Outlast Trials review: Outlast becoming a terrifying, story-driven multiplayer game was not on my bingo card for 2024

Red Barrels returns to Outlast, doing what it does best in making an immersive horror experience that captivates audiences in their latest game, The Outlast Trials.

in game cutscene of the outlast trials
(Image: © Red Barrels)

Windows Central Verdict

The Outlast Trials delivers a scary uncertainty with immersive gameplay that harkens back to the first Outlast game. This is a fun title that has a good amount of difficulty to it, where you can play it solo and still have fun even though this is mainly a co-oping experience.

Pros

  • +

    The story is surprisingly well done for mainly a co-op game

  • +

    It has a lot of immersive detailing from decorating your cell to being able to play chess with a teammate

  • +

    The atmosphere is truly scary and gave me a run for my money in regards to how often I would jump, hide, and feel uneasy

Cons

  • -

    The story does lack depth overall due to the focus being on escaping

  • -

    The game somewhat misrepresents Psychosis for shock value

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Outlast is known for its intense atmosphere, really compelling stories, and utilization of gore to draw players into this creepy and beautifully disgusting world. Ever since Outlast 2, I wasn't sure how Red Barrels was going to tackle another installment to the franchise, ESPECIALLY a multiplayer installment.  Outlast has a unique way of telling a story in that there is a heavy utilization of notes and psychology to keep the player on their toes, eagerly anticipating the game's next move.

Creeping around the corner of each hallway, either playing by myself or with friends, I was waiting for the game's cheesy gotchya! moment, but there was none. I've become so desensitized to horror games over the years, so to see that Outlast is returning to its roots is a joy! Delicately placing fear where it knows the player best with Red Barrels utilizing the nostalgia they know they created — it's like coming home.

Disclaimer

This review was made possible by a review code provided by Red Barrels. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing. 

Horror Comes Home

Searching for clues is a must in the Outlast Trials (Image credit: red barrels)

Palms sweaty, thoughts racing, heart pounding. My experience with the Outlast Trails was like going back in time when I played the first Outlast game.  Since this was mainly a multiplayer experience, I wasn't sure if I would like it since I play games on my own for the most part. I'm not a big fan of multiplayer unless it's in Dark Souls or Destiny 2, and even then, I prefer playing them solo.

The Outlast Trails co-op experience was fun, challenging and didn't take away from the story and immersion of the game. The experience as a whole created the same immersion I felt playing Outlast for the first time with minimal resources, intense jump scares, and a narrative that tells me Red Barrels is going back to what they do best: psychological immersion.

The narrative of these games is as follows, you don't have weapons, you have your smarts, you have healing items, and you have places to hide.

Arielle Danan

As a forewarning, this game is intensely graphic and gruesome and has more gore in the first few cutscenes than the first Outlast game and DLC, Whistleblower, combined. So, please go into this game knowing that you had planned to play it. The gore in Outlast games is like the gore in Saw movies, crucial to the story and put there for a reason. The gore has a place, which creates meaning for the player. When you're searching for a key in someone's gut or you find someone that's tied up it's connected to a note or objective. Gore is NEVER in these games to make something disgusting just to be disgusting.

The narrative of the Outlast series is as follows — you don't have weapons... you have your smarts, you have healing items, and you have places to hide. Much like Outlast 1, Whistleblower, and Outlast 2, everything the player does is like making a move in a chess game. The moves need to be well thought out and timed correctly, and if you're like me just wait in the locker until you don't hear a peep and you know it's safe to adventure out into the cannibalistic world.

"Who is it you think you are?"

Explore the world of the Outlast Trials, equipped with mannequins. (Image credit: Red Barrels)

The story of The Outlast Trials is an interesting one because, unlike a lot of multiplayer titles, the story is the primary focus, not the secondary.  In playing through this game for the time that I did more of an emphasis is placed on the player's experience with the story, partially relying on getting through with friends rather than by yourself. Much like in the very first Outlast game, survival is a puzzle, and getting through that puzzle takes understanding the area around you. Surviving and helping your teammates survive as well are all wrapped up in the bigger picture, which is escaping. Even in the prologue we need to destroy ourselves to become someone new by getting rid of personal documents, so we could be "born again," if you will.

