Collective escape from the madhouse: The Outlast Trials review

The cooperative horror has finally left early access and is available on current platforms. Now the Reb Barrels project can be appreciated by a much wider audience, gather a team of friends and embark on a journey that will take dozens of hours of life tr

By: Vladyslav Nuzhnov | 28.03.2024, 15:24

The Outlast Trials draws you in with its eerie atmosphere for dozens of hours, but on one condition - you play in co-op. As soon as you find a company of two to four people, you get lost in time. The game is a set of trials in different locations with our enemies, where we have to perform certain actions, simultaneously survive all the craziness that is happening, and successfully leave the trial to do what? Escape from this goddamn place? No! Go to the next test, because our hero is a guinea pig who has no choice. So study well at university, obey your parents, and find a normal job so that you don't have to spend hours running away from a crazy woman with a doll on her arm who would love to eviscerate you. But it all seemed tempting enough to gg, so we got The Outlast Trials for review, because on 5 March 2024, the game left the early access and came to PlayStation and Xbox in addition to PC, so a wide audience will finally be able to get acquainted with the Red Barrels horror.



The Outlast Trials is a co-operative stealth horror game. It's the Cold War period outside the window. The Murkoff Corporation recruits people with nothing to lose to conduct experiments on them, brainwash them, control their minds, and send them to horrific trials to watch their guinea pigs in action. Not all of the "rabbits" will make it out alive, but the corporation doesn't care, because everything is done in the name of progress, science and profit.

5 reasons to buy The Outlast Trials

  • You love Outlast
  • The game is finally available on PlayStation and Xbox
  • You and your friends need a new co-op horror experience
  • The game is suitable for those who avoid horror, because the co-op experience does not make it too scary
  • Thanks to a variety of situations, Trials gives you the whole range of emotions

2 reasons not to buy The Outlast Trials

  • You have no one to play with
  • You are not a fan of stealth in games

The Outlast Trials

How we evaluate games

Graphics and sound
Meeting expectations
Willingness to recommend
Stress levels for parents
PlayStation Store Xbox Store Steam

Quick transition:

What we learnt after watching The Outlast Trials

For almost all my life, I have not been a fan of horror. I always tried to avoid this genre, but Alan Wake 2, which is a representative of horror, became the best game for me in 2023, so I became more loyal to this genre.

And now, during The Game Awards 23, it became known that The Outlast Trials will finally reach consoles in the spring of 2024. The Outlast series itself has become a cult, I'm not afraid to say, especially the first part. However, my acquaintance with each game in the series ended with the first screenshots, but now I have conquered my fear (not) and decided to dive into Trials. Moreover, you can play The Outlast Trials without knowing anything about the plot of the previous games in the series, which also helps to attract a new audience.

I will say right away that the game is not scary. It keeps you in suspense, puts pressure, and makes it clear that you are nobody here and have no name. But I was scared outright only a few times. Although I, as a person who is not hardened by this genre, liked it even more. And if you are the same, then Trials has a chance to please you. However, the tension described above sometimes disappears when you go to play in four. Then the game turns into a comedy. Therefore, it is best to play in two or three if you want a horror atmosphere. But the most important thing is that thanks to the Red Barrels project, I realised for the second time that I could like horror. I got emotions from the game, I was pleasantly surprised, and I want to play more, so I just want to shake hands with the developers behind The Outlast Trials.

The plot: The Cold War gave birth to psychos the world has never seen before

Our hero is at the bottom of a social lift, and he just exists, not lives. But suddenly he finds a campaign poster for the Murkoff Corporation, which is looking for such people. What for? It's the Cold War, so it's time for experiments. Only the corporation's experiments are quite specific. It needs people who can be subjected to the most horrific excrement, because this is the only way Murkoff sees the path to progress.

The hero, who, by the way, has no name, and all those like him are called reagents, finds himself in a bloody laboratory deep underground, where he is quickly (and very painfully) introduced to the course of events. Later, we are sent to a training ground where, after successful completion, we become a full-fledged corporate guinea pig, who must survive deadly tests and return to normal life (I believe it).

You shouldn't expect a story with many cut-scenes, characters, and dialogues, because this is not the Outlast that came before. Instead, we're going to get a set of locations where we have to put together a complete puzzle by looking for notes, examining objects, and using a little imagination. And for Trials, I support this format because it's a co-operative game. The story is often a secondary element in such projects, because when there are four of you and someone is shouting, joking, or just talking, one question arises: "Who cares about the story?".

But despite this, the plot component is still done at a decent level. This is primarily due to charismatic antagonists and well-designed locations. Here's a police station where a crazy cop and former military man, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Leland Coyle, with a stun gun, wants to kill you. But when you see how he burned the arse of a mannequin, you realise that it might not be just a murder.

