Hey, kids. How's it going? I've been in quarantine for... seventeen days, if you can believe it. I don't even know what year it is anymore.
I'm not actually sick, but I happen to be in a zone heavy with COVID-19 cases and I have parents in the danger range, so I'm keeping to myself as much as possible. I am running out of food, and I definitely ran out of toilet paper.
You may be wondering why I'm not reviewing Animal Crossing or Doom right now. And the truth is those games were sent to my parent’s house, and I wasn't anticipating this lock-down. So I'm a sad, sad panda.
Either way, I went looking through my drafts and remembered this ******** game existed, and I think its finally time I addressed this game and what a proverbial mess it is.
Trigger Warning: Rape. Child murder. There is a lot of it, and I mention it frequently. It's plot relevant. Also, this is unnecessarily long. Oops.
Alright, so Outlast II was released April 25th, 2017, and I played it not long after it came out. Now, I didn't go in completely blind, but I didn't know the entire story. Let me start by saying I played the demo first, and that was an incredible experience. Like, it was perfect, and it was very brutal and gory. But the trailer and end shot is something that ******** infuriates me.
Can I share something with you guys? I've actually studied a lot of religious text and symbolism because it pervades any English culture predominately, so like, I'm very familiar with it.
You know that shot in all the trailers, and the promo images of the upside down cross on fire? In fact, have you ever seen an upside down cross that's meant to be frightening and unsettling like "Oooohhh it's the devil's cross..."
No. I honestly can't believe the developers fell into this stupid ******** trope like so many shitty horror movies did. The upside down cross IS ST. PETERS CROSS YOU DUMB ********.
St. Peter was crucified upside down by Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D, this was a political move by Nero because Rome had just been razed by the Great Fire and the people were furious, so Christians became the scapegoat. Also, side note, St. Peter requested to be crucified upside down, so there's that.
So, every time you see an upside down cross, just know it was because some ******** idiot didn't know about St. Peter and went 'durr hurr upside down cross is spoopy.' Also, yes, this isn't something that has been appropriated in any capacity, it's not like people actively have tried to erase its roots, they legitimately just DON'T KNOW the true meaning behind the reversed cross.
There isn't necessarily a true symbol that represents satanism, though the alchemic symbol for sulfur is a popular one, even so, when I saw that blazing cross in the advertisement, and watched as it slowly panned upside down, I let out the most long suffering sigh I could muster. I already knew this game was going to go balls to the wall in the religion department and I knew it wasn't going to work the way they were hoping it would.
Outlast II is good. It has merit, but its no where near the clever terror the first game instilled. You are the very filthy mouthed Blake Langermann, a cameraman travelling to the canyons in Arizona by helicopter to investigate the mysterious circumstances of a Jane Doe with your important plot motivation-, I mean your wife and fellow investigative journalist, Lynn.
Jane Doe was described as a young woman wandering the roadside, eight months pregananant and then committed suicide in the hospital she was brought to. Any self respecting journalist would totally take a helicopter into the Arizona wilderness, without checking the surrounding area and what's up there with no backup. Sure.
Okay, this opening is a little heavy handed. You're in the chopper and a bright light covers the sky and suddenly the choppers out and you crash land. Poor you, poor Lynn, poor helicopter pilot, I can't remember if he had a name.
Why were you in a chopper? Well, the surrounding terrain is difficult to traverse so you can't drive to the location. Anyway, crash landed, BUT surprise! You wake up in a catholic school! THE TRUE HORROR. I'm almost joking, anyway this hallucinatory and vivid flashback to Blake's childhood is both kind of important but at the same time, doesn't have much to do with the overall plot at all. There's a young girl in the hallway and we're greeted by the elevator scene from The Shining and then we wake up.
On the cold hard ground underneath our chopper. No wifey, and no pilot. He was skinned alive and pinned to a cross while you were snoozing. Seriously, the damage done to the pilot in the short time you're passed out is insane. The helicopter is still on fire for ******** sake.
Now it's only us and our handy dandy camera and Blake screaming LYNN!! in various levels of concern for the next seven hours. I have to say, Blake puts up with a lot of abuse in this game. Disappointingly, it’s no where near the body horror Miles had to deal with, and overall, I’d say Blake’s going to be just fine.
