I’m sprinting through the hallways of a cold war research facility, desperately opening doors, hiding in cupboards, and pulling whatever lever looks like it will let me progress. Anything to put some distance between me and the dinner lady with someone else’s face stapled on. I know there’s a voice coming over the intercom giving me lore or trying to be philosophical, but I’m not giving it the slightest bit of notice. I can’t hear it over my own shrieks and hyperventilation.
All I need to do is get this box of personal information and put it in the shredder, simple enough. So here I am, crouching and shuffling through bloodied hallways like a sad and scared little crab.
I place my box of documents down, quietly open a door, pick it back up and shuffle through the doorway. Then I catch something out of the corner of my eye. I slowly turn to my right, look up, and see a blood-covered man with a gigantic knife for an arm.
Before I know it, I am sprinting full pace down the hallway, being chased by Edward Scissor-Hand’s long-lost brother. I have no clue where I’m going; not a single constructive thought crosses my mind. Before I can say, “I feel sick”, another hideous resident pops out of the wall and chucks a hallucinogenic vial at me.
I’m terrified, lost, and about to throw up. Like, in reality, at my desk, I feel like I’m going to be sick. The fear, the excitement, the hyperventilating. It’s all becoming a bit much. But finally, I make it to the shredder. I feed in my credentials and turn to the big red button at the end of the hall, my way out of this hellhole: The Outlast Trails’ tutorial mission. Finally, I can get into the actual game, the multiplayer.
Alone at last
From the moment I woke up in the distorted hellscape of the Outlast Trials Murkoff facility, I immediately felt the raw terror of being alone. It was this fear that I remember so palpably from the first Outlast games.
Each game opens with your character crossing a threshold into isolation. Whether it’s climbing over the wall into a supposedly abandoned mental facility or flying into a cultist village, developer Red Barrels terrifies you by isolating you from the hope of any help.
In all the previous games, you’ve been armed with only a camcorder and a few batteries, you must make your way through the nightmare relying on your wits. You have no help, no weapons, and no friends. Outlast is a game of flight and not fight.
So when I heard Red Barrels’ next Outlast game would step into multiplayer horror, I had concerns, mainly if it could capture that well-known fear if you’ve got company. If the horror stemmed from isolation, surely being with four of your mates would dampen the mood?
I was wrong. Maybe I’m a scaredy-cat no matter the situation, but I found the multiplayer in The Outlast Trials to be just as stomach-churningly horrific as the single-player mode.
Isolated in groups
Each trial is loosely based on making your way through a dark and confusing maze filled with traps, locked doors, trinkets, and, most importantly, larger-than-life enemies.
In the beta, I, along with a friend and some poor stranger we dragged along for the ride, were tasked with transporting a ‘mole’. This employee of Murkoff was planning to spill company secrets, so as punishment, he was strapped up, blindfolded, and left to us so we could take him to the electric chair. While this is certainly ethically ambiguous, it made for some great horror content.
While one person was tasked with pushing the mole through the corridors of the Murkoff facility, my friend and I were left to fend off all the grizzly and murderous enemies that would come our way. Using our wits, we had to distract the enemies as best we could so the mole could be brought to his final destination. Finally, my role as the meat shield has been restored.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only do you have to traverse the back corridors of Murkoff to find keys to doors and crucial items, but you do all of this in the dark. Instead of having your trusty camcorder, you’re given night vision goggles. While you have to find batteries for this, you can also find health and stamina, so long as you look hard enough. However, your greatest asset is your special ability that comes in the form of ‘rigs’.
Each player has the option of one of four abilities, health mist, x-ray vision, stun bombs, or blindness. X-ray lets you see through walls, and in the dark, health mist can heal you and your surrounding teammates after an attack; the stun bomb can temporarily stall enemies, and blindness can release a cloud that will temporarily blind your enemies. While each of these can be helpful separately, they’re designed to be combined for the best outcome.
I need to stress that the key to these abilities working well is using them in sync. Unfortunately, I wasn’t versed in X-ray vision at first so was unaware that this skill was on a short-timer. Confidently, I pointed out the one enemy that was about to come from behind a closed door so my friend could use his stun rig to diffuse the situation. Unfortunately, my preemptive call meant that we were left defenseless when three more enemies came at us through that same door.
When teamwork and all else fails in The Outlast Trials, the only thing that’s left to do is run. We left the one teammate who we were supposed to protect and split up entirely. Not my proudest meatshield moment.
The unexpected result of making Outlast multiplayer is that it makes the sting of isolation even sharper. After roaming the halls with your friends, if you lose the group and find yourself alone with a figure racing toward you through the shadows, it brings your vulnerability home. In this nightmare of a research facility, it’s easy to forget the weakest link.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.