Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Icky

Hooray, horror game!

Well, uncomfortable game. Jump scare game? Religiously offensive game? Hmm.

First the good: Outlast 2 knows what to steal from. The first three or so hours have had numerous nods to Silent Hill 2. The protagonist is being (mentally) tortured by regret over something that has not been explained yet, there is a limited dual world thing going on where he is spontaneously teleported back to his catholic middle school and there is a pyramid head. Not literally, but the character Marta serves the exact same purpose and does it better.

Her design is dialed a few notches back from pyramid head, down from impossibly crazy to how is she so tall and strong, she is allowed to wander around is some areas and hunt the player the same way the nemesis from Resident Evil 3 or the alien from Alien: Isolation. Plus she talks. And what she says is creepy. You first encounter with her is just the raspy whisper

'God, do you want him?'

She says that again later after appearing out of nowhere and if you don't run, well, she starts by castrating you. Outlast 2 maintains the hatred for genitalia that started in Whistleblower and I am just about done with reflexively crossing my legs. It's not scary, it just there for the ick factor. A lot of the game is just there for shock value, things like the implied rape of a fifteen year old girl, off screen vivisections of pregnant mothers, neither of which were shown, yet, but this is an Outlast game. They are not shy.

It is also not shy with potentially offensive religious imagery. I do not bring up my personal beliefs often. They are not relevant to what I talk about here but they have come up a time or two on the podcast. It is enough to say that I am a man of faith in the judeo-christian tradition. Outlast 2 is deeply troubling to me. Not in a devil with pointy horns and hooves way as those are secular constructs that have the same weight as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny (SPOILERS!). It is troubling because it takes existing beliefs and twists them, misreads them, and the main bad guy uses these customized interpretations to manipulate his followers and justified horrendous actions.

Papa Knoth, said bad guy, is forcibly fathering children, saying they are his as all children are God's, then killing them because they might be the antichrist. There is a scene a classroom with 'there is no pain in heaven' written on the board and it is implied that the children were all murdered. Knoth is putting himself in God's place and passing judgement on his followers with Marta as his angel of death.

Outlast's entire point is to make the player uncomfortable, tense, to soften them up for the jump scare. Years of experience have rendered me immune to the jump scare but outright heresy certainly does make my skin crawl a bit. Everything just feels wrong, but not wrong in a fanciful way. It is certainly exaggerated but none the less plausible.

Now I know how Far Cry 5 will make right wing religious conservatives feel.


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