Hands-on with Outlast 2: Satanists, corn, and gore

UPDATE: A version of this gameplay demo is now available on Steam for you to play yourself, though only through November 1, 2016. 

The first Outlast game was a tense experience, to say the least. It saw the POV character investigating a seriously creepy mental institution, and the major gameplay mechanic was running and hiding from inmates and/or demonic ghosts, all while trying to manage a limited camera battery supply that was often the only way to make sense of the darkness around you. 

I went hands-on with the Outlast 2 demo at PAX East 2016, and I can tell you that, though the setting has changed, the fear (and terrible battery life) remains the same. 

The Devil went down to Arizona

Details on Outlast 2's plot are scarce for now (as fits a mystry/horror title), but the demo opened with a few lines of text filling in some details. There doesn't seem to be any clear connection to the plot of the first game (so far at least), and the main characters are a man (the player) and woman investigating the grisly murder of a pregnant woman in Arizona.

The opening text hints that their investigation will uncover a "corruption" worse than they had ever imagined...and then the demo begins with a car crash that sends the player spilling down into a dark ravine. 

The opening for the demo felt very much like the opening of the full game, and introduced familiar game mechanics including using the night vision on your camera and hiding from enemies in closets or barrels. In contrast to the tight corridors of the original Outlast the world feels a bit more organic and open, as you make your way through farmland, decaying homes, and a strangely pristine Catholic school at one point. 

The visuals in the demo were impressive, offering a world that was interesting (and often horrifying) to look at it even in the green and white shades of night vision. It didn't take long at all to figure out that the "corruption" has something to do with Satanists, as inverted crosses and scrawled Latin phrases became more and more prevalent as the demo progressed. 

The scares in the demo were about evenly split between "jump scares" and things that were just disturbing to look at. The darkened booths of the demo room each looked to have a camera overhead watching the player, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see an upcoming trailer for Outlast 2 showing the panicked reactions of the players from PAX. 

The demo also hinted that there's more going on beyond a simple cult of child-sacrificing Satanists (and yes they definitely ARE sacrificing people, that much is very clear). During the detour through a Catholic school, ghostly images and specters haunt the corners of the player's vision, and finally some multi-armed, tentacled monstrosity with a woman's face makes an appearance. 

No idea what that was, but it didn't look friendly. 

A violent end

The demo lasted about 30 minutes, ending with a sequence in an open cornfield in which the player has to run from multiple crazed and murderous farmers. I died several times here as I struggled to find the right way to go, as I kept hitting fences and other barriers that prevented me from making progress.

After finally climbing over a fence into a new zone I took off running down a path, slipped and fell down an incline, and ended up at the feet of a gaunt-looking woman wearing some tattered robes. She seemed to draw a giant black axe out of the shadows of her body, and proceeded to strike the main character (who is a male, remember) between the legs with it, leaving a giant bloody, gory gash and drawing screams from the character and player alike before the demo faded to black. 

Yeah, it was really gross. 

Outlast 2 does not look to be a kid-friendly game, but it does look to offer the same nail-biting tension and gruesome surprises as the original.