The setup is so good. it's incredible. It's unnerving and gruesome. You wander this little filthy village with people eyeing you just from the shadows and there's blood stains and crows, and you find this room littered with the corpses of babies and a bloody manger. The atmosphere is top. It's exactly what you'd hope for from a horror game.
The thing is, this game is ******** dark. And I don't mean in the sense that it's evil and cruel. It's just ******** dark. I can't see a goddamn thing, and I have this night vision camera on loan from our good buddy Miles. That's a joke. There is no Miles. I wish there was.
Let's just touch on the tone really quick. The first Outlast was insane. It was clever, and it was unsettling, and there was a lot of gross s**t beyond the obvious dismembering. Like, there was just naked people everywhere and it was played surprisingly straight in game but it's clear it was meant to unnerve the player because of how strange it is. The villains themselves were very memorable, too. ******** Billy man. And Chris Walker. And The Twins. AND Dr. Trager. AND EDDIE? Like they were memorable, and intense, and they had purpose.
On the other hand, I had to go to the wiki to remember the names of everyone in this entry because I forgot everyone's name but Lynn and Marta. And I'm sure I won't forget them anytime soon, either.
So, like what is the plot of this game, besides husband seeking wife?
Well, Sullivan Knoth is a priest that believes the Antichrist is going to be born in his little settlement called Temple Gate and he has his own little faction known as the Testament of New Ezekiel. Oh, and there’s this little side note where he raped and impregnated all the women in a five mile radius and then slaughtered their babies, for varying reasons related to sin and the Antichrist and worship and yuck.
Then there's Val, the only transgender video game villain I can think of in recent memory and she runs a faction known as the Heretics, who want the Antichrist to be born! So, you can see the problem this causes.
There's also a third faction, known as the Scalled. They're outcasts to Knoths because they're sick with sin. But it's actually the syphilis, gonorrhea and the incessant inbreeding and these enemies should probably die just by being looked at. They're led by Laird, a dawrf, and he rides on the back of a big 'ol quiet hunchback Nick. They're basically the buddy system and still loyal to Knoth.
Anyway, Lynn was presumably raped in the first ten minutes of the game and you find her again and she's now bearing the Antichrist in her very visible belly. That was ******** quick!
You get chased by Knoth's crew, and then Val's crew and then Val makes incredibly inappropriate sexual advances on you, and you lose Lynn. What a ******** shocker. This leads into the part of the game where you get chased and chased and you know the drill.
This actually stems into one of my main issues with the game. The entire gameplay area is not very 'outlast' friendly. The point of outlast is to literally outlast running away from every single threat until you can find a clever way to either get away from them or kill them. The areas are wide and vast and the route you need to take to escape is VERY specific, leading to a lot of unfortunate deaths because the outside segments can be very confusing to navigate. Especially when running away from amateur vasectomy surgeon Marta.
The school segments are alright, a little worthless in the overall game and fairly tedious. They're there to bring up an atmosphere, but now that I've set up the playing field, let's just talk about how everything doesn't work.
Let's start with Blake. He swears a lot. He's also pretty useless. There is a scene where Val tries to rape him the first time, and he just.... flails around on the ground like a beetle your sadistic a** flipped over in the summer. He doesn't even fight while he's being dragged away, and once he does get away, you'll never guess what happens. He gets kidnapped by Val anyway, and then thrown into a Heretic blood orgy in the mines and raped anyway...
My problem with Blake is that he's not exactly a good middleman. His reactions to everything are just a string of frantic swears, and it feels unbelievably disconnected from your gameplay actions. He also screams and freaks out at gameplay triggers, which... 90% of the time I wasn't looking where the trigger was and missed the jumpscare. Blake just wants to find his wife, but we know NOTHING about him, besides that he went to a Catholic school as a child, which we'll get back to. They use him as this environment indicator, but it doesn't work because we know it's supposed to be scary, we KNOW this. So, Blake is pretty meh overall.
