Released: 13 October 2017
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 4
After a long and illustrious career at Capcom in which he created and spearheaded the Resident Evil franchise (Capcom/Various, 1996 to present), Shinji Mikami left to help found Tango Gameworks in a bid to develop new properties and titles, such as The Evil Within (Tango Gameworks, 2014). Although critical reception of the game was somewhat mixed, The Evil Within sold well enough to justify a sequel, which began development shortly after Mikami’s team had finished up working on the first game’s downloadable content (DLC). In response to some of the criticisms regarding the first game’s convoluted plot, the team sought to make The Evil Within 2 more comprehensible while also placing greater emphasis on psychological horror elements. Despite a much shorter production period and some notable technical hiccups, The Evil Within 2 fared much better with critics than its predecessor and was generally regarded to be an improvement over the original.
Three years after the events of the first game, Sebastian Castellanos has left the Krimson City Police Department and continues to be haunted by his experiences. Driving to alcoholism by the death of his child, Lily, and the break-up of his marriage, he reluctantly agrees to re-enter the nightmarish world that plagues his dreams when it is revealed that Lily was actually being used as the Core for a new STEM system.
The Evil Within 2 is, fundamentally, extremely similar to the first game but also noticeably different in many ways. Where the first game really emphasised a twisted, nightmarish world where anything was possible and that was populated by a variety of gruesome creatures and restricted your resources to keep you constantly fighting for survival, The Evil Within 2 is much more linear and action-orientated title. The difficulty setting you pick for your playthrough will determine how much ammo and damage you can take, which is pretty standard, but even on the “Normal” difficulty, “Survival”, there’s quite a bit of ammo, crafting items, and opportunities to replenish your health through the game, certainly more than in the first game.
Control wise, however, the game is basically exactly the same; you can aim your weapon with LT, shoot with RT, and reload with X, and interact with your environment with A but, this time around, your melee attack is also mapped to RT and Y brings out your Communicator, which allows you to lock on to signals and help lead you towards objectives and objects of interest. Thankfully, you no longer need to worry about burning bodies so, rather than tossing matches with B, B activates your flashlight (Sebastian is no longer hampered by a large lantern this time around), though you can still sprint by pressing in the left analogue stick.
Like before, stealth and taking cover is a big part of the gameplay; you can snap to nearby cover by pressing the Right Bumper and shift from cover to cover by pressing up on the left stick. Pressing in the right analogue stick will see you crouch down and sneak around and, when enemies are nearby, you’ll again see the return of the eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon that will help you to know when you’ve been spotted. This time around, though, it is much easier to spring away from enemies and out of sight to keep them from pursuing you and there are far ore opportunities for you to sneak up behind enemies and perform a one-hit Sneak Kill, and you’re also given the option to enable or disable an “aim assist” that is super helpful in targeting enemies but combat is much more fluid and far less awkward this time around even without this.
Interestingly, the game also offers the option to enable a first-person perspective; I didn’t play with this as first-person games aren’t really my thing but there was a point in the story that forced you into this perspective and it’s unusual to see this feature included in a game, so it’s interesting, if nothing else. There are far opportunities available to you to heal and craft resources; by exploring your environments, you’ll find Weapons Parts, gunpowder, fuses, and other items that can all be used in workbenches in “Safe Houses” to craft ammo and upgrade your weapons. In these Safe Houses, you’ll usually find similar resources to top up your inventory and will always find a coffee maker, which will fully refill your health with one soothing sip. You can’t abuse this mechanic, however, as it takes time for the machine to refill but you can warp through a cracked mirror like in the last game. This takes you to Sebastian’s office, where you can view documents, slides, access another workbench, and upgrade Sebastian’s other abilities (such as health and stealth) using the torture chair from the last game. In both Safe Houses and Sebastian’s office, you’ll find a terminal for you to insert your Communicator and save but, like before, the game is pretty generous with autosave points.
The Communicator is a pretty big addition to the game and, yet, paradoxically not that integral at the same time. At a number of key moments in the story, you’ll have to hold X to tune into a frequency that will lead you to your next story-based objective and Sebastian will often stop (or continue walking) to chat with the game’s various non-playable characters (NPCs) and expand the story. Perhaps the best addition to the game is the inclusion of a map, which is accessed from the inventory menu; from here, you can see a simple to understand layout of the immediate area, key locations like Safe Houses, and set up a waypoint marker that allows you to easily navigate towards any location. It’s amazing how much of a difference this makes, though it is slightly unnecessary as the game is far more linear than the first game despite the fact that you’re often exploring much larger and more open areas this time around.
