The Outlast Trials Review – Share the Scares

The Outlast Trials Review - Share the Scares

I’ve always been of the opinion that the original Outlast doesn’t always receive the proper credit it deserves. A first-person horror game that borrows heavily from the “found footage” subgenre of horror movies, it casts players as a rogue journalist who investigates Mount Massive Asylum after receiving a tip of illegal activities taking place. With an emphasis on avoiding combat, immersive gameplay, and psychological horror, Outlast rejuvenated the horror genre alongside the later-released Alien: Isolation, whose influence is still prevalent today.


And if there’s one thing better than scaring yourself silly, it’s being scared silly with friends. The horror gaming scene has only been bolstered by the rise of multiplayer games like Dead by Daylight, Phasmophobia, and Sons of the Forest, so it makes sense that Red Barrels is dipping their toes in this pool with their latest release, The Outlast Trials.

Taking place during the Cold War (well before the original Outlast and Outlast 2), The Outlast Trials casts players as an unknown homeless person who signs up for medical trials based on a deceptive flyer from the Murkoff Corporation. A cutscene shows us torture barely disguised as medical procedures, with one participant being executed in front of the player. In a clever spin on the night vision from the original game, a video camera is nowhere to be seen, but instead, “medical staff” drill night vision goggles directly into the player’s skull – a hell of an intro for the game.


From there, players learn the basics. You can run, jump, and interact with the environment in a number of ways, as well as ping enemies, locations, traps, devices, and more to other players. You’ll also unlock more abilities as you progress, but more on that later. For now, we’re going to be reborn through a series of bizarre moments in a haunted house ride from hell.

Murkoff wants you to tap into your survival instincts and to forget what society has taught you. More than that, it wants you to reject society entirely. Walking through a simulated house with mannequins on rails that are maneuvered by pulleys and motors, players are guided through a series of rooms with twisted and sadistic messages. We are shown a baby puppet in a crib crying, being told that being born is probably the worst thing we have done to the world, and it only gets worse from there. Real dead bodies start to appear throughout the house, being hacked up by mannequin children wielding knives.

I won’t mention what else happens in the game’s intro as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I felt myself rattled by its end, to say the least, but it’s nothing compared to the trials themselves…


After we are “reborn,” we arrive at the Murkoff facility – we even get our own room! The Murkoff facility is the game hub, where you’ll upgrade your character, customize your appearance or room, plan your next trial, and interact with other players.

In terms of character upgrades, there are a couple of different types, but they all require the same currency: contraband. Upon hitting level 2, you can acquire and upgrade Rigs, which are temporary powerful abilities that recharge after use. I’ve been working on the X-ray Rig, which, as the name implies, allows me to see through walls and objects. At level one, I can see maniacs who are hunting me down for a brief period. At level 2, my friends see tags of the same maniacs’ locations. I’m now at the stage where it lasts longer, highlights important objects such as first aid kits and batteries, and recharges quicker. It never breaks the game and makes it too easy, but it certainly is handy in a pinch.

Then there are permanent, passive upgrades from the Pharmacist and Dorris, a veteran patient of the facility. The Pharmacist sells prescriptions (Rx), and Dorris sells Amps. Both unlock for purchase at various levels, but eventually you’ll have to plan your purchases carefully based on your playstyle and limited contraband. Prescriptions include unlocking the ability to slide, escape grabs by using bricks and bottles, saving your friends from grabs and executions without depleting your stamina, and more. Amps include slippers that nullify the noise from walking on broken glass, a recharging night vision battery, improved lockpicks, and more.


The actual trials are an absolute blast to play, both as a solo player as well as with friends. In them, players will be asked to complete an objective that is simple enough, though these are often made challenging due to other factors. Minor puzzles, maze-like corridors blanketed in near-total darkness, and of course, roaming psychopaths can make something as simple as starting a generator in a basement a horrifying premise.

The first trial, Kill the Snitch, involves breaking into a mock-up police station and electrifying someone who has gathered evidence against Murkoff and threatened to release it to the public. Low-rank, almost docile Murkoff patients await outside. They’re harmless if left alone, but get close and you will cop a nasty blow to the head. Upon entering the police station, you’ll have to find your way to a security checkpoint. There’s one singular roaming psycho in this area who is easy enough to avoid with enough practice.

From there, you’ll enter the holding cells, where things ramp up significantly. Every few minutes, a special psycho will enter the mix through automatic one-way doors. They might be armed with hallucinogenic gas, which will cause you to lose your grip on sanity. Or they might be an absolute behemoth who wants to eat you, violate you, or both. There’s a surprising variety of mid-rank baddies in the game.

The real threat, however, is the Prime Assets: truly unhinged and immensely powerful ex-patients of Murkoff. Failed experiments unable to be rehabilitated, pose a much greater threat than low and mid-rank psychos. In Kill the Snitch, Leland Coyle roams the police station and surrounding area looking for you. Unlike other baddies, he is focused, and armed with an electric baton. He also has a penchant for ultraviolence and sexual assaults with that very same weapon.

Eventually, when players find the Snitch, they are tasked with pushing him in a wheeled restraint chair along rails until they reach the execution chamber. Every so often, the rails come across a locked door that must be opened with a key. TV screens will inform the player that a key bearing a specific symbol must be used to unlock the doors, where would you expect to find these keys? In corpses, of course!

That’s right, if you’ve ever wanted to dig around in multiple beheaded corpses looking for a key, this game is for you.


Make no mistake, dear reader, when you reach the execution chamber, you will kill the snitch. The Outlast Trials has you commit unspeakable acts of horror against other people. It’s that, or you fail the trial and will more than likely be murdered yourself.

I will say at this point that as a die-hard fan of horror, The Outlast Trials truly entertains me. It’s intense, and gory, and doesn’t shy away from some truly uncomfortable sequences. I do know people who can only play one trial at a time as they feel stressed or even nauseous, so be forewarned in that regard. If you like horrors like Bone Tomahawk, Terrifier, and The Green Inferno as much as your teen slashers like the Scream series, you should be able to handle it and maybe even laugh at the concept of sawing someone’s legs off with a mate like a couple of insane lumberjacks.


I’ve honestly enjoyed my time with The Outlast Trials much more than I think I would. Or perhaps I should say, that the fun has lasted as long as it has. Kudos to Red Barrels for giving me a game that I will return to time and time again as it receives future content and updates, as not many have managed to do so (I have a massive pile of Early Access games I’ve never gone back to). Everything feels well balanced, nothing feels unfair when encountering a Prime Asset, and the Trials are varied, with mazes, puzzles, and grotesque elements all combining to offer a unique experience that horror fans should absolutely take a chance on.


The Outlast Trials was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with code kindly supplied by the publisher. 

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