And then there is the equally crazy Mother Gooseberry, who walks around with a doll on her arm. But the doll is not just any doll, it has a drill that will make a hole in you. The doll can be found at least in an amusement park and an orphanage. However, there are no live children anywhere, only dolls, which makes the situation no less eerie. And the story of this woman is so interesting that it can be described in one word - trash. Because that's the word I had in mind when I put together her biography.

So, thanks to this crazy world, which is part of the story, you are interested in being in the game. It would seem that this is a real madhouse from which you have to escape. But then you get together with the company one night and go to repeat the same actions in the hope of getting different results. And for Albert Einstein, by the way, this was madness, so we adapted to the circumstances that awaited us in the game as much as possible.

I would like to see more locations and another full-fledged antagonist, but the game is just coming out of early access, and I hope that Red Barrels will prepare new interesting content in the future.

Gameplay: an unforgettable excursion with friends

Everything starts every time from the recreation centre (which we will talk about later), where you and your friends or yourself choose a level. There are two types of levels: trials (long to complete) and MC challenges (short ones that can be completed in 5 minutes). After that, you enter a special capsule and find yourself in a carriage that takes you to the location through an underground tunnel.

For example, you have chosen a challenge in an orphanage. Before you start the first task and meet the enemies, you need to look around to scan the location and look for items for your inventory.

The items are as follows:

  • Bottles or bricks - needed to distract the enemy or throw an object at him and stop him for a couple of seconds
  • Health bottles - needed to restore health. They are divided into two types: partially or fully restoring health
  • Batteries for the Nothing Seeing Device - restore the charge of the NDP. They are also divided into two types, as in the case of health
  • Adrenaline dose - if you need to run long and fast for a certain period of time
  • Key - some items are in special boxes. Some of them are open, and the rest require a key to open them
  • Antidote - needed if you have been poisoned
  • Charger - instantly restores your gadget (we'll mention it later)
  • Syringe - restores your partner if he or she has died. When you play alone, instead of a syringe, there will be pills that you need to drink immediately - this will add +1 opportunity to revive

So, we've found some items and are ready to start the task. First, you need to set up the correct radio frequency, which is done in the form of a mini-game. And usually, after the first completed task, enemies appear on the location. It is advisable to avoid them altogether, but if you are spotted, there are several options. The first one is to run away and hide in a closet, under a table, in a trunk, or in a garbage can. Just remember that enemies are not stupid and can look into these interior items, so you have to hope for luck.

If there's no place to hide nearby, darkness is your friend. Run into a dark room and carefully watch the direction of the enemy. For this purpose, there is a night vision device that gives you cat's eyesight, because in the dark you will not miss anything, but you will be lost from sight very easily. The main thing is to keep an eye on the charge indicator of the EMP, because then you will turn from a cat into a chicken.

Since we've mentioned enemies, let's list those you can meet:

  • Main antagonists. Mother Gooseberry or Leland Coyle.
  • The big guys. There are three types of them: one runs around in his mother's clothes, another with an axe, and the third is blind, but he has good hearing
  • A doctor with psychotropic gas. If he uses it on you, you will start to experience hallucinations that make the game difficult. You need an antidote to make the effect disappear
  • Ordinary crazy people. They usually walk around with batons and do not pose a strong threat
  • Madmen who hide. If you get too close to them, they will jump on you and take some of your health
  • Phantom friends. You may see a friend in front of you, but it will turn out to be a ghost that will stab you in the liver. To avoid this, you need to look closely at the nickname. It will have slight differences from the real one

Of course, this is not the whole list, because I don't want to spoil all the surprises during the passage and put all the cards on the table at once.

Let's continue on the path to completing the test. We look carefully at everything around us, look for the right route to the goal, do what the game says - it can be, for example, finding keys for the door. At the same time, we avoid enemies and various traps. These are usually sound traps, such as glass on the floor or tin cans hanging on strings. If such objects are involved, the enemies nearby will be happy to go check out who the troublemaker is. When you have dealt with absolutely everything, you need to return to the point where it all began and call the escape pods, climb into them, and you have successfully completed the task.

So the whole formula can be described as: "search, escape, run". However, thanks to interesting levels, unpredictable situations, and the company of friends, you can play it for at least 30-40 hours.

But I should emphasise once again that I do not recommend playing Trials alone. It is sometimes very difficult to play alone against this crowd of enemies, and in general, it takes longer to complete. Because when you need to move a trolley with rails from point A to point B with a friend, he distracts the enemies, while you do your job. But alone, you have to hide from the enemies and invent something to drag that unfortunate cart forward for a couple of metres. With four of us, we could mock those enemies as we pleased and felt confident, but when there are 2-3 of you, it's perfect for this game. Then the level of tension is maintained, but at the same time it is more interesting and fun to play. So all you need to do is find at least one friend who will buy the game, and you can go on a tour of the madhouse.

