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The Outlast Trials Review: A Spooky Soirée (With Friends)

EDITORS' RATING : 7 / 10
Pros
  • Engrossing atmosphere and settings
  • Innovative multiplayer horror experience
Cons
  • Diluted horror elements from the previous solo games
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Predictable AI enemies

An Xbox Series X|S review code for "The Outlast Trials" was provided to Zaaz for this review. The game is available now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Welcome back to the spine-tingling world of "Outlast." But hold your night vision goggles close, for this isn't the solo nightmare trek you remember. This is "The Outlast Trials," where the terror of the Murkoff Corporation now welcomes, or perhaps ensnares, groups of players. Can "Outlast's" essence of fear truly be shared, or is it better suited for solo scares? Thankfully, Red Barrels delivers a brilliantly macabre co-op experience (albeit limited) that both tests and strengthens friendships.

Stepping into the dilapidated shoes of a test subject, you find yourself in the eerie era of the Cold War, a puppet to the sinister strings of the infamous Murkoff Corporation. Unlike the desolate landscapes of previous "Outlast" haunts, "The Outlast Trials" thrusts you into a laboratory labyrinth of horror.

And what an environmentally pleasing labyrinth it is! From decrepit police stations to ghastly orphanages, each setting drips with dread. The ambiance nails the harrowing heartbeats and whispers of the wind, crafting a world where fear festers in every shadow. However, while these locales might echo the eerie elegance of prior entries in the series, some diehard fans might find the multiplayer shift dilutes the overall dread factor that makes the original "Outlast" games so good. The terror, while palpable, often feels compartmentalized, like a haunted house with too many guests that make you a bit more desensitized to the experience as you spend more time in it.

Who's That Monstrosity in the Mirror?

"The Outlast Trials" offers a gruesome gallery of grotesques to avoid, outsmart, and occasionally push over in your frantic flee (of which there will be many). The Murkoff influence weaves through the narrative like a sinister thread, connecting new horrors with familiar fears. But do these baddies hold a candle to the bone-chilling antagonists of previous titles?

Here lies a stitch in our blood-soaked quilt. The enemy AI, while unsettling in appearance, occasionally tips the scale from menacing to mildly inconvenient. They slither and prowl, yes, but escape is often as simple as a game of hide-and-seek, with you having the upper hand. For veterans of the series, these adversaries may lack the persistent threat that once glued players to their hiding spots, hearts thundering in their chests from inside lockers.

What doesn't falter here is the auditory experience. Dive into the darkness, and let your ears feast on the deadly melody of "The Outlast Trials." Sound design, as expected, hits the eerie notes with precision — a whisper here, a creak there, setting a symphony of screams. Graphically, the game is a grotesque masterpiece, painting its horror with a palette of nightmares. That said, amidst the blood-splattered beauty, some may find the visual variety wanting, the repetitive assets a tad too familiar, like a recurring nightmare losing its edge over time. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Multiplayer Mayhem Meets Maniacal Mischief

Here we stand, at the heart of our haunted house: the gameplay. Solo adventurers beware, for the once-lonely halls of horror now welcome a party.

Surprisingly, teamwork in this terror land does have its charms. Strategizing with friends, or even strangers, adds a layer of engagement distinctly different from previous "Outlast" escapades. The randomized elements of trials inject a dose of unpredictability, yet the core objectives might start tasting bland after the umpteenth generator switch-on.

And here's the overall rub: while camaraderie can carve out moments of joy and hilarity, the essence of "Outlast's" fear feels filtered through a multiplayer lens. Sneaking past the psychopathic failed subjects with a buddy does diminish the dread, turning spine-chilling scenarios into spooky sleepovers. This isn't necessarily a knock — it's just a different experience from the previous games. One that feels a bit more dialed down in terms of its horror.

New Kids on the Block or Old Guard Grudge Match?

For newcomers, you might wonder, "Is this ghastly game for me?" "The Outlast Trials" offers a welcoming hand to the uninitiated, a less isolating introduction to the "Outlast" universe. However, a word to the wise: diving into the original solo nightmares might just set a more horrifying table before you feast on this multiplayer morsel.

For veterans, this iteration is akin to a familiar melody played with a different instrument. Recognizable, yes, but the tune carries a different tone. Whether this symphony of scares strikes a chord with you will depend on your appetite for shared shivers versus solitary scares. Comparing it to other multiplayer horror games like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" game or "Dead by Daylight," "The Outlast Trials" seems to strike a balance between the two, offering both co-op gameplay and creepy scares. And with its focus on survival horror rather than combat, it may be more appealing to those who prefer a challenge beyond just aiming and shooting.

In the grand tradition of games everywhere, not all is perfect in the land of the damned. Technical terrors such as bugs and matchmaking mishaps do rear their ugly heads, though not monstrously enough to derail the experience entirely. However, it's an aspect where the polish could have mirrored the shine of those hauntingly beautiful graphics a tad more closely. Hopefully, though, these issues will be addressed in future patches.

A Frightful Frolic with Friends

As the curtain falls on this ghastly gala, "The Outlast Trials" emerges from the dark, scoring a solid 7 out of 10 on our scare scale. This isn't your lone venture into madness but rather a group expedition into the eerie unknown. The game morphs the franchise's solitary terror into a shared spooky adventure, diluting the dread but not totally dismantling it.

This review, mind you, reflects the eerie echoes of the first few frightful hours. In the case of "The Outlast Trials," longevity looms like a ghost on the horizon — will the game hold its horrifying charm in the weeks and months to come, or will the scares become as predictable as the patrolling peons? Optimism is a bit low in that regard, but if Red Barrels can maintain a steady stream of content and avoid becoming too comfortable in their formula, it could potentially be a spine-tingling success.

Whether you're a newcomer looking to dip your toes into terror or a seasoned scarer seeking new nightmares, "The Outlast Trials" offers a playground of paranoia. Just keep in mind that the true essence of Outlast's terror may best be savored in the silent screams of solitary play. So gather your courage — and maybe a friend or two — and step into the dark. Who knows what horrors await?

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