Bethesda’s booth was quiet when I entered on the last day of Gamescom. An odd sense of deja vu washed over me, but I brushed it off as I walked passed the bar and into a dark room, filled with monitors and a few anxious people waiting to get their hands on The Evil Within 2.

I sat down, picked up the PS4 controller and started the demo. As I watched the introductory video, the Bethesda representative informed me I was about to play through chapters 2 and 3 of final the game.

If you played the original The Evil Within, like I did, Chapter 2 will be a very familiar experience. I started the demo in an elevator, which opened into a dark corridor with a checkered floor. A short walk, some spacial anomalies and a weird encounter with a photographer later, I found myself running for my life from a giant monster with a circular saw for a hand. You know – standard The Evil Within stuff.

You can watch this gameplay video to see exactly how Chapter 2 plays out.

Let’s jump forward to Chapter 3, where The Evil Within 2 introduces some interesting new gameplay mechanics.

After making my way to the small town of Union, I came across a large group of enemies attacking a smaller group of Mobius security personnel. The only survivor (which just so happened to be the only one without a mask on), barricaded himself in a nearby house, which was my next stop. I manage to sneak all the way to the backdoor on my second try.

In the house, after a short dialog with the man, I found a crafting table. Crafting is a new addition in The Evil Within 2, but it’s a pretty straightforward one. You can craft more ammo and healing items, but you can also upgrade your weapons. Crafting items can be done without this crafting table, or workbench, but this will cost you more material. This is survival horror game after all, so you have to explore the world and scavenge resources if you want to survive the horror.

After exiting the safehouse, I came across a familiar mirror – the gateway to the Save Room. There, I met nurse Tatiana from the previous game, who seemed to recognize me. The comfy chair and green gel also make a return, but this time there are many more ways to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities. His skills are now divided into 5 categories: Health, Stealth, Combat, Recovery, and Athleticism. They are all pretty self-explanatory, but they do give you the option to customize Sebastian’s skill set to fit your play style, which is always nice. The Save Room also contains a slide projector that you can use to view slides you collect throughout the game, and hear Sebastian talking to himself for some back story.

The Evil Within 2 enemies

Once I was back in the real world… scratch that, back in the STEM version of Union, I discovered the major difference between The Evil Within 2 and its predecessor. The sequel is much more open, with bigger environments and even side missions. According to the devs, TEW 2 isn’t open world, but each level will have its own environment for you to explore and sneak through.

To guide you through this larger environments, you have a walkie-talkie that can home in on different signals. There’s the signal for the main story mission, but as you explore the world you’ll come across other signals that can lead you elsewhere. The signals I followed always lead me to a dead Mobius soldier, some resources, and a new weapon ( a sniper rifle and the iconic Agony Crossbow). There could be other types of encounters at the origin of such signals, though, and it seems like it pays to follow them.

Another thing I noticed while playing, is that enemies no longer get back up if you don’t burn them. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall finding any matches during my playthrough. It makes sense, since an open environment means there are much more enemies around. Plus managing ammo, weapon parts, green gel AND matches might be too much even for a survival horror game.

The Evil Within 2 environment

Playing The Evil Within 2 was an overall familiar experience, but in a good way. The action is still good and visceral, and most of the unique things that defined The Evil Within special are still there. Opening up the environments and the gameplay was a good decision, and I’m really interested in seeing how it will play in later stages, with deadlier enemies. And adding a crafting system and more customization options is always good. But that’s not all that was improved.

I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan of the original. As I wrote in my The Evil Within review, I thought it lacked depth. From what I’ve seen, the sequel is by far more exciting and even nuanced. Sure, the buckets of blood and chainsaws are still there, but both the story and Sebastian’s character have grown beyond the cheesiness that infected the original.

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