Having only played chunks of the original Evil Within in a darkened room lit only by candles and feeling terrified to my very core, I wouldn’t say I was looking forward to playing The Evil Within 2. The idea of returning to Sebastian’s madness didn’t exactly fill me with glee. But as I sit down to play this sequel and get stuck into the new narrative, I’m strangely intrigued and absorbed.
Like the first game, a strange, rather shadowy organisation known as Mobius has managed to connect people’s minds to an alternate reality. But this new alternate reality, Union, is being controlled by a core, which just happens to be a person. And this time around, things are getting even more personal for Sebastian as it’s his daughter, Lily, who’s the core for this alternate reality.
Anyone who’s played the first game will know that Sebastian spent the entirety of the first game thinking she was dead, so the fact she’s alive and in serious danger is going to be the major driver for The Evil Within 2. And it doesn’t help that Union is incredibly unstable, with earthquakes and shockwaves rippling through the world and causing it to shift and change. In fact, it’s here that it all starts feeling a heck of a lot like a Silent Hill game. Streets crumbling around you, blocking your path; that same obsession with unstoppable, horrific beasts.
My playthrough starts with Sebastian exploring some kind of abandoned warehouse that just happens to be filled with dead bodies hung from the ceiling. Always a great way to start a game demo… But it’s not long before the room is transforming, changing every time I think I’ve reached an exit and forcing me back deeper into the constantly moving forest of hanging bodies until this thing bursts through a door at the other end of the room. This thing happens to be a multi-headed woman wielding sawblades lusting for my blood, so I have little choice but to run. Fast.
Later I find myself in a little wooden lodge on my own, where someone has handily left a gun on the table by the front door. “Where were you when I needed you?”, Sebastian says, echoing my own feelings as I sit clenching the controller with white knuckles. Armed with my brand new gun, I end up following a muttering woman into a neighbouring house, hoping that she’s got some answers as to where I am now. But she’s got her own problems. She’s lost her marbles, her face is mutated and she’s force feeding what looks like her son, to death. The life has long gone from his eyes by the time I accidentally alert her and have to medicate her with a bullet to the head and collect the green goo that leaks from what used to be her face.
But the gore and strangeness doesn’t stop there. The citizens of Union are so twisted and strangely alien that they remind me of the Infected from The Last of Us. As I creep around the back of a car, watch them rip a man to shreds and sneak to the house where the man’s buddy has hidden himself, I feel like I could be Joel from The Last of Us too, with Lily a version of Ellie but shrouded in unknown. It’s got that same sense of tension and urgency that The Last of Us does, I just hope the story is on par with Naughty Dog’s masterpiece.
It’s the cowardly guy who hands me the radio that changes everything. As I dial into various frequencies it picks up, I hear someone that could be Lily pleading for help through the static. Although there are other distress beacons blaring out on other frequencies I follow that familiar voice. But not before spotting a church that I hope might hide some precious supplies.
Unfortunately for us though, it doesn’t. Inside, there’s a priest praying for forgiveness whilst hunched over a dead body. Like the mother from before, he’s been infected too and it’s not long before he realises I’m there, screams and brings a pack of those things bursting through the windows of the church. Thankfully I’ve got a knife and a couple of bullets.
Like the previous game, there’s an emphasis on upgrading Sebastian’s skills using that green goo I collected earlier, and grabbing supplies as fodder for crafting weapons and ammo. That’s done by heading to a disconnected version of Sebastian’s old office at the police station, where there’s a crafting table and a slightly terrifying nurse who’s willing to inject me with new upgrades like health boosts and enhanced combat prowess.
There’s also a little black cat and a projector that have popped in from somewhere in the depths of Sebastian’s mind. It gives a hint of what’s happened between the two games, with a slightly heated conversation between Seb and his handler Juli. There’s plenty going on here that I don’t yet understand, but that only makes me want to play more.
My play session ends when I try and cross the little town I’m in on the hunt for Lily. I’m merrily sneaking past the creatures as they gurgle and eat, but just as I think I’m home free, a woman in the middle of the street turns to look at me. As she turns I see she’s something different, something hellish and no matter how many buttons I mash in panic, she’s starts sucking the life straight out of my face as the demo ends with the release date flashing up like a warning - October 13. Fewer boo scares, more insanity - this is a refined, smart evolution of The Evil Within. And even though it still scares the hell out of me, it’s something I’m incredibly excited to play.