Horror and I have a complicated relationship.
I love the genre… if I’m not alone. The same goes for horror games. Most of my experience with playing horror games are with other people. We’d pass the controller around, giving everyone a chance. Side comments are made to ease the dread during the game.
Normally, I’d be game for the exploration part. I love the thrill and the tension of playing them, but the same tension impairs my ability to play them. I panic far too easily. I’d pause the game and toss the controller to the next player. Playing memorable games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and Amnesia is a team-effort. The Evil Within 2 is a rare exception.
Bethesda Softworks always had a strong presence in Tokyo Game Show.
They had the biggest advertisements and their names were plastered everywhere, despite not having their own booth. As always, Square Enix hosted Bethesda and this year’s showcase was Shinji Mikami’s highly anticipated survival horror game, The Evil Within 2. However, in Japan, it’s distributed as Psycho Break 2, since apparently they are discouraged from using the word “evil” in their games.
I didn’t play the first Evil Within but I was distinctly impressed by the upcoming sequel’s trailers when they debuted. At it’s core, it’s still a very classic horror trope – a father must rescue his child. Protagonist Sebastian Castellanos must dive into an alternate universe shaped by the mind of his daughter Lily and made real by Mobius Corporation and their STEM machine.
In retrospect, deciding to go for the demo was a recipe for disaster for me.
When it was our turn to play, the ushers led us into a pitch black room, lined with televisions and consoles. Headphones were provided to give the complete immersive experience and block out the ambient noise. I was about to dive into one of the most intense horror game experiences, alone. There was a quick reminder to not overwrite any saves and I was thrown in the deep end of The Evil Within 2 for a very long 20 minutes.
In slight tinge of irony, I had to enter the blinding light of a mysterious mirror in order to descend into a world of darkness. Like many horror games, The Evil Within 2 dropped me in a mysterious manor. With no weapon in hand, I tread very carefully through its shadow halls. A mysterious light in the distance drew my eye. As I approached it, the morbid tableau made itself known. A Special Ops soldier was suspended in time. His blood floated in the air in front of him like a macabre mobile. As I stepped towards the victim, he moved, rewinding back to an uninjured state. He was trapped in a loop of his own death. Finding no more clues about the world, I moved on to a great hallway and was met with an even more ghastly sight, a floating artwork of death.
The fun was just beginning. “Fun”.
I chanced upon another hallway. A ragged man burst into the empty room, tired but still alive. Before I could reach him, a mysterious suited man materialized out of thin air. Before I could do anything, the newest entrant stabbed the ragged man with a knife. As he pulled out the knife, he took a photo as the blood burst from the victim’s gut. The man was then trapped in time, just as the earlier special operative.
Sebastian was careless and knocked over a painting. The deadly photographer took notice and I was forced to sneak away. A quick hot tip on how to crouch allowed me to sneak past the dining table before the photographer teleported to exactly where I was. I breathed a sigh of relief as the man decided to leave. As I exited the room myself, I suffered a hallucination. I was no longer Sebastian. Somehow, I had become a frightened little girl.
I tried to hide behind some boxes. As I peeked through the crack, a familiar pair of shoes appeared. It was the murderous photographer. I waited patiently as the man cleared the room. However, before I could leave, a monster appeared and captured me. The screams of a young girl gave way to an enveloping darkness.
A short cinematic caught me up on the story, 3 years after the original game.
It turns out I had seen the world through the eyes of Lily, Sebastian’s lost daughter. Kidman, Sebastian’s former partner who betrayed him, informed him that his daughter was still alive. She was kept by the Mobius Corporation and needed to be rescued. After a trippy sequence, I found myself in an elevator. That elevator led to a dark room, filled with dead bodies hanging from the ceiling and covered in white sheets. As an overly cautious gamer, it took forever for me to traverse the room. I expected an attack, and got a door instead. Instead of an enemy, I was met with a photo flash from a mysterious man. A photograph of my face was soon found on a distant mirror. Reality was clearly being bent in this world. If that wasn’t proof enough, the giant monster that came crashing through the mirror definitely counted.
The giggling guardian was a grotesque mass of flesh, made of the flesh and faces of several women. The giant buzzsaw on its arm was more than enough to make me hightail it out of there. I was forced down a corridor, littered with obstacles I had to hurdle. After locking myself in a room with no exit, I gave myself a few moments to breath. There was a way out after all, in the exhaust ports in the ceiling. I’ve seen too many horror games to know this was a bad idea. Forced through the tiny space, the false sense of security shattered when the giggling guardian started tearing through vermin and steel to get to me.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel, or in this case, the hallway.
A mysterious door opened. But in that door was the man who took my photo. This time instead of shooting a picture, the suited man threw a knife. It pierced my chest but it did give me a weapon. A quick time event allowed me to escape the clutches of the giggling guardian and the door. I ran through the door, expecting safety. Instead, I found myself in a house. I got huge Resident Evil 7 vibes, so I knew I couldn’t put my guard down.
The sound design of The Evil Within 2 was top notch. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet before hearing a rustling outside the window or a floor creak down the hall. My progress was very slow as I was taking in the tense soundscape. I also didn’t want to run into another monstrosity. Exploring the house revealed a little more lore. A journal entry revealed that the town and it’s denizens have changed. The author vowed to help them and hoped for God’s mercy. The house provided one last gift: a gun for protection before I ventured out of the house.
That gun was fired pretty damned fast.
I gave a sitrep to Kidman, who seems to be my lifeline to the outside world. During a quick reference to the previous game, I found a woman running into a house. A friendly face was worth risking a dangerous situation. “Skin and bones… gotta eat… clean your plate…” These distorted words emanated from within the house. A woman was force-feeding some poor soul what can be barely considered food. I couldn’t keep my presence hidden forever and I was forced to shoot the woman square in the head. It wasn’t enough and the woman stood up with white tentacles writing where half her face used to be.
Leaving the house, I made my way to the town proper. I made my way to the sounds of gunfire in the distance. Members of the ill-fated Bravo team, sent before Sebastian, were running from more transformed humans. One of the pair fell to the Haunted while the other barricaded himself in a house. In order to survive this twisted town of Union, I had to help this soldier. The more allies, the better.
Then, time was up.
I hardly felt the twenty minutes pass by. My extreme cautiousness slowed down my progress greatly. It was a shame since I was already acclimatized to the dark world of The Evil Within 2. Upon later discussion, I missed out some more content, such as a possible boss fight with the Giggling Guardian. I couldn’t wait to re-enter this realm, but with friends who are better suited for the high-tension portions I’m sure will appear. I’m looking forward to learning more about the mysterious world of the game when it releases on October 13, 2017 worldwide!