The worst jump scares are the ones that never come.
Maybe it was because I played in the dark, but after nearly an hour with one of The Evil Within 2’s more “mellow” areas (and we say “mellow” in that you’re night fighting for your life every second, but some really creepy stuff is definitely happening) I feel that creator Shinji Mikami has really reached back to his roots. Mikami gained notoriety in the creation of the still-ongoing Resident Evil franchise, and is often referred to as the “father of the survival horror genre.”
The original The Evil Within painted a grim, terrifying atmosphere and leaned into its horror elements, though critics widely panned its story and characters. After playing a small slice of the narrative through-line in its sequel, it seems as though that criticism was taken to heart — and the tension dial turned up to 11.
I spent my entire demo waiting for a scare that would never happen. I fought a shrieking creature made of severed women’s heads wielding a chainsaw; she chased me across the lawn of the building I wanted to enter, and every time I hid behind a bush or barrel, it didn’t take her long to find me again. After sinking several clips of bullets into her, she finally crumbled and I could enter the building.
What followed was a game of cat and mouse in which there was no cat but instead some light psychological torture. In The Evil Within 2, the spirits and baddies are messing with protagonist Sebastian’s head. The game does this to you, the player, in real life, by radically changing the environment every time you turn away. I walked down one dark hallway towards a light, only to find a message written on the wall in blood. When I turned around to walk back, there was no hallway — just a door about five feet away from Sebastian.
I went through the door, and the process repeated. I would go into one room thinking I would find a puzzle to solve (I found one) or something to examine, but instead, I would find a dead end or another hallway. Then I’d turn around and the dead end or door I came through was another hallway, and turning around to the hallway I had just walked into, I would find a dead end. I felt lost, hopeless, and a little frustrated — and very, very scared something was going to jump out at me any second. It was too quiet, and I was getting turned around quite a bit.
But this is where The Evil Within 2 excels. I won’t go into too much more detail so as not to spoil some of the best parts of this segment. But The Evil Within 2 excels at being terrifying when it’s doing very little, and that’s a good thing. It builds tension with minimalism, making you think something’s coming when nothing is. Granted, sometimes something is coming, but the game gives you an ample heads up before throwing it at you. Instead, it’s content to let you slink down dark corridors and open banging doors thinking something is about to shriek in your face. But nothing does.