This game hits you with nightmare fuel right out of the gate; as soon as you start a new game, you play through a short sequence with Sebastian rushing to save his daughter Lily as his house burns down around him. He makes it to her room, and she's safe. But she blames him for not saving her and grabs hold of him as she bursts into flames, both of them engulfed in a vortex of fire as their faces graphically burn off... Before Sebastian wakes up in a bar. Yeah. They're not pulling any punches this time around.
The good news is that Ruvik does not appear in person this time around. The bad news is, Laura does return, having been spawned by Father Theodore from Sebastian's memories... and she brought the Sadist and the Keeper along for the ride.
After he gets surprised by Valentini early on, Sebastian looks into a mirror and sees a woman in a red dress behind him. He turns around... but there's nobody there. Turning back around, Sebastian's greeted by the severed heads of several women, one of which is flashing him a demonic smile, before a horrific abomination of female bodies fused together, with a HUGE buzzsaw for one hand, crashes through the mirror and starts to chase him, screaming and laughing the whole time. Say hello to the Guardian. The best part? There's more than one.
The slow burn leading up to this first encounter is a prime example of Nothing Is Scarier, as you cautiously trek through what appears to be a fancy hotel where Stefano showcased his disturbing works. The place is just old and decrepit enough to make it extremely unsettling, and that's before you come upon Stefano's gory "Rebirth" sculpture and the numerous sheet-covered bodies hanging from the ceiling in a pitch-black room.
Checking a locked door atop one stairwell treats you to the sight of a terrified victim appearing on the other side of the glass and begging Sebastian for help, before she is grabbed by an unseen entity and quickly pulled back into the darkness.
There's another female creature called Anima stalking Sebastian throughout Union that isn't quite as viscerally horrifying as The Guardian, but is a tall, ghostly woman that sings creepily while searching for Sebastian, and rushes at him very, very quickly if he's spotted. And it can walk through walls, meaning not only will usual evasive tactics not work but you never know apart from the singing if she is headed right for you...
Let the Anima grab you, either because you couldnt get away from her or she surprises you, and you get a horrifying first hand look at Sebastian being forcibly turned into a Lost.
Imagine being one of the volunteers for Mobius' Union project. You get sent to a seemingly utopian Everytown, America where you lead a perfectly happy life inside STEM... When suddenly the environment begins cracking apart and most of the people there begin turning into hideous abominations out for your blood, with no possibility of escaping to the real world. And that's without mentioning the couple of psychopaths running around whose mental problems give them godlike Reality Warper powers within STEM. You'd be very fucked indeed.
In fact, there's a semi-hidden moment in Chapter 3 where you can encounter a single surviving resident to get her perspective on what's happened. The frightened young woman can only recollect signing up for a sleep study because she needed money, and then found herself in Union with an identity she didn't recognize, and a man she didn't know who said he was her husband. Then she saw him transform into one of the Lost and try to attack her. Sebastian can save her from immediate harm, but there's nothing else he can do to help the poor girl, meaning she'll spend the last hours of her existence hiding in that house while "reality" crumbles around her, waiting for a rescue that will never come.
The Obscura creature looks to have stepped out of a Silent Hill game, as it appears as a twisted fusion of a human woman and a tripod, complete with a vintage camera for a head. If it manages to see it's prey, it will use it's camera flash to freeze them into place and sprout tentacles to impale the unfortunate victim, all while making unpleasantly ecstatic, borderline-orgasmic noises.
Even worse, Obscura is a flesh construct Stefano made from the bodies of some unfortunate victims. At one point, Stefano taunts Sebastian by letting him hear the creation process of the monster, namely, torturing and cutting a screaming woman into pieces. If you check the paintings lining the corridor during this, you can also see the process reenacted in them. At one point, he even cuts her tongue out since he can't focus on his work over his helpless victim's sobbing and wailing. Jesus.
Stefano: "Shh... Don't cry. You're becoming art. You shall be part of my Obscura. Ah, flesh... Less malleable than clay. Softer than marble. It really is the perfect medium. Agh! I can't concentrate like this! A sculpture doesn't need a tongue..."
*screaming abruptly stops with a gurgle*
The sheer amount of Hell that Myra goes through. In her quest to find her daughter, she gets screwed over threefold: she's betrayed by Valentini, then Theodore does the same, and then her own psyche gets corrupted by STEM, turning her into a monster who's sole focus is Lily's safety, everything and everyone else (including Sebastian) be damned.
Close to his boss battle, Valentini shows Sebastian his greatest "masterpiece" yet: strapping dozens of victims into their chairs in the theatre and detonating their explosive leashes, then freezing the ensuing carnage in time with his powers. It doesn't help that, judging by the expression he makes afterwards, he seems to get aroused by it.
The giant flying camera eye that Valentini controls. It's huge, can summon enemies, and can squash you into a red smear on the ground with a single swat of its giant tentacles.
Theodore's personal sections of the STEM are quite horrifying, being a flame-enveloped mash-up of a medieval torture dungeon, a Gothic church, and an industrial factory, none of which would be out of place in a Silent Hill game.
The torture cellar and dungeon in Chapter 9 contains plenty of evidence that it's been used, and used a lot, with burned-up human husks littering the floors and strapped into devices, while anguished howls and screams can be heard echoing throughout the halls. Anyone thinking that Theodore is some kind of Well-Intentioned Extremist who deserves any measure of sympathy needs only listen to the residual memory in one prison cell of an innocent woman waking up inside, panicking to find herself alone, and weeping in terror as she realizes that she's going to die in there... and then consider how many more people must have met with similarly horrible fates because of Theodore's whim.
"LET ME OUT! LetmeoutLetmeoutLetmeoutLETMEOUT!!"
Also, you get to see how Union shaped to Theodore's taste looks like. Picture STEM's usual Eldritch Location shenanigans and add a touch of Hell on Earth to the mix.
The Lost may not be as as physically mangled as the Haunted were in the previous game, but they're still deformed and distorted enough to send chills down your spine. Especially the ones you face in the final segment of the game, which seem to be made of multiple porcelain body-parts all fused together into a roughly humanoid shape.
Before your second confrontation with Theodore, there's an extended sequence where you have to wade through a thigh-high lake of blood, evading the other Lost that are wandering around with you, in a dark void so full of shadows and drifting particles of gore that even with your flashlight on, you can hardly see anything. It's a subdued, eerie place, and very easy to get lost in.
Version 1.04 has added in an optional first-person view mode. Thought some of these moments were terrifying before? Now try them when you can't see what's coming behind you, and the various horrors are just as much in your face as they are in Sebastian's.
Horror fans got quite a surprise at E3 2017 with an extended trailer for the sequel. From all appearances, we're in for an even more terrifying and heart-wrenching experience, as Sebastian's own personal demons look to be brought to the forefront and explored this time around. You may never think of Duran Duranthe same way again...
The second trailer lives up to the first by introducing a new hostile; a Mad Artist named Stefano Valentini, who went mad after an incident where a photo he took cost him his eye and became a Serial Killer so he could take pictures of his maimed, mutilated and butchered victims. How bad is he? He's entered the STEM world on purpose, because it gives him a world that he can reshape to his every whim. Oh, and he's after Sebastian's daughter, too, for even greater control...
Then there's the story trailer, which introduces Father Theodore; a mad priest with a god complex who hopes to exploit the STEM world by turning it into his own private paradise. And who will "cleanse" those who oppose him with fire.