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The Outlast Trails Early Access Impressions – Portal x Saw

Strengthen your friendship with some frights

My relationship with the Outlast series is a bit of an odd one. While I greatly enjoy the exaggerated violence and grotesque adversaries, I’ve always preferred to watch them rather than play them. The unrelenting nature of the unnerving cat-and-mouse gameplay doesn’t tick my particular horror boxes, but being a bystander to other people being scared out of their skin is a blast. With all that being said, the injection of co-op into the franchise was more than enough to capture my interest, because misery shared is misery halved, and having some like-minded masochists alone for scares could be exactly what the psychotic, murderous doctor ordered.

Currently in Steam Early Access, The Outlast Trials takes the jump scare-riddled formula that the series is known for and says, “Hey, what if an unstoppable, naked madman was chasing you, but you had some mates with you to sand down the tension a bit?”

A prequel, of sorts, to the original game, Trials is set during the Cold War, with our good friends at the Murkoff Corporation offering a fresh start to vulnerable and downtrodden individuals. In non-corporate speak, this means that they’re taking people off the street and subjecting them to hellish tests that will help them re-evaluate their existence and become better people…apparently.

I feel rehabilitated already

After creating your poor, unfortunate subject, you’re thrown into your first death maze, complete with excessive amounts of viscera and violence. Acting as a solo tutorial that steps you through the general mechanics, you’ll trudge through a lengthy amount of exposition, all while getting to grips with the task-based structure of the trials ahead of you.

Once you’ve escaped, you’ll be let loose in your so-called accommodation, which looks awfully similar to a prison or a medical facility. Here, you can jazz up your room with knick-knacks and interact with online players by arm wrestling or using the game’s leaning mechanic to wave to each other with your entire torso. From this hub, you gather your party of up to four friends/inmates and select the trail you want to attempt.

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The trials themselves feel like terrorising test chambers, not unlike the kind you find in the Portal games. You’re given a checklist of fairly mundane objectives to work through, like finding fuel and then starting several generators or slowly moving an object from point A to point B, all while some exaggerated enemies pursue your group around the sizable maps. The missions themselves are nothing to crow about, save for the horror tint painted over them, but the unsettling feeling of being chased through dingy locales present in the previous two games lives on.

Large swathes of each level are covered in pitch-black darkness, but, luckily for you, Murkoff drilled a pair of night-vision goggles to your dome. Just like in previous instalments, these darkness-defying devices have the battery life of a DualSense controller, so you’ll need to look for scattered batteries around the place. Alongside these life-saving AAs are medical packs, bottles that can distract enemies and several other handy items, but you can only carry three at any given time, so you’ll need to choose wisely.

See, this is why I don’t like fairs 

During this early access period, the game features three locations (a police station, a fun park and an orphanage), each with its own set of objectives to complete before you can exit. Each section of the facility is plagued by unkillable, roaming monstrosities that are so excessive that it’s borderline comical. The police officer hanging around the game’s first area tasers himself in the meat and two veg, spouting off lines like, “If you’re not guilty, then why are you runnin’?” While there are some terrifying moments, such as being hit with a status effect that sends you into hysteria, causing a malevolent force that only you can see to relentlessly hunt you for a short time, the other threats are too silly to be scary for more than a fleeting moment.

As you complete trials and get your passing grade from A to F (I got plenty of Ds), you’ll slowly unlock upgrades known as Rigs that can be used on subsequent runs. These buffs are tied to a cooldown and allow you to do things like temporarily see through walls and stun enemies with mines, giving your team a bit more to think about before heading in. While this is appreciated, the AI isn’t particularly bright, so getting one teammate to distract them while the rest of your crew works on the objective usually does the trick.

I may have come across as a bit down on The Outlast Trials, and, in many ways, I am, but I can’t lie and say that I didn’t have any fun while playing it. The enemies are goofy, and the objectives are a bit uninspired, but getting a few friends together and running through a mission that blends together Portal’s sensibilities with the Saw franchise’s trap-based horror is a recipe for a few fun hours. My main concern, all things told, is that the fun might evaporate a few short hours later.

Previewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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