Let's talk about Father Sullivan Knoth. He's basically the big bad, he's the reason why Temple Gate exists the way it does. Also, he shows up for a grand total of two cutscenes! But the lore behind this guy is insane. The amount of notes you can find about what he's done and how is unreal. It's all background chatter, and you can very easily miss why he made a cult, when, and how they came to be. It's kind of frustrating, on a single playthrough how much you can miss about this guy. He's a real miss for a villain, too. So excruciatingly unfocused and played so straight in terms of the story, that when you meet him and he kills himself, you probably won't even get what the ******** he's talking about unless you found every single note in the game.
Then there's Marta. A tall and frail looking woman who wields a d**k ripping axe. And honestly she is the most frightening part of this game. Marta is the Resident Evil VII Jack of Outlast, but she thankfully doesn't transform into a zombie. She chases at a brisk pace and will one shot you on harder difficulties if you have the misfortune of letting her catch up to you. She's Knoth's right hand woman, his enforcer and his halberd. She is the executioner, while Knoth himself stands as judge and jury. He tells her who to kill because her faith is 'imperfect.' and nonbelievers need to die, though Marta does show reluctance in her killings. Not much is known about her besides the fact she's been with Knoth for a long time and she's his beloved. I’m not sure if this means spiritually or physically, squick!
Then there's Val. This is a hard one, and this character is really mishandled. Val lost faith from Knoth's crew and decided to band together the Heretics and cause all kinds of problems in Temple Gate. Val is biologically male, but presents as female, this makes them trans female. But... I don't even like this character enough to give them the satisfaction of decent storytelling because they're such a stereotype. Even in writing, although Val is portrayed as this lascivious sex fiend and very promiscuous. this portrayal is outdated and very much stereotypical of older beliefs on transgender people being degenerates. They could have done incredible things with Val! But no, they're just a... misunderstood rapist, I guess?
This isn't new, and the notes about Val, how they were aroused by the murder of children, including her own, is just weak. Like, maybe it did disturb some players, but Val was exhausting as a character to interact with and read about. Val portrays herself as biologically female in the mines, she shapes the mud on her body to appear female. But, it honestly raises more questions. She's written terribly straight, too. I don't mean sexually, I mean that in terms of the story, she offers no surprises outside of the first interaction, what you see is literally all you're going to get for the next few hours.
Laird and Nick are Big Guy, Little Guy trope. You know, Master Blaster, Timone and Pumba, Rocky and Bullwinkle. They try to kill you three times. They don't succeed. Laird and Nick try their best to kill you while you're running around their very own STD camp. And to be fair, the Scallad camp is one of the best parts of the game considering it's very quiet, and uncertain and it's one of the few exploration parts of the game without immediate threat.
But they're useless. Like, they're all terrible. Laird and Nick crucify you and they leave you hanging on a rickety a** cross and they're like well good job mate he's certainly dead back to camp, and off they go. And Blake rips the nails out of his hands and gets away. (Which isn’t how you crucify, it’s through the wrists, ********) Then Blake is captured by them again and they bury you... in two ******** inches of topsoil. Are you ******** serious? At no point is this ever played for laughs. They put a plank of wood on top of you, kick some dirt over you like they're trying to hide their s**t and they walk away again! So Blake pops his head up like a ******** gopher, and we get away. What... is the purpose of this!?
Do you want to know the problem with all of these characters? They chase, and abuse, and assault Blake like any good villain should... but how do you think they die? Do we Miles Upsher that s**t and fight the good fight and win through perseverance and lucky coincidence?
No, we don't even fight. So. As I mentioned before. Knoth kills himself basically the first time you meet him near the end of the game. He just, slits his throat after spouting some religious bullshit about not hearing the voice of God anymore and he's dead. Sure.
Val is killed OFFSCREEN. Maybe because they realized that their portrayal of a transgender individual wasn't winning them any favors so a brutal murder likely would have been contentious. I say this because the dialogue was recorded, but never added into the game, so there must've been some kind of executive reason that they killed Val in a way where you can actually miss it if you glitch out and leave the mines early. Like I did. Also, it's like, a short conversation between Knoth's men that she was killed during the raid on the mines. Well, that was... fulfilling?
