As human beings, we have a taste for the macabre in one way or another. Be it a fascination with spooky stories, an interest in unsolved murders, or a taste for almighty Hammer Horror gore. And it’s no different for gaming, with Resident Evil, Dead Space and in recent gaming history, Outlast, leaving a rather big bloody mark on the gaming scene. Outlast takes much of the horror and gore to an extreme level, providing compelling thematic scares, intense brutality and spookier cliches than a Creepy Pasta thread.

With two single-player ventures released within the last decade, it feels like an appropriate move to turn things on its head for The Outlast Trials, where rather than surviving the insanity and torture alone, you can bring a few friends along for the wild ride.

What is The Outlast Trials?

Now I must be honest and inform you that I was never a fan of the previous Outlast games. The first I found fine, and the sequel I couldn’t tolerate due to its many flaws. I never found the idea of simply running and hiding without any means of defence fun or engaging. Thankfully Resident Evil 7, and Alien Isolation showed you can have a scary game and be armed yet still vulnerable. Even the Amnesia series decided to include weapons in The Bunker, and it was top-tier horror and dynamic gameplay (which made it our top game of 2023).

But now it seems like Red Barrels have decided to modify the formula which made the previous games so recognisable, beloved by many and loathed by many others. This outing with The Outlast Trials sees players banding together or braving it alone through a series of sadistic challenges, where they will be mentally, and physically tested to the absolute brink of despair.

By hiding, adapting, and crafting vital gear and tools for the long road ahead, players can escape the Murkoff Corporation’s advanced facility in mind control and human testing. And as mentioned, you can do it with a couple of friends …. Who in a pinch would make a good distraction for one of the crazed killers on your tail. The Outlast Trials is a simple venture of madness and violence, be it, you are a prisoner trapped within a series of gruesome trials, and you have to stay alive long enough for the chance of freedom.

A shadowy place that aims to help you be a better you!

The one thing I did like about the Outlast games were the stories, and even when they got wild at times, there was a great sense of warped storytelling, filled to the brim with disgusting, disturbing and downright eerie bits of lore that you say to yourself isn’t real, yet some part of you dares to imagine if it were.

I love the dark conspiracies, and twisted notions of shady corporate doings for financial gain, population control, or far worse things and at no limit on the expense, be it money, humanity or the countless lives pitted through true suffering. Recounting key events from the previous games does send shivers down my spine, with the premise for The Outlast Trials again being quite outlandish, it still unnerves and captivates me, as much as an ultra-dark film or internet folklore (insert uncanny Mr Incredible meme here).

The Outlast Trials piques our interest in the macabre with a story set within the Cold War, as we find ourselves out in the cold among the forgotten generation without hope or shelter. One day we stumble across a flyer offering a warm place to stay, food, and a chance at a new lease on life … although it is achieved through torture and suffering ... however, we don’t know that from the pretty flyer.

We enter the Murkoff Corporation’s most advanced facility, which resembles a disused, disgusting and rather dangerous theme park where wonder and joy are replaced with crazed killers and torment. As a fresh-faced recruited Guinea pig, you will face the most horrid fears, and extreme violence, and have your morals challenged in the most extreme tests of stress, endurance, and teamwork, which may or may not crush your sanity. So let the games begin, and while you're at it, why not decorate your living quarters to match the darkest recesses of your soul.

You are a prisoner; you must escape by completing trials and overcoming extreme situations that will surely kill you. It’s a simple, but enthralling concept that dives deep into the mythos of Outlast. For those returning from playing the previous games, you'll be treated to plenty of lore breadcrumbs that will whet your appetites.

This isn’t a strongly woven narrative experience, with deep character arches and evolving plot threads, but rather the bare basics of a collective of events and trials to overcome. Suppose you were hoping for a grand third entry that explores the darkest recesses of the human condition. In that case, there is something here, but many of the gaps you have to fill in, and possibly receive an ending to wrap things up properly (depending on the roadmap for the game).

I will admit, I had hoped there might be a compelling narrative to pull me in like the previous two games, but much is left up to interpretation, as the multiplayer gameplay takes centre stage. This will disappoint many for sure, but not so much for others. But I wish there was something more typical, with a classic three-act structure, a proper end and solid narrative beats. But the world-building, setting, and tad bits of lore we do get are phenomenally creepy and compelling. I love the depressing and decaying setting, the Cold World era conspiracy vibes, and the weirder-than-weird hunters that pose all manner of sadistic threats.

But a single-player outro much akin to the epic conclusions of the previous games would’ve been most welcomed, compared to the minimalistic outing we got.

Trial by fire, blood, decay and death!

The Outlast Trials maintains much of the core concept from before, just with some fine-tuning, bringing about a series of deadly ultra-survivalist games where players will team up, complete puzzles, and evade the ever-tortuous eye of a rampaging psychopath.

