Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Although clearly flawed, with some odd design decisions, the original Evil Within was nonetheless are good survival horror that featured some memorable encounters and a bizarre story containing twists, turns, and a great premise if you played through to the end.
Similar in many ways to Resident Evil 4, with a darker, grittier and more brutal nature in terms of gore, it was an often scary adventure, and on higher difficulties, one that truly forced players to think carefully about each and every encounter, preserving ammo and supplies lest they end up short later on.
The Evil Within 2 clearly follows on from this style, featuring a lot of the same elements, but placing them within an entirely overhauled engine and setting, one that advances the series and remedies the first game’s shortcomings right out of the gate.
The original game’s protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, is once again centre stage, and we find a broken man looking for truth in the dregs of a glass of cheap whisky, and the back rooms of seedy bars. He’s still haunted by his experiences at Beacon, as well as the apparent death of his daughter, and his missing wife. He’s not exactly in a good place.
Enter Mobious, the mysterious organisation behind the whole Beacon experiment, and a group Sebastian wants to find out about. Luckily, or not, for him, they’re also keen to meet, and it’s not long before Sebastian finds himself deep within another Stem-powered world gone awry. Here we go again…
Story aside, which as always, I’m not going to spoil, The Evil Within 2 soon shows its hand in terms of the first major improvements. Not only has the ridiculous insistence of that silly, forced letterbox view now gone, but the previous game’s performance issues seem to have been ironed out. The Evil Within 2 runs far smoother and is now much more fun to play because of it.
The town of Union, the Stem-generated world Sebastian finds himself in, is also much more open than the overly linear areas of the first game. The opening area is a great, early example of this, and is not only larger than anything in the first game, but it is also filled with optional side missions, hidden secrets, collectables, and other interesting story snippets you can discover.
The game makes far better use of stealth too, making sneaky, careful play a much more viable tactic this time around, and a good tactic it is too. As with the first game, supplies and ammo are scarce, especially on the harder difficulty, so choosing your fights is something you’ll need to become good at. You really don’t want to waste all that ammo on rank and file foes when a larger, more deadly encounter could be just around the corner. It heightens the tension, and makes for a very nerve-racking game.
For me, and this is obviously a very subjective observation, the style of the game’s horror is also a key change. Whereas the first game focused on gore, violence, torture, and nasty, deformed creates, The Evil Within 2 is more about mind-games and psychological horror. There’s a great Japanese influence in the content of the scares here (read: girls with long black hair), and the whole story is generally more cerebral. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of grotesque horrors and crazy moments, of course it does, but there’s much more than simple jump scares and gore. Everything is fare more rounded, and I, for one, really appreciated this change and found a more disturbing and chilling experience because of it.
The game itself plays similarly to the first in terms of control and combat. Sebastian has a familiar collection of tools and weapons, including his trusty crossbow and range of bolt types, and again you can spend scrap to upgrade weapons, and green gel to upgrade Sebastian’s attributes. The upgrade system generally, is improved from the first, with more flexibility and a better skill-tree layout. There’s a lot to grind for here if you want to level up to get the best stats and skills, and thematically, it’s handled well, incorporating Beacon in clever ways, bridging the gap between the two games.
Combat is, sadly, not quite as polished as I’d like. Aiming is a little loose, and the feel of weapons isn’t quite how I’d expect, but it’s certainly a challenge, as foes rarely stand still allowing you to pick them off. These nasties come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from nimble, hard to hit assailants, to just plain creepy, slow moving targets that can cause a whole world of hurt if they see you. The disturbing, Left 4 Dead style women with knives who wander around moaning to themselves being amongst the most terrifying, especially if they see you.
The focus on larger, more open areas, with a smattering of more linear zones is a good move, and you have the ability to slow things down and explore in order to find items you may miss otherwise that could help give you a boost. There’s also plenty of room for replays too as you can miss whole swathes of story if you don’t look around for residual memories and other vehicles the game uses to deliver lore and back story. All of this is handled will, and it’s well worth seeking out.
That said, I did find that the game, although definitely approachable to newcomers, does benefit a great deal from previous knowledge of the first outing. If you’ve never played this, you may find the story very confusing and wonder what the hell is going on.
Despite its flaws, I really liked the original game, and so I was looking forward to the sequel. I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint, and if anything, it actually exceeded my expectations, delivering as it does a vastly improved game that doesn’t just do more of the same with improved visuals, but improves and overhauls various parts of the title to create a truly superior sequel.