There’s a bit in The Evil Within 2 where you walk into a large residential area with lots of houses, garages and shops to explore. Up until this point the game (and the series) has been entirely linear, so having the ability to roam is immediately daunting. You pick a building, head inside and hope for the best. What you’ll find ranges from fairly normal zombie-killing fare to genuinely horrible miniature horror stories involving force-feeding mothers and shouty poltergeists.
On paper, open-world horror doesn’t seem to make any sense. Horror games are scary because the control is firmly in the hands of the game you’re playing. You merely react to what’s being inflicted upon you, and it’s this lack of control that makes things so scary. The Evil Within 2 manages to nail an open horror structure so well that I’m surprised more devs haven’t tried it since. By offering up a small selection of locales, each telling its own self-contained slice of horror, players can tackle them in any order. Once you’ve got the main objective out of the way, you’re free to leave and continue on with the linear part of The Evil Within 2. The rest of the spooks are entirely optional, but they’re easily the most effective in the game.
It’s not just this one section where The Evil Within 2 thrives. If you’ve seen any promo art for the game you’ll no doubt have seen the rather brilliant imagery of ghouls rising from gloopy white candle wax. This deeply unpleasant art direction is peppered throughout, and is totally stunning every time. There’s genuinely unique stuff constantly being thrown at you in The Evil Within 2, which is refreshing given how formulaic series like Resident Evil have gotten in comparison. If you’re into horror games I reckon The Evil Within 2 is a must-play, if only to check out the few open sections that feel like nothing else found in its peers.