The heads-up display (HUD) remains very similar to the last game and is noticeably sparse to help with your immersion in the game but, this time, you can completely disable it (and all onscreen indicators) from the game’s settings. When you access the “Arsenal Menu” with the Left Bumper, the game actually pauses to allow you to time to select weapons or map them to the directional pad for quick access, which is super helpful. Later on, you can also craft ammo on the go from this menu as well, though it costs you more Weapon Parts to do this on the go as opposed to at a workbench. When talking to NPCs, you’ll often be given a number of different dialogue options that allow you to learn a bit more about these characters, the world around them, and activate side missions. Thankfully, you can skip through or ignore these entirely if you want and the game’s plot and ending don’t really change based on your choices.
The first game was often littered with traps, many of which would kill you in a heartbeat, but the same isn’t true for The Evil Within 2. There are only a handful of moments where explosive trap wires will dog your progress (this time around, you can’t disable them and must simply duck under them or trick enemies into tripping them on your behalf) and absolutely no instant death traps, which is nice but also removes a lot of the tension and trial and error. The most consistent trap you’ll have to navigate is a series of electrified wires that require you to duck under and inch around to reach your target but one area that did slightly stand out was when you were forced to don a gas mask and forgo the use of your firearms to avoid causing a fatal explosion. There are also a few more instances where you’ll be asked to mask buttons (usually just A) to open doors, pull levers, or turn cranks or rotate the analogue sticks to line up frequency waves to open doors but puzzles are generally extremely simple (even more so than the last game) and boil down to maybe finding a key, flicking switches in the correct order, using a door’s markings to decode a cipher, or shooting a Shock Bolt at a fuse box to open a door.
Gameplay is broken up a little bit but has far less variety than in the first game; alongside the aforementioned brief first-person sequence, there is one moment where you and Esmeralda Torres have to hold out against waves of enemies but you’re never asked to take the controls of a mounted machine gun or battle enemies on a moving vehicle or distract larger enemies with bodies this time around. Instead, the emphasis is largely more on exploration; there are numerous instances where you must access a computer and travel through “The Marrow” (which is a sparse, poor attempt at masking a loading screen) to access an underground bunker and different areas of the town of Unity and you’re generally given free reign to explore, which can lead to you partially completing side quests without realising it. As you explore, you’ll get notified whenever your Communicator picks up a signal, which can lead you to viewing “Residual Memories” to understand a bit more about STEM, Mobius, and Unity and the usual documents, newspaper clippings, and diaries will also help flesh things out but it can’t be denied that the story is much less complex this time around.
Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within 2 doesn’t look that much different to its predecessor; character models are really well done and lifelike (though Sebastian remains a visually uninspiring character) but, despite areas being much bigger, the game’s environments lack much of the foreboding atmosphere and horrific imagery of the first game.
Unity is quite an uninspiring town; though the influence of the game’s first antagonist, Stefano Valentini, is often felt through the presence of disturbing pictures, a giant camera eye lens in the sky, and murdered Mobius agents frozen in time and staged as “art”, the more bizarre aspects of STEM (twisted hallways, crumbling cities and landscapes, and macabre, nightmarish locations) are downplayed in favour of more sterile locations. The game progressively gets more warped and strange as you progress, though, and by the time you reach the final chapter you’ll be wandering around Unity as it collapses around or and through a desolate limbo trying to rescue Sebastian’s wife but I have to say that I miss the emphasis on gore and disgusting, disconcerting imagery over The Evil Within 2’s more subdued and cerebral presentation.
The enemies also suffer a bit because of this; before, they were twisted, terrifying creatures that drew inspiration from a wide variety of media and came in all different variants but here they’re mainly just moaning zombies or flaming brutes. That’s not to say that there aren’t some disturbing enemies and locations in the game (the Obscura and Anima are two of the more horrific enemies and the stronghold of the game’s true antagonist, Father Theodore Wallace, is like a Lovecraftian cathedral) but the problem is that they’re just not as prevalent or as immediately creepy as in the last game. It’s telling, to me, that the finale sees Sebastian forced to relive a few key encounters from the first game and seeing the return of the Keeper enemy only served to reinforce how the sequel’s creature designs are somewhat lacking compared to the original. Add to that the fact that I glitched through some steps once, that there was occasionally a delay in textures loading and graphics popping up around me, and the fact that the game flat out soft locked on me once right before I was about he save and The Evil Within 2 seems like a bit of a step back in terms of its presentation despite appearing to be bigger and the gameplay largely being much more fluid and enjoyable.
