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Outlast 2 Is A Panic-Inducing Roller Coaster Ride Into Darkness

If you consider yourself even a moderately fraidy-cat gamer, Outlast 2 probably isn’t the game for you. If, however, you get a huge kick out of turning out the lights and having the pants scared right off you, then this game is definitely for you.

As last October’s sufficiently chilling demo showed off, this sequel to 2013’s first-person survival horror game is not for the faint of heart. While the original Outlast certainly wasn’t lacking in dimly-lit scares, part two takes the terror to a whole new level. From its opening minutes right up to its startling conclusion, Outlast 2’s hallucinatory chills, freaky monsters, and maniacal Jonestown-esque religious cult will permanently leave those tiny hairs on your arms standing up.

Of all the spooky games I’ve played over the years, Outlast 2 messed me up more than anything that came before it. Unlike most horror titles, this one actually makes you, as well as the game’s protagonist, Blake, feel as though you’re losing your grip on reality. The last horror game to really strike that chord so effectively was probably Eternal Darkness, which came out 15 years ago on the GameCube.

Like I said, the first Outlast had its share of memorably terrifying moments, but it also had its flaws. So if you feel like skipping right ahead to the sequel, you won’t be missing out much, story-wise, as this game doesn’t have any major narrative tie-ins to its predecessor. Still, it’s hard to pass up the generously affordable Outlast Trinity bundle that includes the first game, its “Whistlebower” DLC, and of course, Outlast 2. I recommend starting with the latest release before diving into part one—this one’s markedly better in every respect.

Going back to the new game, you play as a cameraman named Blake, whose helicopter has just crashed in the middle of the Arizona desert. But that’s the least of your problems. More concerning is the disappearance of your journalist wife, Lynn. Getting her back isn’t going to be easy, because, like the first game, there’s no attack button and certainly no weapons to wield. All you have is your battery-dependent video camera (with handy night vision), some hopefully decent puzzle-solving skills, and two legs for running and hiding. Bump into someone—or something—and you’re likely going to get killed in an exceptionally gruesome manner.

As you explore the game’s various backdrops, you’ll want to take note of your surroundings, lest you find yourself without a clear path to run or creative place to hide. Hands down, the best part about Outlast 2 is its unsettling environments. From rundown shacks, to dark and secluded outdoor areas, to those insanely creepy Catholic school flashbacks, the never-ending sense of dread often lies in the scenery more so than who or what dwells within it. If you found part one’s mental asylum to be the stuff of nightmares, wait till you visit Sonoran Desert.

Developer Red Barrels has taken everything that clicked in the first game and added new layers of frights and more streamlined gameplay. While my 12-hour journey wasn’t always perfect (there were quite a few moments of trial-and-error confusion—usually involving me dying repeatedly at the hands of the townsfolk—that replaced fear with frustration), Outlast 2 is one of the most ambitious and intense horror games to date. It’s also got a lot to say about struggling with one’s faith, which is pretty ballsy for a video game.

On the whole, this is a visually, aurally, and mentally disturbing journey into darkness (and madness) that you should definitely play alone, very loud, and in the dark. Okay, maybe keep one tiny light on.

Outlast Trinity and Outlast 2 are out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. Check out the trailer below: