The Evil Within 2 Review- Horror with a Heart

Posted November 2, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Tango Gameworks

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Release date: October 13, 2017

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed)

It’s been three years since Sebastian Castellanos experienced the horrors at Beacon in the 2014 game The Evil Within. Developer Tango Gameworks picks up Sebastian’s tale, and once again he’ll need to go face to face with some very disturbed things. Agent Juli Kidman finds Sebastian in a bar, and tells him that his daughter Lily, who he thought perished in a fire, is still alive and under the control of Mobius. Mobius is a powerful organization (think Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil series), and they are using Lily to power a device called STEM, a machine capable of linking all of mankind’s minds together. Naturally, there’s a problem, as Lily, their Core, has disappeared. Kidman convinces Sebastian to go in and save his daughter, who is lost in a virtual town called Union. In Sebastian goes, and thus we begin the horror in The Evil Within 2.

Shinji Mikami, who directed the first game, moves over to the producer role for the sequel, turning the directorial reins over to John Johanas. Mikami’s style is still evident in the game, with its twisted creations and oddball touches. The game’s story by writers Syoji Ishimie and Trent Haaga feels a bit more focused this time around. The first game dealt well with Ruvik’s madness that enveloped Beacon Mental Hospital and the surrounding city, while The Evil Within 2 is a more personal tale about a father driven to save his daughter. It gives the game an emotional resonance and a bit stronger motivation for Sebastian to face these horrors, whereas in the first game he was pulled into the events at Beacon against his will. There are some nicely touching scenes played out in the game as well as a couple of heartbreaking moments. You can feel a real connection between Sebastian and Lily, even in those moments where she rejects him and accuses him for not saving her earlier.

While the personal story tied the overall game together, it really does come across as a game with two halves. The first half is more of a mystery, with Sebastian not only trying to find his daughter but also find out what happened to the Mobius agents that were sent in. The agents make for a nice assortment of side characters, with some having their own personal side missions for Sebastian to tackle. The mysterious man Sebastian chases in the first half is wonderfully twisted and nearly as menacing as Ruvik was in the first game. Things alter a bit in the second half as Sebastian finds who has Lily, and it becomes a heart pounding chase to the finish. The first half has only a couple of boss fights, one of which is relatively easy once you know how to dodge the boss’s attacks. The second half is far more intense, and the final boss fight can be a little crazy. The only problem with that final boss fight is that it ends the game’s penultimate chapter, leaving the final chapter to feel a bit anticlimactic, since the final chapter is more cut scenes than actual game play. It’s still a satisfying ending for the story, but a little bit of a letdown in terms of player interaction.

Overall, the gameplay is very good, being a mixture of combat and stealth. Running and hiding is often just as viable as standing and fighting, considering the ammo and health items can be in short supply. You can find materials to make your own items once you get access to a workbench. Workbenches are found in a couple of safe-houses and in Sebastian’s room, which serves as a sort of hub for the game. Workbenches can be used for crafting or for weapon upgrades, which you need machine parts for. Each weapon can be updated per their firepower, the ammo clip size, their rate of fire, and their reload speed. Crossbow bolts can be modified for their strength or effective duration. You have your usual assortment of guns to play with, including a pistol, shotgun, and automatic rifle, in addition to the crossbow. Bolts are nicely varied, with electric, smoke, explosive, and freezing varieties. Melee combat is generally accomplished with a knife, though as the game goes on you can pick up an axe for a one use, one hit kill. Stealth kills are easy to pull off with a button press, though enemies do behave erratically. It wasn’t uncommon for me to sneak up on an enemy, only to have them turn around at the last minute. That behavior of the Lost (the enemy types you will meet most often) make each encounter a tense affair, and early on it can be easy to get overwhelmed by a group. Enemies can drop ammo or crafting supplies when dispatched, in addition to finding them across Union.