Laird and Nick are quite literally hoisted by their own petard, they try to kill Blake in a way that was inspired by Looney Tunes and they ******** fall to their deaths after the pulley they were dragging your a** up collapses. ???
Marta on the other hand finally catches up to you! She has you on your back and you're about to lose your d**k in a grisly way. And she gets impaled by a falling church cross that was struck by lighting. Marta dies by Holy Intervention. WHAT?
Let’s talk about the other half of the game and what this all means. Let's talk about the school sections that Blake keeps going back to.
Lynn and Blake had a classmate named Jessica at their catholic school. And in the flashbacks, you see more and more of Blake's past and underlying trauma associated with it.
As great as the school segments are environmentally, they are horribly paced and the developers were clearly very proud of the school because you're stuck frequently in these classrooms and hallways until the game decides you're allowed to move on, that's incredibly infuriating because you'll check a door three times and suddenly you pass some arbitrary trigger and you can move on. Great.
There are incredible visuals to be had here, the design, the scares, and the ******** atmosphere are second to none. There's even an enemy to avoid! I like to call him senior grabby hands. It's not very Silent Hill 2 ish, where in that game, everything was incredibly subtle and clever and it kept you guessing, while here... Well, senior grabby hands is a fairly obvious caricature of sexual trauma. They really didn't... hide this, huh?
Now, what's the point? Why are we here? Why are we constantly going back to this school with senior grabby hands?
I want to say this could have been incredible and heart wrenching. What we got instead was this exploitative bullshit that doesn't add into the game in any way at all. Blake's classmate Jessica was sexually abused by a priest at the school known as Father Loutermilch. In the final flashback cutscene, Jessica and Blake are just talking, when Father Loutermilch confronts them both and encourages Blake to go home and forces Jessica into prayer time. There is a story here, how Jessica likely had a bad home life, Loutermilch was deliberately isolating her, and she had a crush on Blake, but he was already with Lynn, and she really, really, doesn't want to be left alone with Loutermilch...
Even so, Blake ends up running back for Jessica when he hears her scream, and finds her beaten and dead at the bottom of a stairwell, with Father Loutermilch at the top. So, this is a big reveal, at the beginning of the game the player is supposed to believe that Jessica committed suicide and Blake's repression stems from that moment.
But. It doesn't matter. Blake's behavior doesn't change before or after the revelation. Father Loutermilch still gets away with the cover up. (it’s been years, so duh…) There's this bullshit revelation that Blake has where he understands he couldn't do anything, he was just a kid so now he's free from guilt. It's also highly suggested that Blake himself was abused by Loutermilch because of his appearance in the flashbacks as senior grabby hands, and some of the things said you can hear being spouted by it.
This is all very interesting.
Why are we having this revelation HERE AND NOW? It adds nothing to the main plot. In fact, it only distracts from it, and it's so rudimentary. Are we supposed to be shocked that a priest molested a child? Like... is this supposed to be news? Are they trying to shed light on the fact it happens? Is it supposed to highlight childhood trauma? No, it does none of that. The fact that you're playing Outlast II would indicate you're familiar with the more gruesome realities we experience in our world because you played the first game it and that was much better.
Inevitably, I'm left believing they added the entire Jessica story because haha Catholic priests molest children and they had no children in the main game for Knoth to diddle. I'm serious. There is no purpose for it. It adds nothing to the narrative and it's not even that unsettling since we know where this is going, it's not shocking. We don't know Jessica. Blake knows Jessica. We don't. Predictably, you likely figured out what happened halfway through the game, so it falls flat in that department, too.
And now. The revelation of the plot. Which by the way is hidden in a ******** note off in ******** nowhere before the last segment of the game and it's the MOST EASILY MISSED PIECE OF PLOT IN THE WORLD. Out of every game I've ever played. This is the most sinful and frustrating plot token I have ever experienced.
So, all of this. This psychosis, this madness, the brutality of it all... Is revealed to be the Murkoff Corporation from the first game. This is mentioned nowhere else in game, you miss this note, it's gone forever, you make it to the end of the game and what you get is nothing! Literally!
Alright, so the plot with the Antichrist is just a red herring. It's not the actual plot of the game. The actual truth behind everyone's madness is that bright light from the beginning of the game that made you crash. These mountains are surrounded by Murkoff Radio towers that are sending a jumble of signals to the residents. Every single person in the village is affected (except one guy) and they're all hallucinating... almost. Like the murder and s**t still happened but it was Murkoff encouraging it all through the radio waves. All these people are test subjects, Knoth being the main guinea pig, as the voice of God he was hearing was just these assholes.
Now, the game makes even less sense. Are we supposed to believe that the church cross that impaled Marta was just happenstance? Like, they're pushing faith so hard, and it's all fake, we know that, but what's the point of hiding this particular note? Why did the developers feel that this imperative note needed to be nearly impossible to find? They deliberately placed it away from the main trail, off in the ******** bayou, where even the most seasoned players would miss it?
The ending of the game happens as Lynn gives birth to the Antichrist and Blake holds their new baby and Lynn says, there's nothing there, and dies.
This implies that the baby you’re seeing is a hallucination and Lynn isn’t being affected by the towers anymore. Also, the baby doesn't have a shadow. So, it's fake, there’s nothing there. Blake walks away from Temple Gate with imaginary baby antichrist and credits.
What was the point of any of that? If you didn't find the note, headscratch. You did find the note? More headscratch. So, the game actually ends on the worst note it can. Like, why end there? We know it's Murkoff, they'll kill Blake the second they get a chance.
You might even question, why did Knoth stop hearing the voice of God? Why did Lynn not see her baby? And the truth is, Murkoff’s towers shut down, and I’m assuming for a brief moment, everyone had a moment of clarity, except Blake. Again, this brings up more questions because while yes, supplementary materials reveal that the Towers malfunctioned due to an infestation, it doesn’t explain why the Towers are working at the end of the game.
Which brings me alllll the way to the beginning of this review. Remember Jane Doe? Well, her name is Anna Lee, and we meet her father Ethan fairly early on in the game. For some reason, Ethan is the only one who's sane as he reveals he helped his daughter escape, and there seems to be a significant plot build-up but then Marta shows up and just kills him.
These events are never visited again. Remember in the first game how everything Murkoff did was pretty much still the focus of your motivation? Like the Walrider and the Asylum were still the thing Miles was hunting for?
We don't get any of that here. I don't even remember how I found out that Anna Lee is killed by Murkoff in the hospital and it's covered up as a suicide. There were so many goddamn places they could have strung together a coherent narrative and they blew it! What did anything matter? Blake survives walking into the sunset, mad as ******** and baby-less, but... alive. To what end? For what purpose?
I feel like the developers intended this to be a real, supernatural event in universe, like ooooh it's unexplained, ooooh, but then.... why leave that single note in the game? Why give us the breadcrumb of plot that you're going to ignore anyway? It's clear they tried to up the terror factor and really, Catholicism isn't scary. On its own? No. We need a little more than some god fearing, faith spouting madmen to be frightened, because let's be real. There is nothing in this game that I haven't seen before.
Village filled with crazies? Pick a horror movie. Children of the Corn, Silent Hill, Deliverance, Wicker Man. Hot Fuzz.
Christianity depicted as prevailing evil? Carrie, The Sacrament, Stigmata, and again, Children of the Corn.
***** priest? Watch any ******** documentary on it. I think the most notable movie is Spotlight, which does a much better job of depicting the horrors of child abuse. There's also Doubt, and Deliver Us from Evil. It's even in V for Vendetta, for ******** sake.
An insane ax wielder? The Shining, Friday The Thirteenth, Silent Night, American Psycho.
See, the thing is, meshing these plots together probably wouldn't make a very good movie, either, but Outlast II stands as the worst offender because throughout this entire eight hour experience, it ends up saying so little overall. They just saw a bag of tropes, and how easy it is to depict religion as unsettling and hypocritical, that they missed the entire function of thought. Why is it unsettling? Why is it Hypocritical? Why is it wrong to kill babies and rape woman en masse?
I could spend days comparing why the first game was far superior in gameplay, environment, tone, and script, but honestly. Read the review again, but pretend all my negatives are positives and ta-daaa, I'm talking about the first game. Don't do that, I'm joking, don't waste your time.
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