Evil Within helped kick off an era where it reminded people that the horror genre of video games wasn’t dead, it just needed a new direction. It put players in anxious situations where they moved from level to level in constant suspense not knowing what was lurking around every corner.
While it’s story was out there, it received praise for it’s innovation and drive to bring the genre back into the spot light. While it still had some mechanics that held it back from being truly amazing, it still did the job it had set out to do. Enter Evil Within 2.
This highly anticipated sequel takes everything that made Evil Within great and kicks it up a notch. Yes, the story is still out there, even more surreal than it’s predecessor in fact, BUT it’s atmosphere, enemies, and environments resonate with you and leave you in a constant state of tension. I will admit, the first half hour of the game is a bit cheesy with it’s dialogue and it takes a few moments for the game to find it’s footing. However, once things get moving, what you’re left with is a true survival horror experience that will stick with you for quite some time.
Sebastian Castellanos is back for more and this time, his daughter is in danger as well. Believed to be dead from a house fire, Sebastian finds out shes alive and well and trapped in the town of Union. Union is of course a town within the STEM program, a simulation just like Beacon was. Three years has passed since those horrific events and now, Sebastian is once again forced to confront the Evil Within… See what I did there?
Anways, none of that is really spoilers because it’s all laid out for you within the first few minutes of the game. While the story is hard to follow, there are some decent surprises and twists to keep you guessing. There are also some seriously shocking, gory moments that catch you off guard, so, well done Bethesda. Thankfully the locations, atmosphere and enemies more than make up for some of the cheesy voice acting and convoluted story you have to sit through. I mean, you can tell they’re trying, so points for the effort I suppose?
Performances aside, Evil Within 2 delivers some truly tense situations. Its clever really, there are times where you’re exploring a house, or traversing the “Morrow” (paths that connect parts of Union with one another) and you can’t help but feel like something is going to jump out at any given moment. The thing is, sometimes they never do, and you just spent the last 15 minutes working through a flop sweat for nothing.
Theres other times where you think you’re safe and you are just working through another one of these sections again, when something does in fact come out of nowhere and scare the piss out of you. It’s a testament to the overall design of this game. The environments and settings have been so well crafted that you’re in a constant state tension, you never know what is coming, if anything, and in a way THAT is more terrifying than any monster you might encounter. This also makes fighting your way through the 18-20 hour campaign feel like an accomplishment. The credits role and you finally feel like its safe to take a breath.
Thats not to say that the monsters in this game don’t have their fair share of scares. Part of why this game is so creepy is the sounds and look of these monstrosities. There is an instance when the game forces you into a first person perspective and you’re not allowed to shoot anything because a spark could catch the gas thats around you on fire blowing you and everything else to hell. So instead, you must sneak your way from point A to point B without alerting the shrieking piles of puss and limbs that are around you. There are other times where you’re put in these “cat and mouse” situations.
You have to work your way through a series of rooms, acquire a keycard and then find your way back to a locked door all while avoiding this disturbing, phantom-like siren. The only thing that lets you know she’s close is the creepy humming she continuously does, oh and she can phase through walls and doors too, so thats fun. These extremely tense situations are peppered throughout the game and happen when you least expect. Some are triggered by story events, but some feel like they just come out of nowhere, which adds to the sense of never feeling safe.
Another new addition to the sequel is the semi-open world you’re given to explore. Evil Within was an extremely linear experience. You start a chapter and go from point A to point B with little to nothing in between. Evil Within 2 takes a slightly different approach. The path from point A to point B is still there, however, now you have room and ways to get to your destination. Along the way you can pick up radio signals that lead you to Mobius agents, new weapons, or supply caches; all of which somehow tie into the over-arcing story.
It’s cleverly well done and while these side quests don’t take up too much of your time the payoffs are bounteous. One mission led me to a radio signal from a killed Mobius member, but I got a crossbow out of it. Another had me find a secret passage under an auto shop where I had to then clear out a group of “zombies” but I got a shotgun out of it. A third signal led me to a huge supply of upgrade materials and ammo. When it comes to a game like Evil Within, these types of things are a necessity if you want to survive and have a fighting chance, so I never passed up an opportunity to go off the beaten path to seek out these rogue radio waves.
All of these elements culminate in an overall impressive survival horror experience, for the most part. There are some frustrating things that, mechanically, just didn’t make sense. The biggest thing was the lag between breaking a box and picking up the loot inside. There is a noticeable delay between these two motions and it made the desire to move fast a little frustrating. Most notably when you’re low on ammo in a boss fight and you have to do another lap just to pick up the 5 bullets that were in a crate because Sebastian can’t bust a box and bend over to pick that shit up at the same time.
The camera is a love/hate thing as well. It’s pretty close to Sebastian for the duration of the game, which is fine, I get it, it helps convey a feeling of claustrophobia and narrows your peripheral vision. However, the times when you’re fighting an enemy or hiding from one and can’t see where the fuck he is because the camera is so far up your ass that all you see is inside of Sebastian’s character model make for some infuriating encounters. I’m totally fine with dying for a stupid mistake I made, but dying because the camera wouldn’t remove itself from my anal cavity led to some frustrating moments.
In a way it can almost determine how you end up playing. Stealth isn’t really an option anymore when you can’t use the camera to your advantage which then forces you to take a different route or waste ammo on the enemies blocking your path because you’re left with no other choice.
Overall, these minor mechanics only momentarily take you out of the immersion. For the most part, Evil Within 2 is a welcome successor. Yes the story is odd, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t decent. Evil Within 2 delivers the jump scares and sense of fear from the unknown that few other horror franchises can pull off today, let alone for an 18-20 hour period.
It’s an experience that leaves you feeling accomplished and the sigh of relief you’re allowed to take when it’s over is a great feeling. Evil Within 2 brings enough changes to feel like it isn’t a copy/paste replica of the original and delivers a fresh new take on an ever changing genre; one that any horror fan would be an idiot to pass up!