Outlast 2 is one of the most beautiful games on Switch, and also one of the ugliest. This sequel to the hit indie shocker Outlast (which hit the eShop earlier this month as Outlast: Bundle Of Terror) provides a strikingly evocative, bone-chillingly atmospheric game world for you to creep through. The use of light and shade in its depiction of the Arizona wilderness, not to mention some excellent sound design (accentuated by a new sound-tracking mechanic), are occasionally enough to make you gasp in appreciation rather than horror.
Make no mistake though, this is indeed a horrific game. While the original was hardly a walk through the Mushroom Kingdom, Outlast 2 almost makes it look as such. Trading themes of grim medical experimentation for sickening religious perversion (in every sense), Outlast 2 sets out to one-up its predecessor on the shock count. For better or worse, it manages to do so at every step. The game's tale of warring cults in a remote US community certainly serves to raise the stakes for some trademark hide-and-seek gameplay, even if it does stray into regions of questionable taste from time to time. Frequent flashback sequences, meanwhile, ground the queasiness in a more relatable everyday setting and add extra shade to protagonist Blake Langermann.
Needless to say, those of a particularly sensitive nature should move well along. Hardened horror nuts will find that Outlast 2's new, more open setting throws up a whole bunch of memorably tense set-pieces. You haven't been truly scared in a game until you’ve been hunted by deranged cultists in a moonlit cornfield. As in the first game, our protagonist is quite literally hopeless in a fight, so you must use your environment to your advantage. You can climb into a handy oil barrel, slip under a blood-stained bed, or duck into a nearby wardrobe to avoid patrolling goons and Terminator-like stalkers. This time your environmental camouflage options have increased in tandem with the scope of the levels, so you can also crouch in long grass or water, or hop into a hollow tree stump. In each case, hiding means robbing yourself of situational awareness, so the tension is maintained.
Once again your only tool here is a camcorder, with which you must document the horrors of the case that you and your reporter wife are working. Outlast 2 brings a more immersive recording system to the table than the original game, enabling you to record or snap key occurrences and texts and view them back with a press of '-'. A handy side function of this recording device is a night vision mode, and it's through this grey screen that you'll experience the game's murkiest sections. There's an almost comical number of prohibitively dark sections in Outlast 2, and cranking up the gamma setting will only get you so far.
In a way it's a shame that to have you experience such a convincingly realised game world through a grainy filter. Maybe it's because we played the original just a few weeks before, but we found the novelty of this mechanic was definitely starting to pall by the end of our time with the sequel. When you're ambling through the game at a steady pace, successfully picking your way through each stealthy challenge, the game is at its most brutally effective. Pick at the game's seams, or fail to determine exactly what it wants you to do, and its limited nature starts to grate.
Like the original, you'll eventually realise that this is basically a walking simulator (or rather a running-away simulator) with limited scope and interactivity. What's more, if you don't tackle its stealth system perfectly, you'll fall frustratingly short again and again, and will be forced to start afresh following another gruesome death animation. Of course, the key to any good horror movie is the suspension of disbelief on the viewer's part. If you approach Outlast 2 with a determination to be absorbed by its impressively realised world, there's nothing on Switch quite like it.
Outlast 2 ramps up the tension and the technical achievement from the original, with one of the most stunningly atmospheric game worlds around. The level design has expanded along with your stealth options, creating a handful of truly memorable moments. It definitely isn't for everyone, though. Themes of religious perversion and abuse make Outlast 2 (un)comfortably the most horrific experience on Switch, while the limitations of its stealth mechanics can try the patience.