Enemies will also dissolve into a green gel, which Sebastian can use to level himself up. There are five paths you can choose to spend your gel in- Health, Athleticism (your stamina and ability to evade attacks), Recovery (how quickly stamina or health regenerates), Stealth, and Combat. The green gel can also be obtained from a cat in your room (awarded if you find one of the slides hidden throughout the game) or by getting the proper score in the shooting range. There is also red gel, much rarer, which is used to unlock higher grade perks. There are also keys to a bank of lockers to be found. The lockers can hold anything from machine parts to a bottle of green gel. The keys are hidden within statues that are scattered throughout Union. Health can also be gained by drinking coffee at safe-houses (one cup per visit), and there are soda machines that if struck may drop an item. You can level up however you wish, but once you do, there’s no going back. Leveling up is done by sitting in a wheelchair in your room, which turns into the torture like dentist’s chair from the first game. As in the first game, the nurse Tatiana is on hand to aid with leveling up or providing commentary on your performance in the shooting range.

Visually, the game does a great job at mixing the mundane with the macabre. Union could be a pleasant little town, if it weren’t for the hordes of murderous Lost wandering the streets, or the giant Silent Hill-like chasm that ends the main road. The Lost have a nice variety to them, ranging from wiry zombie types to pulsing hulks that will explode when they’re close to you. Some things are very reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft, with plenty of tentacles or long limbs. Bosses are varied as well, though none of the new bosses are quite as memorable as The Keeper or Laura (the spider lady) from the first game. A couple are still unique, with one having a circular saw blade attached to its arm and another having the head of an old fashioned camera. They’ll take quick reflexes and a wise usage of your ammunition to take down. While you have a variety of weapons, you can’t just rely on firearms to do the trick. The character models all looked fairly good, with the lip sync generally in time with the vocalizations. Voice acting is fairly well done but not outstanding. It’s at least on par with any of the Resident Evil titles, though there isn’t any of the ridiculous type of dialogue found in Capcom’s zombie series. So no Sebastian sandwich, as it were.

One thing a horror game does need to be, and that’s scary, or, at the very least, suspenseful. Like its predecessor, The Evil Within 2 is very intense in spots, and the tension level is kept high. Union is a sort of open world that you’re free to explore. While you can’t enter every building, you never know what you may find when you do venture indoors. You’ll get a visual cue at the top of the screen if you’re making too much noise or if an enemy can see you. Staying still and hiding isn’t always the best strategy, as they can be persistent in searching for you if they spotted you. The enemy behavior is very erratic, as they twitch and twist and turn constantly. Those feeding on a downed victim are your easiest stealth targets, others you need to have a gun loaded just in case a sneak attack fails. As with most horror games, head shots are the best. They can be tricky to pull off when hurried, but when you do they are quite satisfying. You can choose to have aim assist on or off, depending on what type of challenge you want to face. And, like other horror games, there are plenty of collectibles to find, from slides to various files. It may take more than one playthrough to find them all without the use of a guide.

My first playthrough took me close to 21 1/4 hours to complete the game’s 17 chapters. Once you finish your game, it unlocks New Game +, in which your upgrades, equipment, and collectibles carry over. For New Game +, you can choose any difficulty equal or lower than the one for which you have a clear save file. You’ll also unlock some items for use on future playthroughs, as well as Classic Mode for those who want a good challenge. There is a post credits scene which naturally looks to be setting the stage for the next game in the franchise. The game runs pretty smooth on the Xbox One, as I never experienced any frame rate slow down. The game did crash on me once, but outside of that there weren’t any technical issues. The camera can be a little problematic in spots, but overall works well. There are parts where I wished the game would turn control back to me quicker from a cut scene, but that’s a minor quibble and didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the game.

The Evil Within 2 is a very solid horror game, delivering plenty of tension and a few jump scares. The creature design is well done, making us face off against a couple of truly horrific beings. It’s got a good crafting system, the shooting range can be addictive for some in chasing that higher score, and good, likeable characters. The villains are nicely done, and the story overall has heart in its motivation for Sebastian. There’s a nice emotional core that helps drive you forward to face the insanity. For a year that began with the terrific horror of Resident Evil 7 comes down towards the end with yet another great horror game. For horror fans and especially fans of the first game, The Evil Within 2 definitely is a title worth purchasing. It’s another solid step forward for this young franchise, and it will be interesting to see what madness they have in store for us in the future.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus