Prior to the start of Tokyo Game Show (TGS 2017), Geek Culture was invited to Bethesda’s Tango Gameworks studio for an early hands on with the final PlayStation 4 build of The Evil Within 2, an upcoming sequel that has already gone gold, where we managed to sit down with the game’s executive producer, Shinji Mikami, and director, John Johanas, to find out more.
Shinji Mikami has long been known as being the godfather of survival horror games, as he was the director responsible for the original Resident Evil, the fan-favourite (and mine too) Resident Evil 4, and of course the first The Evil Within.
Alas, he is taking a back seat this time round as a producer, leaving the bloody directorial work to Johanas, who served as visual effects designer on the original game.
And from what I got my hands on during my preview session (the first 3 chapters) on the PS4, fans won’t have to worry. As someone who has played through and beaten all the Resident Evil games, all the Silent Hill games, all the Dead Space games, and the original Evil Within game, you can say that my head has been wrapped in gore and guts for quite a while now, so I know a winning survival horror game when I see one, and we have a winner here.
The first two chapters of the game is pretty much linear, which is intentional as it sets the player up with the premise of the story, as well as the protagonist’s motivation to return to STEM (yes, the same bathtub-like terminus system from the first game). Once the game reaches chapter 3, the world opens up with various side missions, leaving it to the player to decide which order to undertake them in.
As a staple with most survival horror games, the game utilizes safe houses throughout the city of Union (where the bulk of the game takes place), where players can drink coffee to restore health, save the game, and use a workbench to craft items and upgrade weapons. The skill upgrade system from the original game is back again, but instead of a chair in a hospital, Sebastion has to go to and fro his old office, and sits on a wheelchair instead.
One other noteworthy game as shared by Johanas is that the game now utilizes situational orchestral music, which was recorded in Prague, Czech Republic. This approach heightens the overall game experience, providing the mood and tension as the scenario unfolds before the player.
Johanas also shared that the sequel’s world is at least 10 times larger than original.
“We went for a more open playfield this time, without sacrificing on the scares.”
He also shared that the average time for the first playthrough is around 15 hours, if you skip the side missions.
When asked about the main motivation for the sequel, he said, “We wanted to first get rid of the letterbox, then improve on the story. Also, the last game was a bit too hard. So the casual mode can really cater to less experience players to still enjoy it, thus lowering the barrier to entry.”
That’s right, the deliberate letterbox effect, which was an unwelcomed design choice made for the original game (this was later removed in a subsequent patch) is gone in the sequel.
The team is also aware of the various technical issues from the first game, such as the stuttering framerate, muddy textures, texture pop-in issues (a flaw that occurs when a game’s graphics engine fails to preload textures as the player is in view of them), and have fixed all of them in this sequel.
The original also suffered from having been released during the console transition cycle between Sony’s PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, which explains its dated look on the PS4. For The Evil Within 2, the game was built from the ground up for the PS4, so in case you’re wondering, the game looks absolutely gorgeous… or gross this time round, and runs at a smooth consistent framerate.
Being huge fan of the Dead Space series, I liked that the protagonist can now stomp (just like how Isaac Clarke does it) on the bodies of the creatures when they fall to the ground, with that oh-so-satisfying bloody splatter sound.
The game’s overall controls are also very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4. Stylistically, the city of Union is seen to be falling apart, with big gaps in the roads and surrounded by chasms, which conjures visions of the first Silent Hill, just without the fog.
And here’s an easter egg for fans. Remember that bit when the chainsaw-wielding butcher shows up and eventually dies, and you picked up the chainsaw gleefully, hoping to lay some serious smackdown on the enemies, only to just have the game use it to cut a chain to open a door, before automatically chucking it to the floor and never seen again.
I had to ask Shinji Mikami-san if we’ll finally be able to use the chainsaw as a weapon in the sequel at some point, but all I got was a sheepish smile from him and Johanas. I mean, no survival horror game is complete without being able to use a chainsaw right?
“You’ll just have to play the game to find out,” revealed Johanas.
If you are still in doubt about taking another ride through Union, here are 3 main takeaways for the new game, direct from Johanas.
“First is the story. The journey is something you’ve haven’t seen the likes of before. The second, we are going for the feel of survival horror games of old, so it resonates well with the fans. And lastly, we wanted to give the player the freedom to play, and craft their unique play style along the way.”
The Evil Within 2 releases worldwide Friday the 13th (how perfect!) October 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.