Spoiler Warning: This article contains light spoilers surrounding a side mission around the in-game location of 336 Cedar Avenue.
From playing collectible audio logs in The Last of Us to just being forgotten about in practically every other PlayStation 4 game, the Dualshock 4's speaker has never truly had a moment in the spotlight since the console first launched. That is, until the events at 336 Cedar Avenue in The Evil Within 2.
On the surface the game is burdened by modern tropes of horror games from the jump, as The Evil Within 2 combines one tropey mechanic (small, creepy child) with another (protagonist Sebastian rescuing said child) from the very first scene. Granted, The Evil Within 2 brings nothing revolutionary to the horror genre, but it does drag a few decent ideas to the table. One of which is its open world setting, which subsequently led me to stumble upon the second of these, the side mission at 336 Cedar Avenue.
Stalking around the boarded up and abandoned houses of Union Town, I came across a new signal while using the communicator device. This neat device allows Sebastian to uncover any new side activities on the map, pinpointing the locations of deceased soldiers, weapons caches or, in this case, the lone sound of a woman slowly giving in to insanity. And who wouldn’t, when you’re surrounded by an entire town of zombie-like creatures, on top of an antagonist that likes to capture the moment he kills someone with his camera (bet he’s a hit on Instagram).
Still, I plucked up the courage to check out what I assumed would be another horror trope laid on thick, only to discover that when I arrived at 336 Cedar Avenue, the source of the remote signal, the woman was entirely gone. Instead, what I found was a journal of her last few recorded days which, although is admittedly a massive cliche of the horror genre, what came next is anything but.
The end of the journal notes how the room mysteriously went from lukewarm to resembling the arctic in the blink of an eye, and the exact same happened to Sebastian's surroundings the second he exited the journal entry. I turned to exit the house, because who wouldn't want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, only to encounter what I can only describe as several demonic human heads atop a mangled, oversized corpse of a body.
As if being in the bowels of Union wasn’t soul-destroying enough, Sebastian was snatched away to some form of alternate reality, finding himself stranded in a few derelict hospital rooms (this game of horror trope bingo just keeps getting better), along with the aforementioned monster.
Sebastian is now presented with a fairly straightforward task—find the security keycard to exit the area, while evading the monster. The catch to this scenario, and where the Dualshock 4’s speaker really kicks in, is the most haunting experience I’ve had with the game so far, as the constant singing of the monster can be heard only through the speaker on the controller, and only while it’s in close proximity to Sebastian.
The spine-tingling singing of the monster is only helped by the fact that the rooms of the hospital are laid out in a way to deliberately restrict the view of the player. Tango Gameworks have cleverly constructed this section of The Evil Within 2 so that Sebastian’s line of sight never extends beyond a few meters, as a hospital screen, wall, or door is always obscuring his vision, meaning the only way of telling where the monster is, is purely through the haunting melody coming from the Dualshock 4’s speaker.
The anxiety-inducing effects of this incident aside, this side mission is so far the clear highlight of The Evil Within 2. The use of the controller’s speaker works wonders on the player, forcing you to constantly be guessing where the singing is coming from and which wall the monster is about to walk through.
Because if there’s one thing this entire sequence was missing to truly reduce me to a nervous wreck, it's the monster's ability to walk through walls as if they were never there. The entire side mission at 336 Cedar Avenue, which I only stumbled upon because I happened to be checking my communicator at the right time, is a true masterpiece of game design. It's a real paranoia-inducing affair that never outstays its welcome, and one that really illuminates the improvements upon the original that Tango Gameworks has made with The Evil Within 2.
Here’s hoping there's plenty more missions like this littered throughout the rest of the game, just waiting to be uncovered by our hapless Sebastian.