It's been a long haul for The Outlast Trials (opens in new tab), the four-player horror game from Montreal studio Red Barrels. It was announced in 2019 as a co-op twist on the hit Outlast horror games, and while a planned 2022 release didn't happen, we did learn that PC Gamer news writer Joshua Wolens has a friend he wants to "subject to ethically unsound scientific experiments (opens in new tab) for progress and profit"—his words, not mine—so at least we didn't go away empty-handed, right?
Anyway, following a closed beta test in October 2022 that attracted nearly one million sign-ups, Red Barrels announced today that The Outlast Trials will finally launch into early access on May 18.
"The Closed Beta was just a taste of what’s to come in The Outlast Trials,” Red Barrels co-founder Philippe Morin said. "Our first round of willing participants to take part in the trials provided us with some insightful feedback and very interesting data, which we have used to improve the experience."
The Outlast Trials is set in the same universe as the previous games, but instead of playing a journalist investigating a spooky insane asylum or cult compound, you've been kidnapped by the Murkoff Corporation for use as a human guinea pig in Cold War-era brainwashing and mind control experimentation. The big twist is that you can tackle the trials along or in groups of up to four: The Steam page is vague about how that'll work—is it the ol' "outrun the bear" proverb, or will partners in misery somehow simplify the process of survival and escape?—or what these experiments are all about, but it's clearly not good.
"If you survive long enough and complete the therapy, Murkoff will happily let you leave… but will you be the same?" it muses. "In a world of distrust, fear, and violence, your morals will be challenged, your endurance tested, and your sanity crushed. All in the name of progress, science, and profit.
"In pure Outlast fashion, the core gameplay involves avoiding enemies, hiding from them, and trying to run away. Murkoff will provide tools you can use to increase your stealth capabilities, create opportunities to flee, slow down enemies, and more. However, you will have to earn those tools and work hard to improve them."
What I'm most curious about is how The Outlast Trials will compare to other recent horror games, particularly Soma (opens in new tab) and Amnesia: Rebirth (opens in new tab). Both had their share of jump scares and something's chasing me, but they also took a more cerebral approach to the genre than the original Outlast games, and were better for it. Will The Outlast Trials show a similar type of evolution, or will it stick to the more traditional "bad stuff in the dark" formula—or, perhaps, adopt a more action-oriented approach, maybe something akin to Resident Evil Resistance?
We'll find out more in a couple of months. The Outlast Trials will be available on Steam (opens in new tab) and the Epic Games Store (opens in new tab), and in the meantime you can keep up with what's happening on the official Outlast Discord (opens in new tab).