The Outlast Trials: Review | Co-Op Survival Horror Is My New Favorite Thing

A terrifying experience with friends that excels at everything it does, The Outlast: Trials proves multiplayer horror can be something great.

Of all the horror games that have you hiding in dark places while giant oversized creatures hunt you down, Outlast has always been top tier. Now you get to do it with friends and it’s an absolutely incredible experience. Instead of becoming another Dead By Daylight clone, The Outlast Trials puts a full horror game experience in your hands and lets you—and up to 3 friends—hide in the dark while gratuitous villains slaughter you one by one.

The Outlast Trials 

Developer: Red Barrels

Platform:  PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S

Release Date:  March 5, 2024

I’m not a huge fan of Dead By Daylight because it relies too heavily on a multiplayer aspect, and having a player be the villain kind of limits its potential. The Outlast Trials fixes this by giving you a true horror game that is entirely playable alone. That said, it is much more enjoyable as a co-op experience. The simple twist of having a friend set off an alarm, or hiding under a desk across from you and asking “is he gone” as a villain stomps his way out the door behind them, all adds up to simply one of the best experiences I’ve had.

The game knows how to utilize co-op to add a layer of depth to it unlike anything else. In some instances you could be poisoned, which could lead to you hallucinating in several different ways. In one instance I had been poisoned and was seeing a bad guy who kept jump-scaring me. Every time I screamed, my spouse (totally unaware of what’s happening) would tell me to chill the hell out. Then it got to the point where the hallucination could actually hurt me, and I’d randomly bolt out a door and run across the map…Again my spouse, totally unaware, would look around and then just burst out laughing.

Many aspects lean on this co-op experience and makes it very unpredictable. In one instance you might “see” your partner tinkering, or simply just whispering behind you. You might walk up to them for safety, or to see what they are doing, and next thing you know they’re stabbing you. “Stop! What are you doing!” you scream, but your partner explains it’s not even them.

Now every time your buddy walks up to you, you have to ask “is that really you? Prove it….” This offers another level of fear/paranoia in every encounter.

Things like this allows the game to break that 4th wall, and it does it so incredibly well. I’ve laughed at myself, and my partner, more than any other game. But at the same time the perfection of Outlast shines through so it doesn’t feel cheesy or half baked. So while you might be enjoying yourself, you still have a core game to play, and will legitimately be scared at times.

The whole co-op experience is just plain perfection for me. I’ve had zero issues finding my friends, the core lobby is done beautifully, and the ability to jump in and jump out is flawless. You start the game with a single player introduction, then get thrown into the trials.

Here you can roam around a facility which provides upgrades you can use as a loadout in the game. But it is also where your friends will seamlessly pop up if they are playing at the same time, and where you can customize your own cell, along with playing a mini game by simply sitting at a table and waiting for someone to join. I was honestly impressed with how easy it was to get my friends into my group, and also how they stay with you after each trial. I can’t say it enough, this is perfection. I haven’t even seen AAA games design online lobbies this well.

The Outlast Trials does things so remarkably well, that the short nature of it is one of the few issues it has. I’ve had this issue with countless horror games now, but the saving grace is The Outlast Trials is set up in a way to expand at some point. The initial game only has 5 different “levels” which each have their own missions to do. Each missione, for my team at least, seems to take a good bit of time to get through. Then as you progress you can unlock harder difficulties to run it through again, but it’s easy to see how this would get dull rather fast.

As you progress, you unlock levels and in-game currency so you can buy abilities and gear to assist on your trials (e.g. shoes that let you walk on glass, which won’t alert enemies, or an ability to heal yourself and allies with a slight cooldown). The game quickly becomes roguelite after your first trial. You run it through, get to the lobby, unlock some new gear, and run it through again.

The game does a good job of changing up the scenery each time, so while you might be doing the same tasks, the traps and objectives will all be shuffled around. Obviously with harder difficulties comes more enemies, and/or more traps to avoid.

The only real gripe I have with gameplay is the fact the enemy AI very obviously knows where you need to go. I found this took me out of the horror rather quickly. In one level we were looking for keys, once I found a key and unlocked a segment, that segment became “safe.” I could basically sprint around this area as much as I’d like, because the enemies were too busy spawning near the other keys.

Granted the game does a good job of introducing enemies to zones, they don’t just “appear” (unless you’re tripping out). Instead they will take stairs or elevators, and even set off alarms once they enter the zone. So you know they are around, but the simple fact they act as roadblocks makes them annoying at times. Like I said, the levels are long and when your last objective sits at the other end of a hallway that is blocked by the enemy walking back and forth, it’s frustrating. One simple mistake and now you gotta run the hour-long mission all over.

And while the game does violence extremely well, it doesn’t have any real story to tell. While you do pick up intel along each trip, and listen to some voice recordings, each mission doesn’t really add any true value to an overarching story. This somewhat deflates the horror in the enemies. Besides some visually creepy characteristics, we don’t know why we should be scared of them. Like in MADiSON, the blue knee’s song creeped you out because you knew doom was coming when you heard it. In The Outlast Trials you hear foot stomping, or the characters whispering to themselves, but you’re more scared of simply being caught than you are of them. I never really entered an area that scared me because of this.

The game only really has two cutscenes that add value. The opening sequence and the ending. Outside of that nothing really developed enough to warrant any psychological fear like the base series. Which is kind of disappointing. I would have liked some of the secondary characters to at least have a room that was “theirs” that you absolutely dreaded entering, or expanding on the co-op experience a tiny bit more. Overall though, the game does a fantastic job of imagery and environmental fear around every turn.

But this all leads back to the fact the game overall is a polished masterpiece. I just wanted more. I didn’t want the survival horror co-op experience to end, because somehow they introduced a whole new genre that I hope has a future. You could play this game alone, but the co-op adds such a fundamental layer to it that brought so much joy to me and replaying missions wasn’t all too bad. But the simple fact there isn’t much depth showcases why the game is starting to feel a little empty a little less than a month in. I just hope the team has content ready to go to breathe life into it, because I think I’ll be keeping this game installed if they do.



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the-outlast-trails-review-coop-survival-horror-is-my-new-favorite-thingThe Outlast Trials introduces a whole new game genre, co-op survival horror, and it does it to true perfection. This game sets the bar for co-op horror, and it’s a refreshing new take on the horror genre that pushes you and your friends to their limits, without one of them needing to be a “bad guy.” The online aspect is done extraordinarily well, and it is easily one of the absolute best co-op experiences I’ve ever had. If you’re looking to simply expand upon the Outlast universe, it might fall a little short, but if you got a co-op buddy then you absolutely cannot pass this game up.