The Evil Within was what you could consider a rough diamond. Meaning that through it’s glaring problems, there was a sustainable and engaging game that offered a refreshing experience from old concepts. I remember 2014 was a year of hype and for me, it was The Evil Within. While it’s technical issues and certain gameplay choices were slightly off-putting, the game overall was very good. Now, 3 years later and the much anticipated sequel, The Evil Within 2 is here. Will The Evil Within 2 learn from its predecessor’s mistakes in order to deliver a grander and tighter horror adventure or will it just stink like a rotting corpse?
Set a few years after the events of The Evil Within, we see Sebastian has taken a turn for the worse. We can do the check list of typical sequel tropes that other games like Condemned 2 followed. Alcoholic? Check! Remembering past events that haunt him to this day even though the original game never mentioned these events before? Check! New voice actors? Check, check! Sebastian is reliving the nightmare of when his daughter died in a house fire, blaming himself and also for the disappearance of his wife Mira. However, his former partner Julie Kidman returns and informs Sebastian that his daughter is alive and trapped within a new Stem system created by Mobius. Sebastian decides to go into a new nightmare in the hopes of rescuing his daughter.
I will say that the writing is underwhelming for the most part. The narrative is predictable while the dialogue exchanges between our lead and the supporting cast is dull. Most of the characters have little personality and no interesting characteristics to make them memorable. Sebastian is the worst offender as he utters the line “What the hell” at pretty much every event in the game. There’s about 20 times he says this one line and others similar to it. What the game has going for it is motivation and humanizing Sebastian into someone we can care about. His suffering and determination to save his daughter is endearing and the finale of the game is beautifully touching. There’s now a sense of gravitas to Sebastian’s journey which we can stand by.
In terms of gameplay and presentation, The Evil Within 2 has received some long overdue improvements and tweaks that held back the original game. For starters, the game looks great. Tango Gameworks have done a stellar job at creating grander visuals that implement stronger dynamic lighting, vibrant colours and better quality textures. Everything has a clean, more polished look while retaining that horror edge in the disturbing imagery. Sound design is much more effective helping to create a greater sense of tension and feedback for encounters. Everything about this sequel is much more beautiful in comparison to the original.
There’s plenty more refinements mechanically for The Evil Within 2 as various tweaks improve the handling of weapons while movement is more fluent and organic. The major burden from the original were the stealth mechanics. Sneaking around was something you really couldn’t do the clunky controls. It was fair easier to just shoot your way through or sections that required stealth never came up that often. But now stealth feels more comfortable to execute and while it’s bare bones, removing hiding spots altogether, there’s more functionality to using it. Better controls and the perks you can upgrade make it more enjoyable and practice. It’s not perfect or fleshed out but it works much better than before.
The most satisfying aspect to The Evil Within is indeed brute force combat. Handling weapons is far more responsive, meaning ease of aiming and remaining efficient during an intense encounter. There’s more emphasis on interacting with the environmental as a means to execute groups of enemies or at least to buy you some time. The crossbow makes a return and allows a variation of bolts to be used to stun, explode or freeze enemies, allowing a greater range of tactics to be deployed. I did find even the basic enemies were more challenging as their movements were faster and new enemies can impose a great deal of strain and damage with little effort. My favourite were the witch-like maniacs who wield only a knife but can grapple you and kill you very easily.
There’s also crafting which is great as it can help out when the situation is dire or if you need a certain ammo type for an encounter. Crafting may take a little tension away from the experience overall, but it enforces the impact of resource management. This also encourages exploration. You’ll mostly find gun powder and it’s up to you how to use it. You can make a full clip of not so powerful pistol ammo, or a couple of shotgun shells, or an explosive bolt. This indeed forms some tension regardless.
The biggest change for The Evil Within 2 is the scale, granting players to segments of an open world. This is a great change of pacing and allows for a stronger survival experience that relishes on exploration, survival tactics and player style. You can sneak around the town of Union, blast your way through waves of enemies while scavenging and searching for vital loot and gear. The Town is detailed with small enclosures and interiors which house loot, side quests and optional objectives. I love it. But then the tone/pacing shifts as half way through the game it becomes more linear and similar to what Shinji Mikami created in the original. It’s not bad, as there are plenty of intense encounters, set pieces and the world remains beautiful to observe. I just wish the open world segments would’ve expanded later in the game as these were expertly crafted and vastly more engaging.
While a large part of the beginning is tough, were resources and weapons are very scarce and enemies actually pose a genuine threat. I found the game to be a little easy on the normal difficulties. I highly recommend that fans of the original or veterans of survival horror games just go straight to hard. There are also small changes that make this a little less stressful compared to the original, such as the inventory wheel now freezing the game and you can craft on the go. Crafting on the go however does use at least 40% more resources, so it’s only to be used when really needed.
The boss encounters are weaker for the most part. Aside from a couple of bosses with the laughing guardian being one of them, they’re painfully formulaic. They often regard just simple observation, dodging and shooting weak spots to defeat them with a lack of variation in attacks and stages that are far too big, making it easy to avoid them. The best battles were in enclosed areas that just relied on you fighting them with everything you got. Most battles are grand in scale but shallow in execution making them tedious and dull.
Overall, The Evil Within 2 is a very engaging survival horror experience that fans of the original will vastly enjoy. The gameplay is vastly improved with new design choices making the journey highly engaging throughout. Plus, there’s plenty of bonuses to collect and tons of replay value. Definitely worth checking out!