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The Outlast Trials has what it takes to be one of the best multiplayer horror titles of the year

The Outlast Trials understands what makes the series special, whilst experimenting with enough of the formula to keep it horrifyingly fresh.

It’s been six years since we last fell victim to the perilous whims of the Murkoff Corporation and, in The Outlast Trials, its inhumane experiments have only become more extreme. After we’ve stepped into the shoes of an investigative journalist uncovering Murkoff’s plans at Mount Massive Asylum, and discovered corruption in the Arizonian desert as a cameraman, we’re one of Murkoff’s very own sleeper agents in The Outlast Trials.

The Outlast Trials is, still, undeniably Outlast; your night vision camera is your best friend, hiding is often better than retaliating, and ultimately, the whole thing is deeply unsettling. Batteries and weapons are scarce, and the risk of being intoxicated with psychosis is high. What does psychosis do to your character? Well, I think it’s best that you wait and see – but just know that you won’t be able to believe your eyes. Literally.

Check out the Closed Beta trailer for The Outlast Trials here.

With inspiration from movies such as Saw 2, Cube, and 31 – alongside The Stanford Prison Experiment, The Manchurian Candidate, and more – The Outlast Trials is equal parts gore and psychological horror; not only is it, so far, a horrifying experience that will chill you to the bone, but it is a genuinely fascinating narrative to slowly pick apart, too.

Maybe I’m biased as a hound for psychology, but The Outlast Trials primarily touches on the concept of MKUltra and sleeper agents; two things that will fascinate any conspiracy-theory folk for a lifetime. As you awake inside a secret Murkoff facility, fellow inmates cowering around you, with doctors watching you peer through the glass, it’s immediately clear that whatever is happening here isn’t, morally, okay.

The player watches an enemy fight a fellow reagent while using Night Vision Goggles in The Outlast Trials
Night vision cameras remain, and you best hope your battery doesn't run out. | Image credit: Red Barrels Games

You – assumedly abducted by Murkoff to involuntarily participate in this array of experiments – become the company’s guinea pig, forced to take on the cruelest of ordeals in a bid for freedom. What that freedom actually entails, however (and whether it’s freedom whatsoever) remains unknown.

As one of Murkoff’s pawns, completely at the whim of its doctors, The Outlast Trials feels closer to the original game than the sequel, which was a relief to me. That said, there’s a much bigger focus on co-operative play here than ever before; rather than progressing through a linear story, the narrative here consists of programs and trials. Playing solo makes The Outlast Trials all the more scary, but with a team onboard, things feel a lot more manageable – friends become a buffer to the sheer terror at play – even if enemies are more powerful as a result.

The front of the police station in The Outlast Trials
Trials are made up of various sets, making it almost feel like you're taking part in a very elaborate movie. | Image credit: The Outlast Trials | Red Barrels

There’s also the likes of rigs and medication that can be unlocked later in the game, aiming to assist you and your squad with these treacherous trials. You’ll need to have completed plenty of ‘therapy’ to access these, though, giving The Outlast Trials a little bit of a Fallout vibe that I did not expect to see. This isn’t the only time you see Red Barrels implement inspiration from other media either, and it’s very pleasant to notice amongst all the blood-spattered corridors, guttural screams, and death traps.

Each program takes part in a different area of Murkoff’s secret facility, each of which is essentially a movie set of mannequins, traps, and dreadful abominations that want nothing more than to bash your skull in. These programmes are then made up of those eponymous trials; different objectives you or your team must complete to pass the test and move onto whatever sadistic experiment comes next. You’ll be awarded with points and cash for successful completion, and will be one step closer to your escape. Whether you’ll have the mental fortitude to make it out alive –or sane – is the main question here.

And that’s because The Outlast Trials, in my brief experience with it, is genuinely terrifying. The Outlast series has always been brutal, and Outlast (2013) was one of the first games I had to turn off and on again repeatedly because I simply became too scared. This doesn’t often happen. The Outlast Trials is more brutal than ever before; with enemies reminiscent of Resident Evil 4’s Ganados, and Berserker-type enemies we’ve seen in multiple horror games before, you’d think tackling enemies and navigating trials would be easy enough. Alas, these enemies truly catch you off guard, especially if you’re walking by any seemingly unattended desks, or you’re desperately trying to find a locker to hide in to find that it’s already occupied. Let’s not forget that your own friends might end up stabbing you in the back, too…

The player hides behind a box while looking at a big grunt enemy in The Outlast Trials
Will you survive each Trial and escape the facility alive? | Image credit: The Outlast Trials | Red Barrels

The Outlast Trials has certainly come a long way since its beta period back in October. While there are a few creases that still need ironing out, Red Barrels has not only brought the Outlast series back to form with The Outlast Trials’ brutality, scares, and fascinating subject matter, but it’s revitalised the series with its ‘trials’ format and by branching into co-op, too. Nice to see the game is living up to its name, then.

I have high hopes that The Outlast Trials might just be one of the best multiplayer horror titles of the year. There’s an attention to detail here that isn’t often seen in co-op horror, and I believe The Outlast Trials will genuinely freak its players out, just as the series’ debut did in 2013.

The Outlast Trials will launch on Steam on May 18, 2023. This game was previewed on PC, with code provided by the publisher.

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Kelsey Raynor avatar

Kelsey Raynor

Guides Writer

Kelsey's (she/they) passion for gaming began with Resident Evil, and it's been rather difficult to get them to shut up about horror games since. When they're not scoping out new scares or commiserating the cancellation of Silent Hills, they can often be found fawning over cute Pokémon and Kirby, or being very average at FPS games. They've been in games media for 3 years.
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