When The Evil Within released back in 2014 there was a lot of a hell of a lot of interest in the third person survival horror game. It was the first game since Resident Evil 4 for legendary director Shinji Mikami and the first game developed by his studio Tango Gameworks. With strong atmospherics that build tension, there was a lot to like about The Evil Within but some tired third person shooter mechanics and some confused gameplay that went between the need for stealth and all out “shoot everything” in sight meant that there were plenty of mixed reviews when the game released. This time around, Tango Gameworks have open the world up which greatly helps the gameplay and when blended with a fantastic atmospheric setting, makes The Evil Within 2 a top notch survival horror game that bests the original.
The Evil Within 2 is set after the original and once again puts you in charge of Sebastian Castellanos. After having a wee bit of a mental breakdown moment, Sebastian meets up with former partner Kidman who gives him some pretty hard-to-believe news about his daughter. She isn’t dead, she was being used by an organisation known as Mobius as part of the STEM system and she is now trapped within it and is presumed missing. This of course leads Sebastian to enter the STEM system to try and sort the mess out and find his daughter.
Rather than the mish-mash of story threads from The Evil Within, The Evil Within 2 evokes a much more personal story, one that is more straight forward and it pays dividends for the game. From the outset you have your goal and the personal nature of the story creates a greater buy-in to the story that makes you want to see how this all plays out. The town of Union within STEM is vast and ripe for exploration. The Evil Within 2 is much more open than the original and rewards that exploration with plenty of collectibles scattering the town. Of course, this is a survival horror game so you can expect to encounter plenty of opposition to your exploits and of course they aren’t going to want to see you find your daughter.
A lot of the gameplay elements from the original remain; the shooting mechanics haven’t been tinkered with too much and that mix of needing stealth at times and then going to kill everything in site still exists but by opening the world up it gives the player a bit more freedom to choose how they want to approach any given situation. Once you get to Chapter 3 and beyond the game becomes less linear and there are plenty of open areas to tackle rather than the linear paths of the original. This means you can choose how to approach and engage with enemies within Union. Unfortunately the tired shooting mechanics let down the game when the action really gets going. There are moments where you’d swear you were bang on but you miss the target which can become frustrating in the heat of the action.
Making the world more open also changes the horror aspects. This is less about all out gore and jump scare factor and more about building on the atmosphere and creating tension that makes this more of a psychological horror. Don’t get me wrong you will still experience some jump scares and there will still be some gore but this is more about messing with your mind. Play The Evil Within 2 late at night with a headset on and add in a wee bit of sleep deprivation too and you’re all set for the psychological mind-trip that The Evil Within 2 is ready to serve up to you on a platter.
This time around, the skill tree has been tweaked to better cater for differing play styles. Once again your ability to upgrade is controlled by attaining Green Gel which will gladly ooze form the brains of your enemies when you kill them and it can also be found with some exploration. The ability upgrades will give you an array of the standard sort of stuff like increasing health or giving you faster movement but for the most part the upgrade system is designed to not make you invincible, it is designed to give you small incremental upgrades to help you on your way but not overpower you. This means that tension always remains because no matter how much upgrades you have, you will still be vulnerable and that is just the way a survival horror game should be.
Aside from upgrading your skill tree, crafting is a big part of being successful in The Evil Within 2. You’ll find work benches inside the safe houses that let you unleash your inner DIY handyman to craft up all sorts of goodies like ammo, health items and the odd weapon item to keep you going out there in the harsh town of Union. You can craft out in the open too but you’ll use more resources doing so and well it just ain’t safe out there!
When it comes to visuals, The Evil Within 2 does a great job. Characters are well designed and fit within the context of their environment, the choice of colour is spot on and develops the atmosphere nicely. For the most part framerates are smooth and handle the action without much drop, there are still some instances of annoying pop-in but overall there is stark improvement from the original.
The Evil Within 2 takes on board criticism from its predecessor and makes stark improvements across the board. The story has stripped away complexity and gone for a simple emotional narrative. The atmosphere that is created on the back of an impressive soundtrack and visual presentation captures the very essence of psychological survival horror which makes The Evil Within 2 a must play for fans of the genre.
The Evil Within 2 was reviewed on PC by code provided by Bethesda.