“I want Tango Gameworks to be a studio where young and talented creators are given a chance to succeed.”
At this year’s E3, Bethesda’s Vice President of VP and Marketing Pete Hines told us that although original Evil Within director and founder of Tango Gameworks Shinji Mikami wouldn’t be directing the sequel, the horror legend’s hands would nonetheless “be all over it.” We got in touch via email with Mikami and The Evil Within 2’s director, John Johanas, to talk about the exact nature of Mikami’s involvement, the direction of the sequel, and more. Read on for the full interview!
IGN: When did Tango Gameworks start working on The Evil Within 2? What was the timeline?
Shinji Mikami: The development of The Evil Within 2 began in March 2015. It progressed much like any other project, so the mid-to-late stages of development have been pretty intense.
What was behind the decision to have John Johanas step in and direct it, rather than yourself?
SM: I want Tango Gameworks to be a studio where young and talented creators are given a chance to succeed. John has a lot of talent. An opportunity like this would have come his way sooner or later.
Have you been working on other projects in the meantime, or have you been taking a break?
SM: I’ve been managing the studio as a whole. To be honest, it was time for the younger talent to do their thing.
IGN: The horror genre has changed a bit since The Evil Within – now games like Outlast and Alien Isolation are the norm, games where you can’t actually kill the bad guy, all you can do is run and hide. There are elements of this type of gameplay in The Evil Within (Ruvik) and its DLC. Will we see elements of it in The Evil Within 2?
John Johanas: I think that type of pure horror gameplay is definitely compelling and I tend to enjoy it as well, but it can get a little overbearing if it goes on too long. Not to give away too much, but just like the original, there are some times where you have to run and hide rather than fight, but for the most part The Evil Within 2 puts you in situations where, if you are prepared correctly, you can take on the enemies.
IGN: Mikami-San – are you still as driven to explore new avenues in the horror genre as you were when you decided to bring ‘survival horror back’ in 2014? You are, after all, still known as the godfather of the genre.
SM: If I ever get an idea that truly frightens me, I’d like to turn it into a pure horror game.
IGN: Do you keep tabs on other horror video games? Have there been any in recent years that have excited you, or that you’ve learned from?
SM: I wouldn’t say I keep a very close tab, but I do keep an eye on them about as much as an average horror game fan. In terms of recent games, Resident Evil 7 was crafted beautifully.
IGN: Where did the idea of The Evil Within 2’s STEM world as masterminded by Lily come from?
JJ: Well we wanted a convincing reason for Sebastian to risk everything and head back into the world of STEM. Based off what he experienced in the last game, it’s obviously not one of those places you want to visit again, so the thought that you could be reunited with your child who you thought was dead makes going back inside STEM an obvious choice for the character.
IGN: Mikami-San, is this your story, or was it a team effort? Regardless, what from the first game’s story did you want to change/elaborate on in the second?
SM: This time around, Mr. Ishimine, our scenario writer, had the most influence on the main story. He and the team worked with Trent Haaga to build the story ideas into this sequel. The difference between this game’s story and the first one is that we tried to focus on making it simpler and easier to understand. Compared to the first game where the protagonist got caught up in the story, this time of his own volition—albeit warily—he heads into a frightening world in order to rescue his daughter.
IGN: How different is the world in Evil Within 2? I hear it’s a bit more ‘open’ than the one in the original – could you please elaborate on that?
JJ: The Evil Within 2 isn’t an open world game, but has sections where the maps get very large and open up a bunch of options for you. From an actual landmass perspective it’s the biggest map we’ve ever put together, but what it does is allow you to explore or prepare as much as you’d like before you want to proceed with the story. There are still linear sections and points of no-return, but for a good portion of the game you can backtrack and search for side objections.
IGN: Will the sequel retain the original’s cinematic 2.5:1 aspect ratio? This was such a bold choice in the original game.
JJ: We understand that it wasn’t something well received, even if internally we liked the direction. This time the game is played in standard format.
IGN: Will the sequel retain the original’s sense of disorientation? (Areas suddenly shifting, nothing is as it seems etc)
JJ: Shifting realities is a key part of the franchise and it exists in the game again, however thematically it won’t be as jarring as it was in the first game. Even with the disorientation, this time there’s a bit more logic to when and how it happens. •
IGN: The original was all wheelchairs and hospitals and shop dummies – very Jacob’s Ladder. What’s the aesthetic this time around?
JJ: There wasn’t a singular aesthetic that we centred on this time. There is an Americana, rural feel to the town of Union, but because of how the characters work in this game, you’ll be going to multiple locales that have various aesthetics. Although there was an effort this time to make the environments have a bit heavier psychological horror tinge than the gore-horror of the original.
IGN: Mikami-San, would you still call The Evil Within 2 a ‘Shinji Mikami game’?
SM: You will see my influence here and there. It was a team effort, with John at the helm and me there supervising.
Lucy O’Brien is Games and Entertainment Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. Follow her on Twitter.