by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
The Evil Within 2 was one of the biggest surprises at E3 2017, with few expecting a sequel to Shinji Mikami’s 2014 survival horror game The Evil Within. Set for release on October 13, Bethesda gave people the chance to play through a portion of early chapters for the game at PAX West 2017. From what I saw, Bethesda and Tango Gameworks are looking to double down on the nightmarish dreamworlds and creatures we encountered in the first game, all the while making the mission a lot more personal for the tormented protagonist.
Set three years after The Evil Within, Sebastian Castellanos is no longer a detective following his account of the events at the asylum and his encounters with serial killer Ruvik. While he has sunk even lower due to his returning alcoholism, there is a spark of hope for Sebastian after Kidman, one of the few survivors from the original game, reveals that his daughter Lily is not dead. Instead, she is in the clutches of the foreboding Mobius corporation, which force the former detective to dive back into the STEM machine to search the dreamscape of Union in order to bring her home.
Starting in Chapter 2, titled Something Not Quite Right, The Evil Within 2 immediately felt like it was going through the same motions as the original game. Finding himself in a strange place, Sebastian must once again run from an unkillable monster with little in the way for defence. Instead of the butcher like Sadist in the original game, the sequel substitutes it with a nightmarish three-headed creature with a buzzsaw for an arm. Running through the abandoned building, complete with hanging bodies, felt as though I was playing a remixed version of the first game’s opening.
That familiarity continues with The Evil Within 2’s gameplay mechanics. Sebastian will once again have access to a small stash of weapons and must scrounge for ammo, weapon parts and medical supplies if he hopes to stay alive and upgrade his meagre arsenal. The sanctum in his inner-mind also returns, with Nurse Tatiana returning to the hospital office to assist in upgrading Sebastian’s stats using the green goo found on various monsters. In addition to the hospital, a police station also makes an appearance, which will serve as a place for Sebastian to go over case files that provide background to the characters and events in the game.
Beyond similar gameplay mechanics, however, The Evil Within 2 looks to be much more focused on the survival than the original game. Where the first game was primarily linear with few areas for Sebastian to explore, necessitating frequent firefights and encounters, my time with the sequel was much more focused on conserving ammo and avoiding enemies. When I was presented with a scenario that did not involve stealth killing monsters, I was swiftly dispatched by two creatures without much difficulty. The basic creatures are tougher to kill and pack far more of a wallop than the early enemies from the first game, and I quickly found myself skipping fights and picking battles in order to maximise my supplies.
This ties in with the optional areas that Sebastian can explore should he choose. Early on, Sebastian receives a transmitter which can pick up signals in the environment that mark points of interest on the map. These optional areas feature difficult or unique encounters, such as a church that turned into an ambush as creatures jumped through windows, but provide their own unique rewards. Though I did not get to explore the church due to my earlier death I discovered a new shotgun and plenty of ammo after finding a hidden armory in another home down the street. You may use up valuable supplies in exploring these locations, but rewards such as this could be the difference between life and death later on.
A Taste Of Fear
For someone like me, who managed to beat The Evil Within by the skin of his teeth after playing it in broad daylight with friends nearby at all times, the sequel is just as foreboding and disturbing as the first. As ambivalent as I am about The Evil Within 2 retreading ground covered in the first game, it is still just as scary in both its jump scares and in its encounter design. And instead of using the same aesthetic for the monsters, which consisted of a lot of nails in the first game, the wormlike growths on normal enemies heads is a much more original and creepy design in comparison. For those who are afraid that this game will hold back on the horror, rest assured that this appears to be far from the case.
Though the first game had a number of strengths, it also was held back due to several factors such as its weak level design, overt focus on action and ever present black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. The Evil Within 2 looks to address that with its more survival focused gameplay and a greater emphasis on exploration, though time will tell if that design permeates the entire game and not just the opening chapters. But if there’s one thing that I took away from the demo, it’s that this game is shaping up to be just as diverse and terrifying in its scares as the original when it launches next month.