When the original The Evil Within first released it was received with mixed results. Some praised it as a great return to horror from Shinji Mikami while others took it as a blatant Resident Evil rip off. Whichever way you look at it, it was a good gamble by Bethesda to venture into the survival horror franchise. Fast forward a few years and The Evil Within 2 showcases what Tango Gameworks learned from The Evil Within.
Sebastian Castellanos returns as the game protagonist. Set three years after the events of Beacon Hill, Sebastian has lost his job as a police officer and has turned to drinking to drown his sorrows. While at the bar he is tracked down by Kidman who informs him that his dead daughter is alive but trapped in STEM. STEM is a program that allows anyone who enters it to enter the mind of another person. It’s hard to explain it, but just think The Matrix on a smaller scale. Sebastian puts aside his hate for Kidman and Mobius to head back into STEM and rescue his daughter.
The story this time around is a lot more coherent than the original title. Sebastian is a lot more humanized and his willingness to do anything he can to save his daughter is present throughout the game. At the start of the The Evil Within 2, Sebastian comes off as a bit stiff and boring but that changes throughout his journey and he becomes a much better, fully-rounded character – as do most of the supporting cast. Each member plays an important part in the overall story, including the villains which I grew love, especially Stefano.
This time around Tango Gameworks places Sebastian in the town of Union. Union is used by Mobius as a kind of training facility to test out STEM. Union is explorable in a semi-open world. It’s an interesting change compared to the more constricted experience of the original. Unlike other open world games, I enjoyed exploring Union. There are plenty of collectables to find, homes to explore some of which launched some great side-quests, and crafting materials to find.
It’s not just the open world of Union though. There are still plenty of great locations to visit and some good set pieces to experience. One of the most interesting aspects of The Evil Within 2 is how it distorts the world around it, and there are some really impressive effects used throughout. One of my favorite moments is discovering the killings of Stefano. Every time you encounter any of the people he’s killed in STEM he freezes them in a time loop by taking a photograph of them. It’s actually very grotesque looking but the effect are quite impressive.
Much like the original game took cues from Resident Evil, The Evil Within 2 takes cues from The Suffering. Much like The Suffering, The Evil Within 2 likes to play with your mind. A lot of the games great set pieces has Sebastion hallucinating moments of guilt throughout his life. It also transports him to different locations only for him to discover none of it was real. It really plays with your mind and makes you question whether Sebastian is actually in STEM or in the real world.
Tango Gameworks took a lot of the complaints from the first game and addressed them, but others not so much. Ammo was a big in the first game and I hated running into situations where I was forced to killed a large group of enemies but I never had any ammo to do it. It led to a lot of deaths. Thankfully Ammo is plentiful and it’s easily crafted.
Combat this time can be approached from both a shooting or stealth standpoint. I choose the stealth approach simply because the aiming is quite hard. Enemies move incredibly fast and they constantly zig zag around as they’re running at you. Along with the stiff aiming it’s a tough combination. It got to the point where having aim-assist became a requirement. The biggest complaint from me comes with how close the camera is to Sebastian. It’s so annoying when the main character takes up half of the screen. It’s even worse when aiming as it zooms in so much that it’s even harder to see what’s approaching you from your left hand side. Thankfully there aren’t a lot of hectic encounters indoors so the camera doesn’t really get in way in close quarter situations.
As I mentioned stealth was my option when it came to encounters. Using cover to move about and avoid detection adds a lot tension to encounters. Enemies hear the sounds of your footsteps if you’re too loud and if they spot you for just a moment they come and investigate. You can always distract by throwing bottles to lure them to or away from you, or lure them into a group to kill them with an exploding crossbow bolt.
When it comes to crafting, The Evil Within 2 takes a different approach from the original game. Instead of using all the green gel you pick up from defeated enemies to upgrade abilities and weapons, the green gel is only used for abilities while crafting materials are used to upgrade your weapons. Your abilities range from upgrading your maximum health to slowing down time, much like you would in Max Payne to get more accurate shots. There are a few abilities I found that should have been unlocked from the start. One such ability allows Sebastian to stealth kill an enemy when they are approaching them from cover. For whatever reason this essential ability is locked at the start of the game.
When it comes to weapons there’s a great variety to choose from. Each weapon has its own upgrades that use weapon parts scattered throughout Union. Since every weapon uses the same weapon parts for upgrades you have to figure out which ones you use the most and which ones suit your play style. You can also craft ammo and health items using gunpowder and herbs that you find. What’s great about crafting ammo is that you can craft the ammo you want for the weapons you use the most rather than constantly finding ammo in Union for weapons you don’t care about it.
Another great aspect is the sound design. In The Evil Within 2, the enemies howl constantly puts you on edge and the sound of a satisfying headshot is one you won’t forget. Outside of Sebastian’s somewhat mundane voice over, the rest of the cast did a superb job. Sebastian’s constant communication with Kidman are some of the highlights, and psychopaths you encounter weave a great story not only about themselves but their sick goals in STEM. The musical score is also a delight and perfectly suits the situations Sebastian finds himself in.
Visually, The Evil Within 2 is a hit and miss. In some cases it actually looks like a step down from the original title. It’s not to say the game is bad looking but it just doesn’t seem to push the hardware like other titles have done since the original game released. The Evil Within 2 also suffers from some pop up issues, and most of the enemies you encounter are essentially the same type with a different coat of paint and design that lacks any sort of identity. It’s also frustrating that the few sub bosses throughout the game, though interesting in their design, hold no real purpose as well.
One of the first ones you encounter is a giant four-headed monstrosity that chases you with a chainsaw. It’s a tense encounter at fist and a fun boss battle but it quickly loses its identity and appeal by appearing as a regular enemy no more than an hour after you defeat it. It’s a shame as I did miss the larger and more important enemy encounters of the original game as they tended to stick around and haunt you for the majority of the game.
The Evil Within 2 in most cases is a step above its predecessor. Tango Gameworks looks to have addressed most of the problems with the original game but by addressing those problems new ones have arisen. If you enjoyed the first Evil Within, The Evil Within 2 is a no brainer especially for those looking for a horror fix.