With the release of The Evil Within back in 2014, famed Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami found himself back in the realm of survival horror, and many were excited at the prospects of the title that (seemingly) would bring together supernatural horror with heart-pounding action.
To that end, The Evil Within mostly succeeded in some truly twisted and –some might say– f***ed up imagery, at the expense of some awkward integration between the game’s action and horror elements. With a varied mix of balls-to-the-wall action, stealth, and traditional survival horror, The Evil Within at times found itself with one foot in the door of hardcore survival and the other in a more traditional action game, leading to a game that couldn’t quite successfully pull off either at 100%.
Despite those setbacks, The Evil Within definitely showed promise (especially when it comes to scares), and earlier this year publisher Bethesda Softworks showed it is willing to give the series a second chance to scare with The Evil Within 2, which is arriving later this fall and provides one of the perfect opportunities to get scared in time for Halloween.
During a preview event with Bethesda Softworks in New York City, DualShockers had the opportunity to check out a new glimpse of The Evil Within 2 ahead of its upcoming release in October with a look at two more chapters of the game. Just a few weeks ago, we had previously done a preview of an earlier segment of the game at PAX West in Seattle (from our own Jordan Loeffler), and a lot of what we had initially said earlier still stands: the game definitely gives off some “unsettling vibes,” and that “every effort was made to ensure the experience remained personal and focused on the terror that was about to transpire.”
That last point that Jordan made in his preview was especially notable in what I played of The Evil Within 2, which pushed us a little bit further into the game and showed that, aside from all the blood and gore that awaits players in The Evil Within 2, there is indeed a more personal and emotional story this time around. As Sebastian Castellanos –the returning protagonist from The Evil Within— players are set on a mission to find Castellanos’ daughter Lily, who was long thought to be dead but, as it turns out, has instead been taken for more nefarious purposes. Specifically, those purposes include utilizing her brain as part of experimentation by the Mobius corporation with the STEM device to connect the minds of humans with those of an alternate dimension – one which hides unspeakable horrors within it.
Our preview only gave us a brief glimpse of what’s to come from the story, and so far I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s too big a departure from what players may have experienced from the original game. It’s still over-the-top at points and didn’t make a ton of sense (at least in the context of the half hour or so that we played of it), but given that Sebastian wasn’t necessarily a character that was very relatable, the search for his missing daughter at least provides a more sympathetic and human angle to the horrors of the game.
However, if The Evil Within 2 got one thing right from our demo of the game, it’s that the scare factor has definitely been bumped up in significant ways. While there definitely were the obligatory “jump scares” of loud noises or sudden movements that are sure to make for prime Let’s Play scare material, The Evil Within 2 honestly works best when the game is quiet. Like the first game, The Evil Within 2 excels in making dread exciting, as quiet, dimly lit hallways gave way to flickering candlelight and eerie paintings: seeing blood etched on walls in the distance made me more afraid for what I was about to encounter even more so than what I already have.
That dedication to instilling a sense of fear and dread permeated most of my time with the demo, and what we played of The Evil Within 2 had a lot of variety to offer. Between creeping through dark hallways and corridors, the highlight of the demo came through two boss encounters, the first of which being against the horrifying, multi-bodied Guardian. Made up of mutilated legs, arms, and a buzzsaw for an arm, the fight against the Guardian –while mostly consisting of running away from it and shooting it or finding environmental hazards to damage it– showcased The Evil Within 2 at its best. As I ran away from the Guardian in search of ammo or ways to use the environment against it, Sebastian would occasionally look backwards to see as the Guardian would come rushing towards me, making for a fight that was both intense and made me afraid to look around and see what was behind me.
The second boss battle towards the end of the demo as I encountered Stefano Valentini, the twisted photographer who serves as The Evil Within 2’s main antagonist. Almost like BioShock‘s Sander Cohen, Stefano takes his art to terrifyingly beautiful places, and the second boss battle against one of his creation’s, Obscura, provided an even more twisted glimpse into the photographic killer’s mind. A spider-like creature made from an amalgamation of body parts and an old-fashioned film camera, the Obscura stands between Sebastian and an emitter device that would drive away the paranormal activity, leading to a standoff where Sebastian has to hold off the Obscura for a minute and a half.
Differing from the Guardian battle (where it was largely pumping bullets into the enemy until its death), fighting the Obscura highlighted more of the survival-horror elements of The Evil Within 2: namely, being strategic and conservative with ammo. As the Obscura crawls up walls and ceilings, players have to be crafty and use the environment to their advantage with a short supply of ammunition and to prevent the Obscura from flashing its camera at the emitter device and freezing it outright. While I spent a good portion of the fight fleeing from the Obscura, my strategy ultimately involved using the strings of lightbulbs strewn around the environment to pinpoint where the creature was hiding, allowing me the right opportunity to temporarily freeze it and get myself closer to its demise.
While a lot of elements seem to have carried over from the original game –such as the safe rooms that Sebastian can head to that provide him (and the player) with a chance to catch their breaths– The Evil Within 2 seems, in many ways, to have heightened the game’s already terrifying scares and improved on its gameplay. With a firmer foot in the key elements of survival-horror –scares and strategy– I’m looking forward to seeing how The Evil Within 2 can (hopefully) deliver on the foundation of the original title for a truly terrifying experience. If The Evil Within was a beautiful piece of art with some roughness around the edges, The Evil Within 2 has the opportunity to make it a masterpiece.
The Evil Within 2 will release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 13th, 2017. For more on the title, you can check out our own gameplay footage of the horror game in almost 30 minutes of heart-pounding action.