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Preview: The Evil Within 2 is an unnerving journey into madness

Within the first moments of my time with The Evil Within 2 I was on edge.

I knew what was coming as I strolled forward into the dark room, armed only with a flashlight.

I wanted to turn back, to avoid the impending scares, but the game guided me forward. Standing amidst a bunch of hanging corpses, the lights go out. A grotesque creature emerges to chase me down – part mass of limbs, part giant saw, all terrifying.

All I could do was run, and that is what I did, holding the thumbstick forward for dear life.

With that sort of opening Evil Within 2 harkens back to the icky and disturbing original game.

Thankfully for me, definitely someone a little squeamish when it comes to this sort of horror, the game soon slows down and finds its own weird horror stride. It gives you breathing time between the gross scares, and for that, I was very thankful.

Once I’d braved the chase, I found myself in the small town of Union. This is where the game takes place, a simulated world in your long lost daughter’s brain. Sebastian Castellanos, the returning protagonist, is thrown into working with the evil Beacon corporation in order to save himself and his daughter.

Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil’s creator, has a clear influence here.

Even though he’s taken a producer role, the game still has the feel of older survival horror titles. The slight changes the sequel brings to the way it deals with combat, pacing and exploration remind me a lot of Resident Evil 4 or Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

The town itself is very open, and while I only explored a small portion during the demo, it has a lot of depth to it. Many of the houses, garages and businesses are filled with craftables, but also with new horrors and the zombie-like enemies that fill Union. These become the very reason exploring is so important. Health syringes, ammunition and weaponry are all in very short supply, so finding items becomes super important.

You can’t let your guard down for too long either. Fallen corpses should be watched closely lest they get up and attack you from behind while you’re not paying attention. Similarly, houses you think you’ve cleared are often invaded by the dead, play havoc with your senses by thumping and shouting about when you think you’re safe. 

There’s a great atmosphere of tension created by the audio design of the game. The music ebbs and rises in tense stealth segments, and the moans and shouts of varying foes can be bone chilling. Hearing the guttural roar of a particularly fearsome foe kept me on edge every time, often sending me dashing for cover.

The Evil Within 2

Just one of the grizzly enemies you’ll ‘face’ in Evil Within 2 (Image: Bethesda)

Fighting in the Evil Within 2 is a dangerous undertaking. Enemies are made to feel imposing by the fact they take a lot of effort to take down.

Save for the fantastic one-hit stealth kill, the task of taking down even low threat zombies is a big one. Guns don’t draw as much attention as you may think, but they do use ammo – a resource that’s fairly scarce – and take a few shots to kill, even to the head.

I wouldn’t have minded this if the normal melee knife attack wasn’t both so weak and slow. When a creature rushes you it feels like certain death, with them being able to land two to three hits in the time it takes for you to slash once.

I’d prefer a nicer balance of either, a faster weak attack or a slower, heavier attack, but alas, it looks like our hero isn’t supposed to be a pro with a knife.

Finding axes and heavy melee weapons offer a one time use one hit kill, and for that I’m thankful.

With all this in mind, Evil Within 2 is clearly geared toward stealth play, and lots of running away to recover and hide. I get the decisions here – the game is meant to make you feel helpless, and to want to rise against the enemies in ways other than blasting like it’s Wolfenstein, but for me that over reliance on making you feel weak impacted my enjoyment a little.

That being said, what I played was only chapter two and three of a much longer experience. From the routes I took to explore – even finding a Beacon weapons bunker at one point – it’s clear that as you progress this powerlessness may wane a little.

There were a whole host of things I collected to upgrade myself and my weapons, but being so early in the game I wasn’t able to fully explore those options. Perhaps through that route the challenge of lower-tier foes could be lessened a little.

The original Evil Within did little to hook me, but Evil Within 2 has me much more curious.

If this horror game can manage to tell an interesting and well-paced story instead of simply relying on gore and jump scares to engage its audience it may well be a hit.

If you’re a fan of survival horror this one’s well worth a look in – even if you’re easily spooked like me. Who knows, it could be just the scare your looking for when it drops on Friday 13th October (I see what you did there, Bethesda) for PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

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