The woman next to me seemed to be hyper-ventilating as she stepped up to the booth. Grabbing the controller, she repeated,”I don’t want to do this.”
I feel your pain, I thought to myself as I mustered up every bit of will I had to take just one more step down the Catholic school hallway. The doors at the end were locked. I turned around to retrace my steps…and then I was face-to-face with a malformed, demonic creature–not sure what kind of high-pitched squeal came out of my mouth, but I shook off my fear and anxiety by running in place for a moment, literally. Well-played Outlast 2.
If solving a murder isn’t a good enough reason to go gallivanting into the Arizona desert in the dead of night, I don’t know what is. Of course, in Outlast 2, you’re there unwillingly. You’ll take on the role of Blake who, along with your wife, Lynn, are investigative journalists on a mission to uncover the truth behind the murder of a pregnant woman only known as Jane Doe. The game starts with the two of you conversing in a helicopter about the mission at hand. Unfortunately, the helicopter becomes damaged or malfunctions (not sure which) and you crash land. You tumble down a hillside, kicking up dust and sand until you come to rest at the bottom of the hill, stranded yards away from a cluster of dilapidated shacks. Lynn is nowhere in sight. Your calls to her her echo off the hillsides littered with cacti and other plants. You don’t have much choice other than to press on into the dark and try to find some help.
Like the first Outlast, your video camera is your best friend. Its nightvision is your guiding beacon when the moonlight isn’t enough. Some of the shacks are lit from the inside, and you’ll need to scour the entire area to stock-up on batteries, or else you’ll fumble your way in the dark, unable to see your hand directly in front of your face. The little town is heavy with Christian imagery. You’ll find a dead body or two, and then there’s that silhouette of a large man wielding an ax. Yeah–something’s definitely not okay here.
After poking around for a while, I finally found my way through a hole in a fence that lead me down a crucifix-lined path. At the end was a stairwell leading underground covered by an enclosure. A sign above it read “Satanas Inimical Dei,” which is Latin for (I believe) “Satan is my God.”
The imagery takes a severely demented turn from there, only worsening as you eventually end up running from several cultists who want you dead. Into the cornfields you’ll run, dodging flashlight beams until you find your way to the same path from which you entered into the little town. But you are knocked to the ground by a faceless woman in robes. Her weapon pierces you in the crotch, and your blood soaking the dirt is the last thing you see before she brings it back down into your gut.
Outlast 2 really upped the scare-factor, and not only in a jump-scare way. Yes, there were a few of those, but the perverted religious imagery makes the experience psychologically disturbing as well. Much of the imagery is for shock value, but it seems to be working in the way it was intended–putting the player into the path of extremists and stripping away all logic and hope. I felt the knots forming in my stomach and the lumps making their way up my throat as I progressed deeper and deeper into the nightmare that Red Barrels created.
However, my experience of the game was dampened a bit because of my immediate surroundings; the clamor from the E3 show floor permeated through my headphones, muting much of the auditory cues that work in tandem with the gameplay and imagery to create the horror experience. Outlast 2 is meant to be played in a room. Alone. In the dark. But, if I can still have a blood-curdling experience on the show floor, my heart might burst through my chest when I play the full game.
Bring it on.
Obduction Hands-On Preview – Not Your Standard Western
IndieCade showcased a lot of gorgeous independent games at E3, including award-wining Cyan Inc.’s latest title, Obduction. Featuring a compelling storyline, dynamic characters, and taxing yet intuitive puzzles, Cyan evokes the spirit of Myst and Riven by creating an extremely immersive world that tests your powers of observation, rather than your reflexes.
The premise: an organic artifact plucks you from your serene night-time walk in the woods and transports you to a strange planet, to a small town that juxtaposes scenery of the old west and elements of futuristic technology. Holographic messages that you can play with the simple push of a button dot the town against the natural desert plant life and mine car tracks. Homes and other structures are built along side and into towering walls of red rock. There’s some imagery of Calico (California), Sedona (Arizona), and maybe a few other abandoned mining towns west of the Mississippi–but this isn’t Earth. Far from it.
Most of the holographic messages at the start of the demo were from the town mayor (acting as a sort of tour guide as he welcome you.) These are strategically placed at key points in the main part of town and, much like a self-guided tour of a museum, he’ll tell you about everything–from the people to the water. This part of the demo had a theme park feel to it, as it seemed oddly formal and detailed, and impersonal at the same time. The mayor himself was a little too “excited to see me,” even for a hologram. For as much information as he had about the town, he couldn’t seem to tell me where I actually was. There was something inherently sinister about him.
I did find one hologram of a woman outside the first house you’ll come to–a farmhouse with a porch and a white picket fence blocking in the front yard that could have been caught up in a Kansas twister itself. The woman’s message is friendly, albeit foreboding, as she tells you the name of a man not to trust in the area. There’s a giant laser-beam pointed into the sky, glowing and sparking, and a distinct lack of actual people. I did come across one gentlemen barricaded behind a high-tech vault door, unwilling to set foot outside. We conversed for about a minute or two, and that was that. I wandered away to explore the area further.
By sprinkling little bits of story from several characters right out the gate, it not only aids in creating Obduction’s immersive atmosphere, but it gives the player a mystery to solve–the chance to play detective and to figure out not only where they are and how they got there, but what secrets is this near-abandoned town is trying to cover with cacti and dry heat.
Obduction will be released for PC via Steam on July 26th and will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
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