Hyped Or Afraid: The Evil Within 2

Personally, I loved The Evil Within. It was a classic survival horror venture blended with modern elements that paid a loving homage to both golden age survival horror and the era of Resident Evil 4. I do, however, admit there were a few issues that could’ve ruined the overall experience. The tank-like controls, cliché concepts, and horror tropes made The Evil Within feel gimmicky at times and somewhat disjointed. It was still, however, a very good horror game and one of my favorites for 2014. Now, three years later, Bethesda has presented us a beautiful, eerie, and sinister looking sequel filled with serial killers, deformed monsters, and lots of running away from spooky stuff. The Evil Within 2 is shaping up to be the be horror game we’ve been waiting for.

But, dare I ask if the sequel will learn from the original’s mistakes or just repeat them in what could be another tedious horror sequel? Let’s look at some facts about The Evil Within 2.

(The Evil Within 2, Bethesda)

New Director

The great Shinji Mikami, famed for his leadership on the original Resident Evil won’t be returning to direct the sequel from Tango Gameworks. Mikami did a good job at helming the original, especially seeing as it was a new horror IP that thrived on being a return to the golden age of survival horror. It gained plenty of success, and for Mikami to step back, it’s both maddening and worrying. However, the original TEW suffered from quite a few glaring issues, which were mostly brought on by Mikami’s lack of judgment, ego, and unwillingness to respond to feedback. So having some fresh talent lead the way is absolutely not a bad thing. Who is taking charge? John Jonanas is now lead director, the man who directed both DLCs for The Evil WithinThe Assignment and The Consequence. What these DLCs did well was introduce some major fixes into the gameplay and functionality. The controls felt better with certain touches to the stealth mechanics that made them work, not to mention the fact that the pacing also grasped more tension for the player and brought in some pretty terrifying creatures.

I’m keen to see what Jonanas brings into a grander project, and this sequel is just that. Whether the charm of Kidman’s side adventure will encourage more from the sequel, is something that reamins to be seen.

(The Evil Within 2, Bethesda)

New Voice Actors

Now, you may have noticed that the cast of the original game–Sebastian and Kidman–sound very different from before. This is no big surprise considering that publishers often feel the need to change voice actors for no good reason. Look at Frank West in Dead Rising 4 or Square Enix who wanted to get rid of Agent 47’s voice actor, David Bateson. Why? Well, most likely money or “creative difference.” Excuses.

However, at times, there can be suitable reasons, such as both parties agreeing to make a change for the better. The original Condemned featured the voice talents of Greg Grunberg who starred in the smash hit, but short-lived series, Heroes. He was a big name at the time, and having him in the original game seemed like the right call. Yet when you look at the performance, it’s pretty dull. So with the sequel coming up, both publisher and Greg asked if he was right for the next chapter.

Grunberg decided he wouldn’t do the character justice with the darker themes in the game, and instead, Andrea Sogliuzzo came on board and did a very good job. All the character changes and voice changes seemed very odd, but it worked out for the best in my opinion and was a good call from the publishers.

This could easily apply for The Evil Within 2, as Anson Mount and Jennifer Carpenter are more known for their physical presence rather than their voice work. They have other commitments and may have wanted to proceed with those. To be fair, their voices aren’t the most compelling anyway, and looking back at their performances, dull and uninspired are words that come to mind. Now, Jackie Earle Haley, on the other hand, did a great job–his voice sends chills down your spine. We have no indication at all that Ruvik will appear in the game, and it’s unlikely that he will at this stage. This could just be a case that the publishers wanted actual voice actors rather than film actors.

(The Evil Within 2, Bethesda)

Refined Mechanics and Presentation

Now, as mentioned before, the controls for The Evil Within weren’t the easiest to accustom yourself to. Sebastian moved as though he was in a full-body cast, and it didn’t help for situations where you had to run away from chainsaw-wielding freaks. The tank-like controls worked well for the fixed-camera style RE games back in the ’90s, but not in 2014 with the third-person perspective. Even RE4 had better controls. But The Evil Within 2 has seen the light, and we can rejoice in the fact that Sebastian now moves like a normal human being. I know, right?!

Players will have control over a more fluent and agile character with more natural movements. This helps as there are some pretty intense situations that require you to run, jump, dodge, and run some more, not to mention how much better the stealth will be now that Sebastian doesn’t need to take three steps forward to throw an object. That was pretty annoying in the original game. Along with these improvements, the game will not force the 2:35:1 aspect ration, and will instead be an optional feature. Bethesda and those lucky enough to play the game have also stated the frame-rate and overall graphics have vastly improved, making the game look quite stunning and smooth throughout.

New Gameplay Dynamics

The Evil Within 2 expands on the original game’s formula but implements new features into the core gameplay to enhance the survival experience. Sebastian will now be attuned to his detective skills, as players will have a new item known as the Communicator to progress deeper into the world produced by STEM. The device helps Sebastian locate resources, detect enemies, and even find side quests within the world, while encouraging opportunities for exploration.

Better still, the world of STEM has expanded dramatically in scale and detail. Players will take part in beautifully constructed nightmares, being chased by all manner of terrifying creatures, but they will also spend a great deal of time in a large region known as Union.  Here, players can spend time finding resources, engaging in side quests, and accessing main missions through the central hub. Other new mechanics will allow players to craft ammo, and weapon upgrades can be found to build some pretty heavy weaponry. The green gel also makes a return and will allow players to boost some interesting perks for Sebastian through a newly refined skill tree. There’s been plenty of fine-tuning to the existing mechanics and gameplay elements, showcasing more depth and complexity to the overall design. Returning features also include Sebastian’s safe haven where the infamous redhead nurse will guide him and keep a watchful eye on his activities. The Evil Within 2 also harbours plenty of secrets to discover, such as safe box keys and photographic slides of Sebastian’s past. Finding these secrets will introduce rewards from the trusty black cat from Kidman’s DLC chapters.

Awwww, that’s a good Kitty!

Is It More Of The Same?

Have we seen all this before? The original wasn’t very original, even though some creatures and the story were very good and refreshing. We had the same old chainsaw-wielding maniacs, evil laboratories, and haunted mansions we’ve all seen plenty of times before. It’s not a bad thing, as there were some interesting components thrown in, but overall, it didn’t cement anything new into the genre. Even one of the new creatures feels like a straight knockoff of the monster from Mama.

From what has been shown in the trailers, what have we got to look forward to? Chainsaw wielding maniacs, evil laboratories, and haunted mansions. There was nothing truly outstanding that struck me as highly different or daring, but rather a repeat of what we know and like but have likely grown weary of. While I’m sure the worlds, locations, and enclosed spaces will have their own sense of identity, it’s a shame that The Evil Within 2 hasn’t crafted compelling new places for us to visit in a survival horror.

In any case, I’m highly looking forward to The Evil Within 2 and can’t wait to dive back into the world of STEM, as it looks freaking crazy! There are some minor concerns, but overall I believe the strengths of this sequel are shining through brightly.

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