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04-24-2017

Outlast 2

If Chekhov’s gun is the narrative principle that if a gun is shown on a mantle in the first chapter, it must be fired by the third, then Outlast 2 runs on the principle of Chekhov’s piss. If you see a mutant hillbilly pissing into a ditch of decapitated heads and severed body parts, you can be sure that you’ll have to belly crawl your way through that filth in the next 15 minutes or so.

This is a trick Outlast 2 comes back to again and again. It shows you something horrifying, something repulsive, then it grabs you by the scruff and rubs your nose in it. Outlast 2 is not game about pulling punches or subtle implications. It’s a game about terror and cruelty. About not wanting something to happen and then being forced to endure it, inch by inch, in excruciating detail.

There is something admirable about such a direct approach to terror. The eagerness Outlast 2 has for making the player wriggle uncomfortably, for forcing them to come face-to-face with some of the most gruesome and disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen in a horror game is impressive. What is less admirable, however, is the lack of follow-through in the narrative. Outlast 2 knows it wants to shock you, but it doesn’t know exactly what it wants to say.

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