You and up to three buddies will venture through one of several death games that have you doing all sorts of mad things while being pursued by either the sadist who loves drilling faces and puppeteering or the sadist who loves wearing leather and zapping their junk with an electrified rod. The absurdist nature of Outlast is ramped up to 11 here, where players will embark on challenges that more often than not, have them fishing key items out of the stomachs of dead inmates (or sometimes alive…), sawing body parts off from very much alive inmates, ramming a boat load of child mannequins into a massive blender via a river of blood, and other things which will surely disgrace my soul even mentioning it in writing.

The aim is to survive, although to do so, you'll be completing wacky and weird tasks to satisfy the weirdos behind the frosted glass. And it’s downright terrifying, and I love it.

It’s been a while since we had a great co-op experience with only Helldivers 2, Left 4 Dead, and Overcooked filling the void for now. The Outlast Trials takes a solid single-player formula and transitions it brilliantly into a multiplayer format. With all the trimmings of a great survival game, from fiendish challenges, crafting gear from resources, and avoiding capture, but now with a four-player co-op making The Outlast Trials one of the most engaging and refreshing multiplayer games out.

You’ll be doing all the things you love, including hiding in the dark and using night vision to guide yourself through harm's way. But this time round, you are not entirely defenceless, as players can now scavenge for resources and craft items that can disorient and buy you a few precious seconds to make a quick escape. Be it with or without your friends. I love this inclusion as the other games never allowed you to do anything by running and hiding. But the mechanics here for The Outlast Trials are polished rather nicely, allowing you to fend for yourself, make a breathless escape from the clutches of death, and set a sadist on fire for a few seconds of amusement.

It's easy to grasp the core mechanics and execute on the fly, even during extreme pressures. While the stealth mechanics have not been advanced a great deal, they are solid and will keep you out of trouble, providing you don’t do mad dashes, causing a ruckus that draws attention needlessly. Mastering patience and stealth is a must, as the AI for the hunters is remarkable in their efforts, never feeling cheap, but rather a fair but terrifying predator of cunning and raw determination.

And the inclusion of sanity and keeping your s*** together for as long as possible is a neat idea, be it a little generic, still offers moments of tension and dread, as you begin to tremble in fear, and hallucinate.

Welcome to the mad house of fun … and death!

The Outlast Trials has in total 5 main environments, representing classic tropes of horror cliches, including a lovely carnival filled with all manner of death traps. Plus, plenty of smaller side challenges for you and your friends.

While the roaster is a solid one, I did find that after 12 hours of play, I had the been there, done that feeling settling in. It’s most likely down to a couple of key issues. Firstly, the main challenges are limited in scope, and while a lot of fun, never dynamically change, thus never expanding the level of intimacy or engagement. You’ll be doing the same things in each environment, over and over, with little changing, unless you bump up the difficulty, which increases enemy presence and death traps.

The second is the lack of antagonists, with there being only two main ones and two which feel like generic baddies we’ve seen countless times before. Mother Gooseberry and Officer Coil are both entertaining and scary in their own ways but feel a little grating after encountering them for the 10th time. The other two as mentioned before, are just generic weirdos that lack the level of charisma and persona of Officer Nasty, and the scary puppet lady.

However, the density of character progression and customisation kept me entirely invested when gameplay started feeling a little dry in the challenges. While I did have a lot of fun, and still do playing with friends, the amount of customisation, and gear upgrades allowing me to carry more, have more powerful tools for blinding my foes, and new items to help my sleuthing, made me want to invest more time and efforts for the long run.

And in the long run, there is a roadmap to include more items, new levels and hopefully, more brutal hunters to round up the roaster to a nice selection. What we have for the moment is still engaging for the time being, but more baddies, levels and gear will be a massive addition that will surely pique the continuing interest of the macabre enjoyers.


The horror genre continues to evolve with variety and conviction into new territories, with the likes of Resident Evil going back hard in horror themes and even with new perspectives. And Outlast has followed similarly, taking a new approach with the latest entry that feels it has some missing components, is overall a satisfying and highly immersive experience, even for someone who was not a fan of previous entries.

Gazing at the roadmap ahead, more will be added to the core game, and while I wish there were more solid narrative beats, The Outlast Trials is a thoroughly fun, terrifying, and rewarding co-op experience unlike many others at this time. There is enough here to keep you invested for about 20 hours, but I feel it could be worth a little wait until the additional levels and hunters are added in, providing a more fleshed-out venture that will surely double the time of appeal. Still, The Outlast Trials is worth checking out now, and I highly recommend it down to the visceral, and blood-soaked multiplayer carnage, that so many games lack nowadays.

++ Visceral, brutal, and intelligent multiplayer gameplay.
++ Gruesome, gory, goofy, and lots of horror fun.
+ Lots of customisation, extra content, and bits to unlock.
+ Intense and enjoyable stealth gameplay, that doesn’t leave you totally defensive.

- Needed more variety in mission objectives.
- More hunters are needed (but more are coming).
- Lacking strong narrative beats.

A PS5 copy of The Outlast Trials was kindly provided by the publisher for this review.