How can I become the best test subject?

After each test, we get several types of currency, experience, and items that we can buy. The latter are bought in our room - it can be new wallpaper and various decorative items, such as toys or figurines. In your room, you can also change the appearance of your character and buy new clothes, which are only a cosmetic element and do not improve your performance.

However, there are three characters in the base who will gladly (and for currency) make you better. The first is Cornelius Noakes. He is an engineer and sells several gadgets. For example, you can buy a gadget that stops the enemy for a certain time, allowing you and your friends to redeploy. Or you can buy a device that restores health to everyone around you. There are 4 such gadgets in total, and it would be nice if everyone in your company bought different ones, because you can only carry one with you. At the same time, each gadget can be further improved to open up new possibilities.

There is also Emily Barlow, a pharmacist who will unlock new hero abilities, such as the ability to make rolls or increase your inventory. And the last one is Dorris. This woman sells illegal amphetamines, which are very helpful. For example, she sells an amph that allows you to walk on glass without making noise. Or take an amp that will gradually restore the battery of the airborne gun while you are not using it.

Personally, I did not feel that the game was too "stifling" with the collection of currency. Yes, you won't get half of it in 10 hours, but the basic set, which will be more comfortable on the levels, is collected quite quickly.

The Outlast Trials is a place to meet new people

What I remember most about the game is the people I met, because at one point, new players may appear at the recreation centre with whom you can go and play together. At first, I played with an Italian, where I had the best experience in terms of tension-fun, but the most memorable experience was playing with three Germans. These people stuck in my heart so much that I couldn't help but remember it all. In addition to the interesting gameplay, the game also manages to unite strangers around you, but with the same goal. You run away from monsters together, solve puzzles, help each other, and just talk about everything, so you can practice your English as well. Although I'm a fan of story-based games, I'm happy that for some time every evening, the Red Barrels project brought me together with wonderful people who helped me feel joy and warmth for at least a couple of hours in these turbulent times. So if you've long wanted friends from different countries to get together in the evenings, share stories, and survive the creepy levels of a disgusting corporation, check out The Outlast Trials.

The technical side of the sinister corporation

I played the game on PlayStation 5, and I have no complaints. The Outlast Trials maintains a stable 60 fps all the time, and I didn't see a single bug or crash.

Visuals that make you look at every object

Out of all the games I reviewed in 2024, this one is still in second place on the list of "most beautiful" (the first is still reserved for The Last of Us Part II Remastered review). The visuals of Trials can make you go crazy. Every object, room, and entire level is so detailed that you want to see absolutely everything. Various effects, good lighting, and cinematic graphics made it clear in the first hours that this game should be given the highest score for its visuals. Thanks to the graphics, Trials turned out to be aesthetically pleasing and atmospheric, and the people who were responsible for this at Red Barrels are great and are an example of what visuals should be in modern games (if the budget allows it, of course).

The soundtrack matches the atmosphere

Sounds in a horror game are almost the most important component. How did the developers handle it? Very well. I'd like to praise the sound of the enemies, especially Mother Gooseberry. It was an incredible performance. You can also clearly hear where and in which direction everyone is moving, which allows you to plan your route better. And in general, the soundtrack contributes to the tension and atmosphere of the game to tickle your nerves. There are no questions about the soundtrack either. There are not so many songs, but they skilfully set the mood of the game.

How we will remember The Outlast Trials

The Outlast Trials will remain for me a game with an interesting gameplay formula, a good story, an eerie atmosphere, and breathtaking graphics. But at the same time, it's also a game that can easily become a place where you get together with your friends for a few hours every night to explore the craziest places of the Cold War. Playing Trials together is a pleasure because the situations are constantly changing. One minute you're having fun, the next you're scared, the next you don't know what you're supposed to do for 10 minutes, and so on. Even if you are not a fan of horror, this game can be a good springboard to give the genre another chance.

Five things you need to know about The Outlast Trials

  • The Outlast Trials is the third full game in the Outlast universe
  • This is the first game in the series to focus on co-op play
  • On 5 March 2024, Trials left early access and became available on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox
  • The authors have worked hard on the visuals, atmosphere, and gameplay, which will allow you to disappear into the game for tens of hours
  • Trials is able to capture the attention of even those who avoid horror games
The Outlast Trials
Genre. Survival horror
Platforms. PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC
Number of players Multiplayer / Single player
Developer Red Barrels
Publisher Red Barrels
Time to complete 20-100 hours
Release date 5 March 2024
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The editors would like to thank Dead Good PR agency for kindly providing the game for review