Red Barrels is going back to its roots in this title; the exploration is reminiscent of the first Outlast game, and a weird cop stalking me reminds me of the Whistleblower DLC where Eddie Gluskin would try to woo me to be his blushing bride (fun times). The other characters stalking me throughout the game had this adrenaline-inducing effect and it was some of the most fun I've had in co-op. When hiding in lockers you can hear the creatures muttering to themselves in discouragement; it was rather fun to witness.

The trials are your therapy

Run and hide, this guy will be on your tail (Image credit: Red Barrels)

The Outlast Trials has a unique way of going about the upgrade system, as well as the use of motifs in the game that coat how the story and overall experiences are brought to the player. There are sections where you can upgrade your rig and prescriptions but have to be a certain level of therapy to use. I thought, "Oh cool! there are therapy sessions to coincide with the character and the story?" No, the trials that you go through ARE the therapy sessions.

While there are still no weapons, there are ways to place traps and get better meds to make the process a little easier. Each time you finish a therapy session, you're brought right back to the treatment facility where you can decorate your cell, change clothes, and even play chess with your co-op partner. There is a lot to do in this game besides the main trials which is really neat!

I thought, "Oh cool! there are therapy sessions to coincide with the character and the story?" No, the trials that you go through ARE the therapy sessions.

Arielle Danan

To dive into a bit of psychology, either playing solo or with a team, it is possible to contract psychosis in the game, from either traps or the Pusher enemy that sprays a hallucinogenic gas which causes said psychosis.  Nitrous Oxide abuse can cause psychotic symptoms, as well as drug-induced psychosis (amongst other mental illnesses), but the symptoms vary from person to person and don't take place in a matter of seconds. While I understand that this is all done for a dramatic effect to create tension and instability in the surroundings, it adds to the stigma surrounding Psychosis, which is by far one of the most misrepresented symptoms of psychiatric illnesses.

So, what's next for Outlast?

I love the Outlast games, as they were inspired by some of the greatest horror games like Resident Evil.  The co-op truly shocked me with how good it was and how it linked well with the story. You have to work with your partner to make it out alive and that true cooperation is what I found surprising in the best way. Even the notes that were in the game tell a convincing story preceding the first Outlast.

Staying alive in a horror game isn't easy, but with a few friends, smarts, and sneaking around a few dead bodies anything is possible. It's a unique blend that makes The Outlast Trials one of the best Xbox games for fans of horror and co-op. Red Barrels took the urgency and feeling from the first Outlast game, and put it into a co-op experience, bringing back not only the nostalgia that I had but hope that this could be the horror revival we've all so desperately been waiting for. 

The Outlast Trials — Buy at Microsoft Store (Xbox)| Steam (PC)| Epic Games (PC)

The Outlast Trials — Buy at <a href="https://click.linksynergy.com/deeplink?id=kXQk6%2AivFEQ&mid=24542&u1=hawk-custom-tracking&murl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.xbox.com%2Fen-US%2Fgames%2Fstore%2Fthe-outlast-trials%2F9NTMXVW20RX5" data-link-merchant="xbox.com"">Microsoft Store (Xbox)| <a href="https://steamcommunity.com/app/1304930/" data-link-merchant="steamcommunity.com"" data-link-merchant="xbox.com"">Steam (PC)|<a href="https://store.epicgames.com/en-US/p/the-outlast-trials" data-link-merchant="store.epicgames.com"" data-link-merchant="steamcommunity.com"" data-link-merchant="xbox.com""> Epic Games (PC)

Journey into the world of survival horror with The Outlast Trials.  Facing your fears can be done solo or in co-op mode, take on the nightmare in the Murkoff Testing Facility, and escape to tell the tale.

Arielle Danan
staff writer and video editor