The Outlast Trials Early Access Review: You’ve Been Chosen

The Outlast exams once again offers you a front-row seat to the Murkoff Corporation’s horrific experiments, but this time you can take your friends on the horrific ride.

In the third installment in the survival horror series, you become part of Cold War-era experiments aimed at creating sleep aids, and hints of something MK Ultra fill the space between the screams. Murkoff’s researchers kidnap you, mistreat you, and then subject you to a series of grueling trials that force you to complete objectives in various unsettling locations.

If you survive, you’ll be ranked based on your performance and rewarded with platitudes, equipment, and room decoration based on whether you succeed – or fail. Ultimately, you earn tokens that you can use to purchase your freedom and be “born again.”

Given the drastic change in the formula of the first two games, I had concerns The Outlast exams would not be able to capture the same atmosphere as in Survive And outlast 2. Switching from a single player focus to multiplayer co-op play could have drastically reduced the fear factor. The design alone made me afraid that the oppressive feeling of isolation would disappear.

It didn’t take long for my concerns to surface The Outlast exams be laid to rest. Even in Early Access, the atmosphere is similar to the first Survive, and maybe even more. The introduction alone is far more intense, gory and disturbing than I expected.

The splatterfest of an opening cutscene leads to the tutorial, which you play solo and learn the basics of movement, stealth, and how enemies patrol and react to environmental cues like noise. For the most part, things like the controls are the same as in previous games, so you’ll be familiar with them once you’ve played one Survive titles in the past.

True to the style of the series, an unsettling feeling emanates from the environment unless you’re in a particularly scary section of the game. Between mannequins on tracks accompanying you, re-enacting bits of your life, to brainwashing bits playing over speakers, and a terrifying woman with an equally terrifying doll trying to kill you, it’s clear that you returned to a Murkoff facility.

Image via Red Barrels

Over and beyond, The Outlast exams allows you to play alone or with up to three other people in challenge areas called Trials. Teaming up with other survivors doesn’t affect the story or general gameplay aspects, and since you’re not fighting the enemies that are trying to kill you, having more players doesn’t necessarily make things any easier. Instead, the opposite can happen. And it often does.

You’ll encounter a variety of enemies with different attacks and weaknesses, and while you can kick, throw items, and confuse them, you can’t kill them. There is always something that haunts you.

Sound-sensitive enemies will alert you if you step over debris or open a door too quickly. It also means your party members can make noise that can get you into trouble – or attack – and endanger others nearby. You can also use this to your advantage, getting a teammate to distract your enemies and pull away to buy you time to complete an objective.

You can also adjust elements of the game called variables, if needed, to make trials more difficult. Then, as you play, earn money, and increase therapy levels, you unlock upgrades that can make the trials even easier. However, that doesn’t mean things are easy if you don’t want them to be. Conversely, there are settings that will make your time in the Murkoff exams even more difficult.

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Since The Outlast exams Since the game is in Early Access, it’s possible that these mechanics will be adjusted, but I found them to be a good foundation for the game.

Screenshot of GameSkinny

To delve even deeper into the hell on earth you’ve been thrust into, you can create a character and customize your Murkoff cell. There is actually no need to make any adjustments The Outlast examsbut I like that it’s not only included, it’s more extensive than I expected.

The customization suite isn’t as robust as some other tools found in other games, but it reinforces the feeling that you’re in situations like this, that you’re really being followed, and that your sleeping cell is your personal space in the facility, and it’s a place , over which you have some degree of control.

For your cell, you can customize the wall and carpet, you can add wall decorations that you earn through auditions, and you can also place items on the tables. Even the tiles around the sink in your cell can be customized.

Then there’s character customization. You can do some of these before you start the game, but your phone gives you a few more options. In addition to the starting options, you can use the mirror to change the appearance of your clothing and trial gear.

In addition, there are other practical customization options. Much like you can use variables to customize the tests, you can approach them differently before the test even begins. You achieve this by customizing your gear, as you can only carry a few items and the items you choose will affect how you complete the objectives of the Trial.

Overall, I was impressed by these relatively small details that allow you to express yourself through your character and cell, but also customize your gear to better suit your playstyle.

Impressions from the Outlast Trials Early Access review

Image via Red Barrels


  • Brand new on the classic Survive Feeling
  • Surprising customization options
  • Unique currencies earned by playing
  • Fully integrated to play alone or in multiplayer


  • Possible lack of replayability
  • Variables are the only way to change the difficulty level
  • Short timer to start trials

My biggest concern right now is how Red Barrels will add replay value The Outlast exams. An Early Access preview explained that the developers plan to rotate the programs, which would change the locations and trials you can play through, but how that will work in practice is difficult to judge at this time.

I felt that the current version of The Outlast exams fits into the series and adds mechanics that keep it both interesting and tricky despite the possibility of multiple players working to complete objectives. It will be a game I’ll be keeping an eye on as it progresses through Early Access and toward a full release, and I look forward to seeing how it changes.

[Note: A copy of The Outlast Trials was provided by Red Barrels for the purpose of this Early Access review.]

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