The Outlast Trials will finally launch into early access in May

It's been a long haul for The Outlast Trials, 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 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 and Amnesia: Rebirth. 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 and the Epic Games Store, and in the meantime you can keep up with what's happening on the official Outlast Discord.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.