| Played on a CLX Gaming Custom Built PC |
Whew! It’s been on tough month for me; with a slew of gaming news bombarding my every direction alongside the gargantuan releases of Street Fighter 6, Tears of the Kingdom, Diablo IV and soon Final Fantasy XVI – I literally had no other chance to check out games I’m truly interested in. Part of that backlog is The Outlast Trials, an early access game featuring a live-service style cooperative experience set in the desperate horror genre. I loved the previous Outlast games, so I’ve been eager to see what Red Barrels has been cooking for us. I’m fully aware that it’s been weeks since launch and the team has been working tirelessly to patch and balance the game before its full debut – let’s get into it.
Dark Corridors with Friends
The Outlast Trials puts you in saw-like arenas with 3 other friends to solve through gore-infested puzzles — all to improve on your psyche and have you succumb to total control. It’s a maniacal setting that’s filled with psychological torture coupled with being chased by psychopathic killers. With a couple memorable maps, this horror infested roller coaster is filled with hilarious moments while your friends are attacked as you helplessly watch from beneath a desk or within a closet. Although the game has been patched multiple times, the enemies you do encounter would still unsurprisingly lack the necessary AI to maneuver the arena with sensible attributes. The good that you get quickly dissipates towards the end, with nothing really worth chasing aside from perfect ratings with each trial.
The little story that’s told in this game doesn’t amount to much — your character is abducted from the streets for rehabilitation but is instead tossed into a series of murder playgrounds. There’s lore scattered about the arena in a form of collectibles that tells of a greedy corporation doing inhumane things to innocent people – it’s interesting enough, however it’s immediately disregarded given the nature of the game. It’s a social first experience, and while this game does enough to tell a story, you would need to put extra effort to paying mind to them while your friends do a lot of distracting.
Thematically, Red Barrel goes beyond in telling the most grotesque story they can make — and while some moments are shocking, there were far too many instances where it felt too forced, making me feel disjointed. I mean, there were too many scenes where the game would throw corpses at me with exposed penises multiple times. Or, have a church scenery turn into some flesh gouging torture chamber. It’s a little too much and not for the good of the world.
The Specs Match the Gore
I had the opportunity to test The Outlast Trial on my CLX Gaming PC – with all settings cranked up to Ultra and without the assistance of DLSS, the game maintained an impressive frame rate well above 60fps at 4K resolution. The addition of raytracing elements further enhanced the visual fidelity – something that caught me entirely by surprise, offering striking lighting, reflections and shadows that immersed me in the game’s haunting atmosphere – I couldn’t tell you how many times I was able to dodge an enemy by looking at a reflection from tiled walls. It’s great.
Much like I mentioned before, The Outlast Trials is unlike the previous games — it’s heavily social focused with up to 4-players able to party up and solve gruesome puzzles. The social hub serves as a place to customize cosmetically and boost your characters effectiveness during trials. Each player is granted their own asylum-esque room to personalize as they progress, which is a neat social feature. Red Barrels takes it a bit further with mini games like arm wrestling while players roam around with their custom avatars. Its unexpected for me and kept me engaged for some time before my next mission. Set in the center of the social space is a console where you will be able to matchmake and prep for your next trial, and when you find a group, it’ll switch you instantly to join them before you depart. I do appreciate the seamless transition from going down the hulking elevator with your friends to then embark into the trails arena, and then making a break for the exit back. It’s a great mix of hilarious and tense moments – which could also be a double edge sword.
I couldn’t tell you the amount of time where we psyched each other up to take this next trial seriously, and midway through the mission we hear one of our pals screaming for life and all it does it burst us into laughter as we helpless see our friend get dragged away or attacked. There is no way to really attack directly which is part of the gameplay — it’s just a weird dynamic when it happens because the element of horror is thrown out the window and replaced with just laughter. We do get a ton of upgrades to match our playstyles but it’s all defensive with some trap elements.
I have to say, Red Barrel has done some excellent design work for the 3 arenas that’s available in this early access. The claustrophobic corridors and maze-like rooms are designed to keep players constantly on the move with locker rooms, desk and dark areas — much like Outlast before, you will have goggles to see in the dark with batteries depleting upon use. You can scavenge the area for supplies and defensive items to set traps and distract enemies, but they’re very limited by design. The game’s trials and challenges, however, begin to feel repetitive after a while, leading to a sense of déjà vu and diminishing the overall excitement — it seems that at this point, the Outlast Trials is designed for short term burst of laughter with friends than anything else.
REVIEW SCORE: 6.5/10
The Outlast Trials has great potential to be an excellent cooperative horror game — and with its excellent presentation and Red Barrel’s talent, I have faith in their ability to do so. The game’s lack of content variety ultimately hinders its long-term appeal. While The Outlast Trial initially thrills, the repetitive nature of the trials and challenges detracts from the overall experience.