Xbox Series X

Published on March 14th, 2024 | by Gareth Newnham

The Outlast Trials Review

The Outlast Trials Review Gareth Newnham

Summary: Red Barrels latest is a twisted treat for series fans and newcomers alike


Rat Race

The Outlast Trials is a strange proposition; a cooperative four-player horror game set in Red Barrels, incredibly twisted, but until this point, exclusively single-player series that has seen lone survivors running for their lives from crazed cultists and deranged inmates has decided to turn things on its head by revealing how the shady Murkoff corporation ended up with a sanitarium full of sadistic maniacs in the first place.



You see, no one is born a monster, but Murkoff has figured out a way to make sleeper agents on an industrial scale at their new facility that takes in the desperate and poverty-stricken and, through a strict program of ‘therapy’ can send them out into the world reborn and ready to strike the opponents of capitalism at a moments notice.

Set at the height of the Cold War, Outlast Trials sees you play as some poor sod that answered an ad promising them a better life only to find themselves the unwitting test subject in a series of brutal tests designed to psychologically breakdown and then brainwash the subjects before sending them off to live in a foreign land to await activation.

Grim doesn’t really cover it, and there is no happy ending, just more trials, more torture, and then more psychos unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Thrust into a series of disturbing situations in strange facsimiles of real-world locations like a police station, carnival, orphanage, and more, your small team of test subjects is tasked with performing some gruesome task while being stalked by the sadistic crazies the series is infamous for.

What’s really impressive, though, is how Red Barrels has managed to condense the core gameplay loops the series excels at into a much more condensed but no less unsettling situation. Even more so at times because this time, you’re just not trying to survive, but you’re ultimately complicit in the violence.

Not that it feels like it at the time when you’re once again huddled in a darkened corner as the batteries on your night vision goggles slowly trickle away, hoping the naked giant with a club doesn’t bump into you by shoving his horse-sized junk in your face and then turn you into meat paste before you can run away.

However, your chances of survival are increased by the fact that you now have three other teammates in the exact same situation that can lure them away or even stun the git giving everyone a chance to make a break for it thanks to your new equipable rig that that lets you do useful things like stun enemies, set smoke traps, or heal the team. It’s a clever twist and one that allows for a small amount of class-based fun, especially if you manage to coordinate which ability each member of the team has before you dive in.

They come in incredibly handy, too, as there is really no respite in Trials from the parade of monsters hunting you in both the shadows and brightly lit areas. It feels like around every other corner, there’s someone waiting to murder you, and if there isn’t, one will be along shortly, as more are released as you complete objects and inch closer to escape.

If the rigs don’t work, you can always throw a brick at your foes or distract them with a tossed bottle. Although they also have ways to find you with crude noise traps made of tin cans and broken glass.

Most of what you’re tasked with accomplishing will be familiar to anyone who’s played a cooperative horror game in the past decade; there are generators to refuel and kick start, locks to pick locks, and political prisoners to execute as they beg for mercy( ok, maybe not the last one). Each task is nerve-wracking because not only does messing up literally hurt, but it also makes a noise that inevitably leads to you getting beaten half to death by one of Trials’ menacing maniacs or having to make a break for it.

The rogues gallery for Trials is one of Outlast’s best to date. There are the usual inpatients wielding iron pipes, but there are also some truly unsettling characters like a Maniac Cop-inspired prison guard who has an unhealthy love of his electric baton, the unnerving Skinner man who appears whenever your sanity starts to slip, or a random NPC drugs you, and a naked woman, covered in barbwire who hides in cupboards, bins, and dark corners before leaping out at you and trying to throttle before scarpering.

Then there’s the cover star of Outlast Trials, Mother Gooseberry. A terrifying matronly abomination that is like a nightmarish version of Rimmer from Red Dwarf after he contracts the holo virus. An androgynous ghoul wearing a gingham dress and someone else’s face, plastered with clown makeup and brandishing a murderous duck puppet with a drill in its beak that would give Mr. Flibble a run for his money.

Each map maintains the same level of gruesome detail the series is known for. the corpses of fallen test subjects litter every stage, unnerving mannequins strewn throughout this horrific carnival ride; propaganda covers the walls, while researchers can be seen making notes behind safety glass.

These sinister scenes are accompanied by a score, which rises and falls as you are chased down by laughing maniacs who taunt and growl as they hunt you.

As such, Trials does a wonderful job of maintaining an almost constant agonising sense of tension. At least, it does when you’re playing by yourself.

Though the action does scale depending on how many players there are, for example, you’ll have three generators to kick start instead of one when you’re by yourself. However, playing alone makes each mission last considerably longer. One that may take 15 minutes with four players can take over an hour if you’re playing alone. Mostly because many hands make light work, and if you’re being chased by a nutter with a cattle prod and a firm eye on your posterior, you’re not completing an objective. On the plus side, though, playing alone does give you more XP for your efforts. I do wish the thing would let you pause when playing alone, though. Always online be damned.

Each time you level up, you unlock new passive skills and rig abilities, as well as cosmetics for your sleep room.

There are plenty of ways to build up your character, and no ability feels like a waste, from sliding to being able to bash through barricades and locked doors more easily and simple upgrades like increased stamina or battery life for your night vision goggles.

Though it might be easy for the leveling system to make you overpowered incredibly quickly, the missions do a good job of increasing in difficulty at the same rate as your leveling, and certain tasty unlocks are limited to certain levels, which smooths out the challenge level nicely.

Eventually, you can attempt the final trial and release your test subject back into society to wait to be activated. You then start a fresh character That retains your unlocks.

It’s a creepy reward for battling through the trials, but it’s just a shame that more of the narrative isn’t front and centre, as most of it is randomly scattered through levels in collectible documents.

Final Thoughts

The Outlast Trials is a tense and rewarding multiplayer horror game. Though it’s not quite as nerve-shredding as previous Outlast games, especially when playing with others, its primary loop is an addictive one, and it drip-feeds rewards and challenges at just the right place to keep you hooked until you feel you can renter society again.


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