Last time we saw Krimson City Police detective Sebastian Castellanos he had just got out of a nightmarish realm, created by main antagonist Ruvik. As the distressed detective stepped out through the Beacon Mental Hospital main entrance doors into the sunshine of Krimson City one could be sure he wouldn't ever step foot into said STEM realm ever again. Ruvik's spider-legged, long-haired murder monster of a sister, somewhat sentient undead hordes and massive, reanimating beefcakes wearing heavy safes as helmets were all truly the fuel of nightmares and not exactly individuals Castellanos would knowingly risk meeting again, right? Wrong.
The Evil Within 2 is set, as one might guess, after the events of the first game and begins with an offer from Mobius. Castellanos is told by former partner and undercover Mobius operative Juli Kidman that his daughter Lily, who was previously believed to have died in a devastating house fire, is alive inside STEM. She tells him that he might be able to get his beloved daughter out of the nightmare realm but he has to get back inside it himself to do it. The offer is clearly one he can't refuse.
The Evil Within 2 demo we had the pleasure of playing at Gamescom started out with a massive, horrifying bang. After getting the chance to familiarise ourselves with the game's controls and basic gameplay mechanics, which haven't changed much from the original other than being more responsive making movements more fluid, we got to meet our first massive boss type enemy. A saw blade-wielding, massive brute reanimated from various different body parts barges in through a wall and we're prompted to pick up and run for the nearest exit. We guide Castellanos through narrow corridors and small vents while the saw blade can be heard screeching at our heels until we finally manage to lose our pursuer. Before we can explore the area further we have a brief run in with the mysterious photographer antagonist, Stefano Valentino, and get teleported to the games main area, the city of Union.
From the get go it's clear that Tango Gameworks put more focus towards the actual game world and the design of said world. Whereas the original The Evil Within was fairly linear, the sequel's city of Union is a semi-open suburban area with a bunch of buildings and once busy streets to explore. As you make your way through the city you may think it looks like your average friendly residential area but its inhabitants are sadly almost exclusively dead or zombified and ready for a snack in the form of a detective looking for his offspring. Some Mobius operatives are there to greet you in full combat gear when you arrive but there's no guarantee they're your friends or that they'll stay alive long enough to finish their sentences. The demo did, however, introduce us to one scared but helpful actual person who let us stay in his safe house even though we broke in. Early on in our conversation, this man trusts us enough to give us a Mobius made radio device and we get to hear Lily's voice for the first time. We are given the task of following the signal and finding her but our main mission is not the only thing picked up by our ghost radio, there are other people's recordings (alive and dead) as well as the locations of various weapons and items, it even shows what type of items are believed to be there which is extremely helpful. Once you find some spare parts you can, of course, craft items like in the previous game - on foot or at one of many workbenches. Workbenches are placed in various locations and at your safe house, so back to the safe house we go.
Inside the safe house we have a workbench for weapon upgrading and crafting (don't worry, you can craft on the go as well as inside your safe house, you will, however, use more resources), a coffee maker that fully heals our detective but takes time to brew after use to avoid exploitation (no caffeine high for Mr. Castellanos), a save station, a bunch of crafting materials and a suspicious mirror. The glowing, music-playing, strange mirror from the original game is present even in the sequel and brings you to the equally strange nurse and her torture chair with upgrade abilities. The mirror dimension hub is, however, not set in the mental hospital this time, in The Evil Within 2 we get to step into Castellanos KPD office. In here you can, amongst other things, look at photo negatives, one of the types of collectible in the game, and hang with Juli's cat from the Consequence DLC - suspicious.
The Evil Within 2 looks, feels and plays like an enhanced version of the previous game, it truly is a sequel in its purest form. The semi-open world looks amazing and fits the experience. There are plenty of different enemies, and there's great variety in the environmental design. The exploration-heavy setup is an added bonus and the radio navigation helps to keep the overwhelming vastness of open-world exploration manageable by telling you what you can find in each direction. Visually the game is stunning with the exception of some odd looking facial animations where the eyes look static and unnatural and the mouth expressions are blurry; a small flaw in an otherwise beautiful looking game - at least, it's as beautiful as a bloody grotesque horror show can get.
It's clear we'll be getting more information about various different story aspects from the original as we play the sequel, a ton of hints about the Castellanos family, his life after the Beacon incident, Juli and Mobius are present, and it'll be interesting to find out more about all of the said characters and organisations on October 13th.