The Outlast Trials review | VG247
7 mins read

The Outlast Trials review | VG247

Back when The Outlast Trials first went live in Early Access, I previewed the game and described it as capable of being one of the best multiplayer horror games out there. As The Outlast Trials prepares for its 1.0 launch, I feel it’s safe to say that my high expectations of the game haven’t quite been met – but that doesn’t mean that The Outlast Trials is unenjoyable by any stretch.

The Outlast Trials nails both atmosphere and sound design to an impressive degree, and looks fantastic while doing so. It’s polished, pristine, and has significantly improved the single-player experience since I last played, but when it comes to content that is highly-replayable that doesn’t feel repetitive, it is lacking. And considering The Outlast Trials is the series’ first foray into providing a ‘live-service’ multiplayer title with all the terror and scares of the original Outlast games, you’d expect there to be greater longevity in the trials and programs provided for players. There isn’t. After 15 hours or so, things actually begin to feel more mundane than they do terrifying, but that doesn’t stop the occasional jumpscare from scaring you silly.

Rather than the linear story we’re used to from Outlast and Outlast 2, The Outlast Trials instead whisks players away to a laboratory headed by the one and only Murkoff Corporation. This notorious organization is far from done with its inhumane experiments on innocent civilians, and this time around, it’s seeing exactly how hard it can push common folk – reagents – into becoming sleeper agents for the government. If you’re into psychological experiments, the death games of the Saw series, and the conspiracy theories surrounding MKUltra, you’ll no doubt find The Outlast Trials and its evidence logs – documents you can pick up for additional lore – deeply interesting. Are they interesting enough to see it through to the final trials, though? I’m not sure, especially considering you can make your escape long before then.

The player pushes the Snitch in the Kill the Snitch trial in The Outlast Trials
Image credit: Red Barrels Games

As a result, you’ll wake up as a reagent in a facility where you must choose from various trials – or levels – and complete some of the most deranged objectives to earn your freedom, if you can call it that. Some of the gruesome objectives you’ll be completing include exposing animatronic Orphans to religious paraphernalia, and feeding them some poor guys blood as some sort of sick communion. You’ll later wind up feeding them bleach soup and grinding them to a pulp, too, and disposing of decapitated heads with acid, all with the likes of the disgraced TV-personality Mother Gooseberry and corrupt, perverted cop Sergeant Coyle on your tail.

Gooseberry, Coyle, and other enemies were once relentless in Early Access. They still very much are, but it seems that their routes when hunting the player have changed a little, with them not frequenting important areas as often and preventing players from completing objectives. On top of that, the single-player experience – which previously felt impossible – has been improved, adding Respawn Pills to give players a second chance, and making quest objectives more attainable for those braving the trials solo.

In single-player, trials arguably take a lot longer, but the scare factor of the original Outlast remains, as do the night vision goggles that fans of the series know and love. I’d go as far as to say that The Outlast Trials feels more satisfying in single-player, with more time to take in what you’re doing and why, to read evidence logs, and converse with the engineer, nurse, and other people that frequent the facility you’re living in. There are some real treats for lore goblins here.

The player looks towards a funfair entrance in The Outlast Trials
Image credit: Red Barrels Games

Between trials, the player will earn financial rewards and unlock new cosmetic items to adorn their room or character with, which is admittedly a nice touch. While your coin currency is reserved for cosmetic items, you’ll also have a dollar currency that will allow you to buy a range of enhancements. The Nurse will provide character upgrades, allowing you to slide and stun enemies where needed, while the Engineer provides rigs that can be used to gain X-Ray vision or heal teammates during a trial.

Later in the game, you’ll also meet The Shadowy Dame, who can provide you with further skills and tools to use during trials. The first being slippers, which will allow you to walk over noise traps while remaining undetected, something incredibly necessary for me considering I managed to set off noise traps 111 times during one trial.

All in all, Red Barrels has clearly thought up a lot of different features in an attempt to try and make The Outlast Trials work as a live-service game, but it’s being delivered to an increasingly hungry yet over-saturated market of games. While trials will often change the locations of objectives and traps, and there are a few varying maps (from a police station, to a funfair, to a toy factory and so forth), the objectives often feel and are the same bar a few standout moments.

These moments, while great (you get to throw hearts at funfair attractions at one point, which is amusing), are not enough to make the eventually mundane nature of fetching, running, and hiding any more exciting. There’s not enough to make the average player want to keep going after a certain point.

The player watches an enemy fight a fellow reagent while using Night Vision Goggles in The Outlast Trials
Image credit: Red Barrels Games

A huge part of me believes that The Outlast Trials – with a little more seamlessness between trials and objectives that aren’t rehashed and repeated – could’ve made an amazing single-player game, with multiplayer as an option. Though even with my qualms, The Outlast Trials is ultimately a game I’ve had a lot of fun with where there’s absolutely no compromise on quality, and Red Barrels should be applauded for that. It has been packed, shipped, and delivered with the utmost attentiveness from its developer. It’s just a shame that when it comes to the replayability of the game, it’s something I’ll likely revisit on occasion with friends as I would Phasmophobia or Lethal Company, and not much more than that.

But if you’re hoping to scare yourself senseless and expose yourself to plenty of shocking scenarios as a reagent for the Murkoff Corporation, with or without friends, The Outlast Trials is undoubtedly worth its retail cost of £24.99 / $29.99 (via Steam) at launch, but if you’re expecting a game that you’ll replay well into 2024 and beyond, I’d temper your expectations.

The Outlast Trials releases on March 5, 2024 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. This review was conducted using code provided by the publisher, and conducted on PC.

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