What a mess.
To give you some reference I played Outlast & it's DLC when they were released and it was at the time one of the best horror games I'd ever played, the design took the chases from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, nightvision from found footage horror films, layered that on a base of uncertainty by setting it in an psychiatric hospital and sprinkled on gore. Running from various NPC's down tight corridors and witnessing them do strange and bewildering things in a crumbling asylum made for an entertaining game, the DLC added body horror to the mix and was generally an improvement.
The problem is that Outlast 2 tried to make it more extreme but missed the mark with everything else. Setting the game in rural Arizona after a helicopter crash you play as journalist and cameraman Blake who's travelling with his wife Lynn when their helicopter goes down whilst investigating the story of a missing pregnant woman. The story see's you trying to save your girlfriend who's been taken by the leader of one of the depraved and deranged cult's as you try to escape the clutches of the other.
The start of the game for me was the best part, the game teaches you how to use the directional microphone and I enjoyed using it to hear far away rustling and overhearing manic conversations taking place through walls but it lost it's usefulness early on. The creepy feeling of being watched and the tension of exploring an obviously occupied village where no one wants to leave their homes filled me with dread quite quickly as I could see what was coming a mile off, however nothing could really brace me for the gameplay.
The gameplay is similar to Outlast 1 but also where it totally breaks down for me, setting the game in confusing open areas with no clear path to the exit, including multiple extremely aggressive enemies and a new health system that relies on you to find rare healing items or be stuck on low health getting instakilled by everything that catches you, drains the horror experience out of it completely. In the opening area trying to sneak past what was meant to be a one of the main antagonists you deal with in the game, some tall raggedy woman with a pickaxe, saw me die at least 10 or so times as I tried to figure out where the area exit was. Her animation for killing me was extremely brutal and graphic, like every death animation is, but after the 10th time it wore thin and this was only the first time encountering this one enemy. She makes a yelping noise when she's found you and then storms up to you and kills you, but I never found any sort of line to indicate when I was safe, because sometimes she would yelp when I couldn't see her at all. When I'm crawling around with a nightvision camera with pinpoint directional audio enhancements but still at a sensory disadvantage to a lanky miner then I feel like this experience might not be fair. Later sections in the game set up all the pieces for a chase scene like the original Outlast but presented me with multiple enemies and no idea where I was meant to go. I was meant to crawl under the house, but it took me 3 or so deaths to figure that out and a few more deaths before I actually made it out and into the next area where the same premise repeated. Sometimes the goal would change, sometimes you needed to solve a puzzle or find a thing but they nearly always had enemies in the area to remind you how to die.
The game made me very numb to it's horror elements very quickly. After the 13th mangled corpse is rolled out, the shock of seeing yet another dismembered, mummified, dissected or desecrated body has totally worn off and it's just another thing, reading the various notes around the village was disturbing to begin with but when they all contained messed up stories of the depraved residents then there wasn't any interest left in reading them. I like garlic bread but if I replaced every single meal with garlic bread I'd cringe at the sight of it after a week. Getting chased which was the most exhilarating thing about the first game became a nightmare because it had become a trial and error process where I'd have to die multiple times before I could find where to go next, it's extremely tiring.
It's not like I'm not used to dying in videogames, I've beaten the Dark Souls trilogy, but at least in them I could usually tell what I did wrong but in this I can't tell what I'm meant to do right.
The game also wheels out a second story that intertwines with the main story, a flashback to a school where Blake experienced something as a child although it's not very clear until the final flashback near the end of the game. So every now and then you'll suddenly find yourself back in the school and have to find your way out, some of the transitions from one place to the other are extremely well done and probably the most impressive part of this game sadly. The second story is very shoehorned in and see's you aimlessly meandering around trying to trigger events so you can get back to the main story, I personally felt like it added nothing to an already wavering story and seemed to exist to only draw out the games length. You can of course die in the flashback sections and trying to find your way out of those parts is just as well made as the rest of the game but maybe a little easier due to the linear design of the school.
The game for me at least had an incredibly nonsensical and disappointing ending considering the ordeal of making it through it. I found Outlast 2 to be trying too hard to ramp things up and not hard enough at trying to refine ideas from the first game. It's gameplay is a total mess, the level design is confusing, neither of the plotlines really seemed to matter, the gore was overdone the atmospheric sections were crushed by everything else. I would not recommend this game if you are a fan of horror games unless you have the patience of a saint and the stomach of a cow.