarkably easy with multiple players, often sacrifices the horror for cooperative play

For fans of: Outlast, Dead By Daylight, Alien Isolation

7/10: Very Good

The Outlast Trials is available for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5 (version reviewed) and PC. Code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Red Barrels

Topics: Xbox, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PlayStation, PlayStation 5, PC