The Outlast Trials brings the terrifying run and hide gameplay to a multiplayer format that was dynamic and an absolute blast of gruesome gore and tension. You can play the game through solo as well if you are feeling particularly brave. The transition to multiplayer has been executed fantastically. Whether you play with friends or strangers, you will have a screamingly good time.
The Outlast Trials is currently available in early access on the Steam and Epic Games Store for £24.99, with console versions coming later.
Story: Therapeutic Brainwashing
The story and lore behind The Outlast Trials is a, let’s say ‘unique’, take on therapy. The plot begins with your character, a wayward soul living on the streets finding a flyer promising to completely reinvent their life, although more literally than they expected. You are abducted and taken to the Sinyala Facility run by recurring antagonists, The Murkoff Corporation.
The introduction is intense and violent as you sign away your rights and your torture begins. The opening level begins the brainwashing process, with the player rejecting their past lives and burning their records within a maze. The locations themselves are great, with the house being contained within a giant facility. It was a great sign of things to come and the way in which the story blends excellently with the gameplay.
From there you a transferred to the Sleep Room to await further trials. Each one being another step in your brainwashing as you are forced into performing diabolical acts in the name of therapy. Sometimes this is a symbolic act such as destroying mannequins of misbehaving children, or more visceral such as executing whistle-blowers. Complete enough trials and you can earn your freedom and head into the world as something utterly different to what you entered as.
The story is refreshingly strong, especially for a multiplayer focussed experience. You can find further notes strewn throughout the maps that add details to the characters, creatures and facility that adds some great detail to what you are going through. Overall I thought the story is a wonderfully executed with fascinating lore and an effective synergy with the gameplay. It’s both supremely gruesome and oddly funny.
Gameplay: Labyrinths of Horrors
The core gameplay will familiar to Outlast fans. Your primary options are running and hiding from enemies whilst attempting to complete a series of objectives, with night vision to help get your through the pitch black sections. You also have some small ways to defend yourself, such as stun grenades. It won’t buy you much time but can let you slip past in a pinch. The levels are colossal. Each one is an extensive maze of hallways and rooms that can be daunting at first. It’s tricky to learn the routes but you adjust as you make your way through the trials. There are multiple locations, each with several different missions to complete that have different goals, start points and layouts. Strewn throughout are health items, batteries, lockpicks, etc. to aid in your survival.
The Psychotic Denizens of the Trials
One of the improvements over previous titles is the variety in enemies. They aren’t limited to just chasing you, as they have different effects. You have your standard damage dealing enemies, with generic versions and major psychopath bosses for each location, such as a crazed ex KKK police officer in the police station. On top of this are a gas man who pumps you with hallucinogens that cause you to see the Skinner man. Similar to the film It Follows, he will stalk you at a walking pace until you find an antidote. If you’re playing multiplayer there is the chance to meet my personal favourite, a doppelganger. This will be a copy of you with a slightly different user name that will attack you in your moment of vulnerability.
The diversity of enemies is a great part of the preview for The Outlast Trials, as it makes the hunt for objectives more dynamic. The Outlast Trials preview shows the gameplay at it’s strongest and most engaging.
Multiplayer vs Solo
The Outlast Trials preview is more focussed on co-op play, with teams of up to 4. With a larger team you can take some of the pressure off and work together to complete objectives, especially as the labyrinthian maps require splitting up. There are some objectives that can be done faster with a team, and it’s always helpful to have someone distract the enemies.
Of course the game still works as a solo experience. The only major difference between the types of play is that solo you have three lives, and in co-op there are syringes to revive dead teammates should they bleed out or be executed by one of the major enemies. However, solo is a substantial challenge.
As stated, the maps are large, complex and chock full of murderers, with a lot of exploring required. It’s a struggle solo, but a satisfying one. It also feels substantially more intense and terrifying when alone. You can turn up the number of enemies and traps to earn more credits on both modes. From my experience the game is at it’s best with 2 players. This ensures the horror isn’t too diluted and the challenge is at a good level.
Regardless of how you choose to play, The Outlast Trials will keep you entertained, with some nightmares coming around the corner. It builds nicely on the previous games in the series.
The Sleep Room
The other gameplay aspect worth mentioning for this preview is The Sleep Room. This is the player hub where you can form crews for the various missions. You can also purchases numerous types of upgrades. Each player has room and character that can be personalised, with new decorations and outfits available to buy with the points gained from the trials.
This is also where you upgrade your character. As you increase your level you gain access to abilities and permanent upgrades from the Engineer, Pharmacy and Cafeteria. The Engineer gives you rig abilities, which are temporary powers such as a stun grenade, health restoration or flashbangs for example, all of which can be further upgraded. The pharmacy provides permanent upgrades such as being able to slide or break open doors when sprinting. The cafeteria is the last one you get access to, so for some mystique we will leave it a mystery.
There’s a solid stream of upgrades to get as you get more capable as you go that provides a great sense of achievement, as well as new ways to approach trouble.
Graphics and Audio: Blood-soaked Hide and Seek
The graphics for The Outlast Trials preview enable you to see all the gory deaths in great detail. It’s not just the graphical fidelity that is strong, but the designs and animations of everything from the enemies to the environments are lovingly detailed with some brilliant touches. The character models are weathered and scarred to hammer home the trauma of their time in therapy. The use of lighting is particularly good, which is key to the game given the key role that night vision and hiding plays. The environments are packed full so the scenery never gets bland, and the use of light, colour and darkness make for some stunning sights. The huge warehouse contains various mock areas, such as a police station, orphanage and fair ground. There’s nothing quite like having to saw through a man’s legs in high detail.
Scarily Good Sound Design
Which leads us to the audio. You can’t have mutilation without a chorus of horrible noises to go with it. Again, sound is key to Outlast‘s gameplay, as you can’t sneak if you don’t have auditory awareness. The audio is similarly fantastically executed. Both in regards to functionality, but also flavour. There’s plenty of dialogue for the various enemies that roam the halls, with stellar voice acting, especially for the more distressing roles in the game. The noise works well with the gameplay to create a super intense atmosphere that will get your hair turning white. The only issue from the preview of The Outlast Trials is that sometimes the music is shared between players. Chase music might be ramping up but not for you which can be distracting.
Overall, The Outlast Trials looks and sounds terrifying.
The Outlast Trials was played for preview with a key provided by Red Barrels.