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The Evil Within 2 Preview: Laughing in the face of Resident Evil 7

Shinji Mikami reminds us why he's the master of horror.

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Intentional or not, the second chapter of The Evil Within 2 reads like a massive dig on Resident Evil 7, the latest in a franchise that Shinji Mikami helped to make famous.

As flawed, haggard anti-hero Sebastian Castellanos enters the in-Mobius town of Union — where all is not as it seems — he notices a small shack just off the main road. As he approaches, a woman can be heard muttering to herself.

“Skin and bones,” she moans. “Eat. Gotta eat.”

Castellanos enters the small home, narrow corridors dark and foreboding. As he approaches dilapidated kitchen, the woman’s cries grow stronger. We’re treated to a particularly grotesque scene in which the woman, increasingly falling under control of the evil that lurks beneath her skin (I avoided the easy pun, there) force-feeds a dead child. The child’s eyes roll back in his head as more and more rotten food is shovelled into his face, the woman acting upon a twisted sense of nurturing her spawn.

The woman is alerted to Sebastian’s presence and isn’t happy at all about it. Black, menacing veins pop out from various areas of her skin as her body shakes in rage. If the player isn’t thinking about Resident Evil 7‘s Mia at this point — from her appearance, the house or the situation in general — they’ve not played Capcom’s latest.

This is where things take a turn. Ethan Winters is helpless at this point in his story, flailing for cover and doing his best to emerge from the horrific encounter as unscathed as possible. Castellanos? He confidently brings up his gun and delivers several headshots to the beast, ending its life and the dangerous ordeal in seconds flat. With a deep sigh, he shrugs off the creepy vibe of the house, collects his former opponent’s ever-important green goo and sets off to find his daughter.

In short, he doesn’t have time for this shit.

Castellanos — and the game he stars in — evokes feelings of the Resident Evil of old, with confident heroes dutifully accepting the crazy around them and getting on with their work. Things are tense, even terrifying, but there’s nothing else to do but press on. In this setup, things are still as atmospheric as ever; the supernatural DNA behind Bethesda’s newest franchise ensures there’s always a sense of unknown as you enter a new space.

In the Gamescom build recently offered to Aussie journalists in Sydney, Stevivor played through the game’s second and third chapters, into addition to a first look at chapters four and five. The former experience was extremely open world, with a large township to explore. With a walkie-talkie in hand, Castellanos is able to zero in on supernatural transmissions, focusing on his primary mission or branching off to investigate potential side quests.

Along the way to either, houses, garages and abandoned vehicles little the way, each offering further chances for exploration. Similar to the likes of Dishonored, this section offers choice — do you enter the nearby Church, where you see a Priest on his knees in an act of apology, or do you head to a lead that could bring you one step closer to your missing daughter? There is no right answer.

Though gunplay is important to The Evil Within 2 — and necessary, as a spine-tingling boss battle in chapter four will attest to — stealth and resource gathering is equally important. Castellanos can sneak around most baddies, saving ammo at the same time he gathers scraps, green goo and weapon parts. While the latter two items are used to level up Castellanos and his weapons in safe rooms, ammo and health item crafting can be done on the fly; an extra health syringe can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

The original Evil Within was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre, and The Evil Within 2 looks to be polished beyond that. It’s a must-play for fans of survival horror and another injection of pure Mikami straight into our veins. It can’t come fast enough — fittingly, The Evil Within 2 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on Friday the 13th of October.