The Outlast Trials Review (PS5)


Converting a traditionally single player IP into one meant for multiplayer too is a process with just as many hits as there are misses, so developer Red Barrels will be delighted it’s landed on the right side of history. With up to three friends along for the ride, The Outlast Trials is a slightly different ballgame to its offline counterparts, but it retains enough horror to appeal to those fans picked up through entries past.

An online-focused take on the Outlast series, the game can be played by yourself or with up to three other players, all of whom must work together to solve a series of trials put on by scientists treating you like lab rats. Prison quarters act as your hub, with your own cell to decorate and NPCs rewarding better equipment for your loadout in each scenario. Either going at it alone or having partied up with teammates, you’ll choose a trial to complete with upgrades, XP, and currencies your rewards.

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These scenarios play out like mini Outlast campaigns, with an overall objective to work towards and a labyrinth of rooms, corridors, and enemies standing in your way. This is where you feel the multiplayer spin-off confidently clutching to its roots: hiding from the patrolling monstrosities is a necessity, limited night vision adds a lot of tension, and objects sourced from the environment can make or break your run. You’ll perform poorly at first, but as you get to grips with the locations and upgrades, higher ranks and better gear enter your periphery.

And, overall, it’s a loop that works well. While only a few elements like item locations and locked doors are randomly generated — everything else is set in stone — the game has that sort of addictive quality where you want to jump straight back in for a higher score having acquired better gear. With friends also eager to enhance their characters, it’s easy to see how a group could spend night after night yearning for that next improvement — whether it be a greater score in a trial or tools to better them for future scenarios.

What relieves the tension in a more unfortunate manner, though, is the enemy AI. Mutilated and mangled humans will stalk the premises of each trial, with traps (electrified floors, barred doors) set to help them find you. They’ll give chase whenever you’re spotted, but escaping and returning them to their usual patrol paths is such a breeze that the game loses a lot of its tension and scare factor.

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They always pose some threat as limited health renders your run over if it’s completely depleted. However, simply sprinting off in the opposite direction and finding a hiding spot is usually enough to fend off a stalker. You only have a proper issue if you encounter another enemy on the way. Even with a stamina bar to manage, The Outlast Trials fails to be nearly as scary as its predecessors, placing more importance on the gameplay loop to carry it.

What lends the experience some variety, at least, is a decent line-up of environments for the trials to take place in. Rather than being the real-life places, the experiments generally take place in a gigantic warehouse, and then the likes of a police station or mansion are manufactured inside. It sort of gives off the vibe of a huge paintball arena, except you’re dealing with actual death instead of bruises from a pellet.

While much of the interiors are dripping with blood and bodily innards, the whole thing actually has a really clean presentation that makes for a visually appealing experience. It utilises a 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second, which makes for a striking, sharp look that carries over into the menus — everything feels hand-crafted to be clear and straightforward to avoid any player confusion.

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What lets the visuals down somewhat is a hint of repetitiveness in their assets. The locations are packed full of mannequins and cardboard cutouts; they’re so prevalent that they feel tightly packed in and can detract from the charm or atmosphere of select environments. It sort of works alongside the idea of The Outlast Trials being a house for scientific simulations, but there comes a point where they’re a bit too frequent from a graphical perspective.


It may not be the next single player terror fans of its predecessors are looking for, but The Outlast Trials successfully translates the series’ formula for a co-op setting. Hiding from gory psychopaths and utilising night vision is still the name of the game — now you simply do it alongside up to three friends online. Though silly enemy AI and some repetitive visual assets drag the experience down, The Outlast Trials is an example of a former single player game turned online title done right.

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