The Outlast Trials Early Access Review – Terror alone or with friends

The Outlast Trials creates a uniquely terrifying horror that players can experience alone or with friends.
The Outlast Trials Review
Image: Red Barrels

The Outlast games, as far as I’m concerned, are icons of the horror genre. Starting with the original back in 2013, the series has set a standard for horror games that many have tried and few have succeeded in copying. The original trip to the Mount Massive facility was a terrifying experiment in the found footage horror genre that blew up on Youtube and in Steam sales, setting a pretty high standard for further entries to follow.

The Whistleblower DLC was a huge breakaway success, some may argue even more popular than the original Outlast itself. While Outlast 2 is talked about less than the first game and Whistleblower, it is also highly rated and applauded as a horror game, making great use of Outlast’s original formula with some improvements. While Outlast 3 has been announced as a concept, it seems to be far away and only whispered about, leaving us with but one more Outlast title to bide our time until its release; The Outlast Trials.

This newest game in the series is the first to break away from the successful formula of the last two games, and it does so in spectacular fashion. Not a DLC and not a mainline title, The Outlast Trials holds a unique spot in the series while still having a lot to live up to. The question on my mind going into this experimental new Outlast game was simple; How does it hold up to the titles that came before it?

The Outlast Trials Manor
Image: Red Barrels

The Outlast Trials opens with you, a down-on-your-luck and presumably homeless person in early 60’s America. A bit of good fortune seems to blow your way when a poster seeking people in exactly your situation blows into your lap, promising a better and brighter future. Unfortunately for you, this bright pink poster would ultimately lead to horror.

The Outlast Trials Surgery
Image: Red Barrels

With a canvas bag tossed over your head, you’re led to a laboratory run by the Murkoff corporation, where a pair of wise-cracking sociopaths install a pair of night vision goggles on your head. The visual is as grotesque as you’re probably imagining. If you were planning on running off with the goggles, don’t even think about it, as the phrase “MURKOFF PROPERTY” is prominently displayed whenever you use them.

From here it becomes clear that the scientists at Murkoff are subjecting you to some kind of series of trials, taunting you with your freedom at the end of the dimly lit tunnel. It’s unclear what exactly Murkoff is trying to accomplish through your torturous trials, but you know one thing for sure; You aren’t alone. Countless other victims share this insidious experiment with you, and at my time of playing, only one has earned their freedom.

The Outlast Trials Reborn
Image: Red Barrels

The Outlast Trials is the first game in the series to include multiplayer, turning the solo horror experience into something you can share with friends and strangers. If that sounds like it steals a bit of the fun away for you, don’t worry, as multiplayer is totally optional and you can take the entire game on solo if you choose to do so.

The series of trials is accomplished by sending the player (or players) into a number of eerie setpieces, like a pseudo-police station or a dilapidated manor. Here, scientists will monitor you as you attempt to finish a series of strange and depraved objectives designed to push you to the brink of sanity. Each trial will take careful players about half an hour or more to complete, with about four trials per program.

The Outlast Trials Program
Image: Red Barrels

Each program features its own unique. terrifying killer. a patient no doubt broken by Murkoff and left to participate in a twisted game of fantasy for the rest of their lives. Each of these killers is terrifying, and unique, and brings a sort of refreshing feeling to each stage, keeping things from becoming stale. One of the easiest ways you can kill the scariness of a monster is by giving your audience too much exposure to them, and mixing them up between programs keeps players from developing familiarity with these monsters.

If there’s something the Outlast Trials does well, it’s the horror and feeling of tension, which is above all else the one thing the game needed to get right. Between gory displays of violence, there’s a feeling of dread and worry that something is going to be behind the next door, or worse, following behind you around each turned corner. The ability to lock doors is at best the ultimate relief and at worst a false sense of security that will get you killed.

The Outlast Trials Children
Image: Red Barrels

My biggest complaint with the game is the reuse of enemies. Aside from the notable killers, there are a few patients who serve as obstacles to hide or run from in each trial. I quickly found out they were reused when in my second trial I ran into the same machete-wielding, murmuring woman. However, it might be a bit too much to ask for more enemy variety, as each of these killers has a ton of dialogue and animations that make them feel like unique, full-fledged characters themselves. It just makes it all the more noticeable when Murkoff apparently captures them and moves them to another trial.

To answer my question from earlier, “How does it hold up to the titles that came before it?” the answer is astoundingly well. The Outlast Trials tries something new with the formula and setting of the previous games, and it works in ways you wouldn’t expect. It creates a multiplayer experience without sacrificing on the decidedly single-player elements that made the game so popular. Fans of horror are going to find a terrifyingly good time whether they try this game out alone or with a group.

The Final Word

The Outlast Trials is going to take the multiplayer horror genre by storm, with a game that’s just as truly terrifying with friends as it is alone.

10

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! The Outlast Trials is available on Steam and Epic Games.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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