The Outlast Trials review: "A thrilling compulsive experience that will shatter every nerve in your body"

The Outlast Trials
(Image: © Red Barrels)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Outlast Trials is a diabolical parade of terrors, riffing off the cult series to provide a chilling online multiplayer PvE experience that doubles as a prequel. With new maps and missions added as it leaves Early Access, Red Barrels makes a strong opening case for its live service horror game – but has yet to prove how this nightmare will keep us coming back for more than a one-off dose of shock therapy.


  • +

    Gore-geous maps and enemy design

  • +

    Multiplayer component enables strategic or silly approach

  • +

    Solo gameplay offers a true Outlast experience


  • -

    Push for replayability feels forced

  • -

    Single player mode needs rebalancing

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When I think of all the horror games out there that might be best suited to an online multiplayer spin-off, Outlast would not have topped my list. Its grisly psycho-terrors and heavy themes are hardly what I look for when unwinding with friends after work, and I credit Outlast 2 with at least a handful of my recurrent nightmares. Perhaps it's the fact alone – that it shouldn't work as well as it does – that makes The Outlast Trials such a delight.


Release date: March 5, 2024
Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: In house
Publisher: Red Barrels

As a co-op game, The Outlast Trials is as chaotic as it is challenging. As a horror game, it more than delivers the bloodcurdling, stomach-dropping, wince-inducing gore and violence you'd expect from developer Reds Barrels. That being said, the game has yet to sell me on its most controversial element – and, no, I'm not talking about feeding animatronic orphans some guy's sawn-off legs.

Pay to slay

The Outlast Trials review

(Image credit: Red Barrels)

The Outlast Trials being a live service game is not inherently a bad thing. The fact that microtransactions will most likely play a part in The Outlast Trials going forward does not bother me in the slightest, particularly when so many cosmetics, items, and other decorations can be unlocked in-game. But it's no secret that live service titles can be very hit-or-miss these days – if a community is going to come together, it's often because of a clear commitment to future evolutions and a core gameplay loop that benefits from repetition. That's where The Outlast Trials has me concerned.

It's all down to the replayability factor. A typical session of The Outlast Trials takes place in the Sinyala Facility where you, either going solo or working with up to three fellow Reagents, navigate a series of stealth-focussed puzzles across one of five distinct maps, avoiding the aggressive enemies patrolling the space. In typical Outlast fashion, you are largely unarmed and unable to defend yourself without help from purchasable or found tools in the environment. Your character has volunteered to be a part of this devious psychological experiment, and the broader aim is seemingly simple: collect 20 tokens (upped from 10 during the Early Access window, thanks to the addition of new maps and mission types) in order to earn your freedom, with up to two tokens awarded to you upon completion of a trial. Once you free your current Reagent, you take on the role of another, retaining your XP level and any purchased upgrades. 

The idea is that you'll play and replay the same handful of mission types on your quest to escape, only to experience the nightmare all over again once you succeed. It's an interesting deviation from the seemingly endless level cap as seen in games like Dead by Daylight, and it's certainly an adjustment for me. There is no power fantasy here, where you watch your chosen character get stronger and stronger over time. This works for an Outlast game, but risks feeling somewhat disjointed as an online multiplayer experience.

The Outlast Trials

(Image credit: Red Barrels)

The truth is that it's hard to call The Outlast Trials a "fun" experience. Having played the bulk of it solo, I can tell you that I have no desire to keep putting myself through this torment again and again, engaging and bone-chilling as it is. I've played each of the Outlast games exactly once, and that was enough to scar me for most of my late teens, as well as make me sick to death of its repetitive mission objectives of hide-and-seek. The Outlast Trials is no different: the solo experience is not fun in the clinical sense, but succeeds in turning my blood into ash and tricking me into feeling exhilarated by it. 

Every trial feels like you're just scraping by, and before long, I find myself falling prey to Murkoff's conditioning. Running back to my cell after a particularly gnarly failure  – "Grade: F, Diagnosis: Dogfood" – feels like returning to a calm oasis, my little slice of normality that I've carved out in the most abnormal way. The bedsheets aren't mine. The cute little fish-shaped vase and typewriter are not mine. All of this will be disposed of when my current Reagent earns her freedom, fed back into the system and recycled for the synthetic joy of another Stockholm syndrome-struck individual awaiting their next trial. Lather, rinse, repeat. Again, not exactly fun in the traditional sense – but very effective at executing its themes.

Group therapeutics

The Outlast Trials review

(Image credit: Red Barrels)

The Outlast Trials therefore presents a pretty bleak premise, one I can't see myself grinding through in single-player again – despite how much I'm enjoying it all, in that sick sort of way that only Outlast can be enjoyed. That's because despite how solitary and nerve-wracking the mainline games are, a small comfort can always be found in one fact: that the end to all this horror is drawing ever closer. The same cannot be said for The Outlast Trials. It intends to go on and on, as long as it can – and although the thin smattering of a story available from launch sees players finding evidence to build up a case against the Corporation, I'd be surprised if putting an actual stop to Murkoff is even possible. No Murkoff, no Sinyala Facility. No Facility, no more Outlast Trials.  

That being said, The Outlast Trials is not intended to be a single-player experience all the way through. Every facet of the experience, from gameplay to immersion factor, shines in multiplayer. When you're playing with others, The Outlast Trials becomes a different beast entirely – a different game from the tense, drawn-out terrors of solo play. You can arm wrestle, play a spot of chess, and then gear up to head into one of the many trials or MK challenges; it all feels strangely normal, which speaks to how excellently Red Barrels is able to build atmosphere. 

Every trial feels like you're just scraping by.

The Outlast Trials is also far more tactical and strategic in multiplayer, especially once each player has picked up a rig to help even the odds and can split up to search for keys, items, or delicious human hearts. It's such a different experience that the single-player mode feels almost unfairly unbalanced in comparison. You have the same number of objectives to complete, the same number of scarily eagle-eyed foes rubber-banding it back to your last known location, and they all seem to give chase for a lot longer before giving up. This all makes single player Outlast Trials feel like an unofficial harcore mode, if that's the sort of masochistic thing you're aiming for, but just know that the already testing difficulty will ramp up and make you question why on earth you chose to do this to yourself in the first place.

As the blood dries on another sunless dawn, The Outlast Trials has made an indelible impression upon me. It's a thrilling, compulsive experience that will shatter every nerve in your body, but it's also a chaotic playground to run rampant in with your most steel-stomached pals. Does the multiplayer factor blunt the sharp tension and atmosphere of what makes this a truly definitive Outlast game? Perhaps, but the option of going it alone is always there to humble you. As it stands now, The Outlast Trials has the potential to become a success story with multiplayer horror fans and series devotees alike, but with too many questions left unanswered by its existence as an ongoing live service game, time will be the ultimate proving ground when it comes to who will stick around for the big finale – if there ever is one.


The Outlast Trials was reviewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. 

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Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.