As I step into a long, long corridor, I sense unease. Much like telegraphing a boss fight once a game throws health and ammo at you, I knew nothing good could possibly come from this long stretch of empty hall. As I edged forward, the grotesque, several-headed creature I’d only just evaded crashed through the wall just like the Kool-Aid mascot. It might have gargled a dry, witty catchphrase, but I can’t be sure as my shriek likely drowned it out. Fight or flight kicked in and man did I fly.
Fear is somewhat of an addiction. No one likes being scared, yet we constantly put ourselves in situations that force feelings of discomfort. The adrenaline rush is like a drug as we consume unthinkable horrors to get that next sweet hit. For the last two decades, there’s been no better at evoking fear than Shinji Mikami, the godfather of survival horror. Though he’s happily mentoring while a new director helms this sequel, his years of experience are front row for all to see.
The hands-on demo centred on the second and third chapters from The Evil Within 2’s story. The second chapter establishes the game’s narrative in a rather linear way, giving a weight and reason to Sebastian’s decision to dive right back into the nightmare from the first game in the hope of finding the daughter he thought he’d lost. The third shows off more of the game’s new sandbox areas. While there’s still a clear objective that hangs over your head, exploration and optional objectives gift players a little bit of freedom to be creative in how they play. This was a cool change of pace and I can see these sections being rewarding for those who dedicate time to unearthing the game’s hidden gems, but The Evil Within is strongest when it’s in close, tight and cinematic.
Just as soon as Sebastian finds himself in Union, a city in ruin built using his daughter Lily’s mind, he pushes along a woodland dirt road all the while having a deep and meaningful with Kidman, a complicated returning character whose allegiances are cloudy at best. I noticed a house on the left side of the road ahead but before I could reach it, a panicked woman ran inside despite Sebastian’s calling out. Sensing something wrong, I head in.
“Skin and bones”, says a distorted, almost demonic, voice which cuts through the air, instantly placing me on high alert.
Some thought the opening dinner scene in Resident Evil 7 had a considerable creep factor, but the sight of this woman cramming rot into a young boy’s mouth before rearranging his facial features against the table top makes that look like a friendly family dining experience at Zagami’s. The creature eventually cottons on to Sebastian’s presence and all hell breaks loose. With the threat established, I could press on. Before too long, the crack of gunfire echoed in the distance as I quickly investigated to see the hubbub first-hand. After a short scuffle, two Mobius operatives quickly become one as the survivor takes shelter inside a nearby station, leaving a shambling horde at its doorstep. The Evil Within 2 then takes this opportunity to guide the player in the ways of stealth as I hug the fence line and manage to bypass a majority of those who’d have my face off lickety split. With a simple prompt, I make short work of the two that are left and, once inside, meet O’Neal, as an unlikely and uneasy alliance is born.
O’Neal, oblivious to the fact that Lily is Sebastian’s daughter, shares with me a radio signal he’d picked up where a girl can be heard crying for help. This is where The Evil Within 2 opens right up as I step out into a large boulevard in a crumbling city where paths seem to branch off in all directions. Though my aim is to follow Lily’s signal, I relish the chance to explore while heading vaguely in her supposed direction.
Though there’s much more fresh air and space in this portion of the demo, the atmosphere and tension are still as thick as ever. I tip-toed behind the shell of a broken down car as I saw a faceless creature shambling by, dragging a torso behind it. As I rounded the car, I saw it tossing the delimbed meat bag onto a knee-high pile of bodies. The imagery, as ever, is grotesque here, which is what we’ve come to expect and hope for from the men behind the curtain. I decided to take refuge indoors as I soon found myself kicking down doors in a deserted armoury of sorts, eventually kicking down enough to find myself the holy grail of horror games; the shotgun.
Suddenly cocksure and full of gusto, I marched back out into the street, allowing the walking dead to rush me one by one. In doing this I committed a cardinal sin of survival gaming as I didn’t keep an eye on inventory. As the last creature extended its grasp to me, my shotgun clicked. Out of ammo. Suddenly in the clutches of an entirely new hovering entity, unlike the others, my demo came to a brutal and bloody end.
The Evil Within 2 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on Friday, October 13th.