Enemies and Bosses:
The enemies in The Evil Within 2 are known as “The Lost” and, as mentioned previously, are far less visually interesting than in the last game, where the looked like weird Cenobite/zombie hybrids that had crawled out of some nightmarish fever dream. Shambling, zombie-like creatures, the Lost shuffle about and are generally found tearing into corpses, wandering around, or rising from apparent death. They were charge at you if they spot you, throw you to the ground, attack with knifes or axes, and like to try and take a bite out of your neck but, as also mentioned, it’s pretty easy to outrun them, stealth kill them, and take out large numbers using explosive barrels, setting fire to oil pools, or electrocuting them by shooting Shock Bolts into pools of water.
While many of the game’s creatures leave a lot to be desire, there are some interesting and disturbing enemies on offer here: Spawn are gruesome, scuttling corpses that leap at you with their huge jaws full of sharp fangs; Hysterics attack you with knives; the bulbous Glutton creatures will explode when they reach you or are attacked; and the Disciples cause additional damage thanks to their flaming bodies. You’ll also occasionally be tormented by the onryō-like Anima who, similar to Ruvik in the last game, appears every now and then and is completely immune to your attacks; she also drains your health if she gets close to you and forces you to crouch and dash through an ever-shifting maze and you’ll also have to sneak around the glob-like Watcher at one point (or risk trying to kill it by shooting it in the face).
Similar to the last game, the game only really features a handful of bosses, many of which function more like sub bosses and return as regular enemies after being defeated. The first of these you’ll encounter is the abominable Guardian, a gruesome miss-match or bodies and limbs that wields a buzz saw for a hand and pursues you relentlessly at the beginning of the game. Later, you’ll be forced to battle one outside of Cit Hall but, while there’s lots of ammo, health, and places to get a reprieve nearby, you can also dart down an alley way and cause it to be damage by trap wire traps as you escape into the building through a side door. Similarly, you’ll battle the flamethrower-wielding Harbinger first as a boss (where you can shoot at the fuel tank on its back to disable its weapon and set it alight and use nearby levers to douse its flames with the sprinklers overheard) and then as regular enemies out in the streets.
The aforementioned Obscura also appears more than once; this demonic creature is one of the game’s most striking and memorable monsters in the game and resembles a weird, mangled corpse with an old style camera for a head! It scuttles about on the ceiling in the first encounter and you’re forced to hold it off and survive while waiting for an emitter machine to activate and, if you’re caught in its camera flash, time will slow to a crawl, allowing it to grab at you and attack you. Later, you’ll also encounter the monstrous Effigy, which merges with a nearby telephone pole and tries to smash you with both the pole and its claw-like hands.
When you finally confront Stefano, the battle is one of the more subdued in the game in its first phase, which sees him teleport around his gallery in a puff of smoke and slashing at you with his knife. Once enough damage has been done to him, though, he’ll distort the area into a hellscape and get backup from his gigantic camera eye. Later, during your pursuit of Theodore, you’ll be forced to battle the chainsaw-wielding berserker (more of an interactive cutscene where you simple press A to slice him in two), three of the Keepers (easily dispatched with your more powerful weapons), and even Laura from the first game. This latter battle takes place in the furnace as before but, by that point, you’ll have access to a flamethrower than can make short work of her, too.
Battling the Effigy is basically a taster of the game’s final battle against Sebastian’s corrupted with, Myra, who transforms into a similar gigantic creature for the finale. Unlike the final fight against Ruvik, this actually requires you to use your own weapons and ammo and a far greater degree of skill as you have to dodge her massive arms and shoot at her stomach to expose her first weak spot. Destroy this and you’ll have to stomp a load of spiders (which will drop ammo and resources) before blasting her arm fro her torso. When this severed limb grabs you, you’ll have to shoot its glowing stump in slow motion before blasting the glowing weak spot in her head. Compared to Ruvik, it’s a much tougher and more involved boss battle but, even then, the game drags out its ending to an uncomfortable degree, featuring a number of long-winded cutscenes and even a brief sequence where you take control of Juli Kidman to shoot down some Mobius agents.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like before, The Evil Within 2’s locations contain a great deal of resources for you to find by interacting with the environment and smashing wooden crates. Syringes and medical kits will restore your health and you can also find ammo, new weapons in special cases, and both the returning Green Gel and the brand new Red Gel. These can also be earned when, soon into the game, a shooting gallery becomes accessible from Sebastian’s office that places you in a simplisic recreation of areas from the first game and tasks you with hitting high scores to earn Green Gel, Weapon Parts, and other resources. Sebastian’s office also allows you to sit in the familiar torture chair and use your Green Gel to upgrade his abilities; this will increase your maximum health and stamina, your ability to recover both of these, and a number of new abilities. For example, you can upgrade to break free of an enemy’s grip with a bottle if you have one in your inventory, dodge out of the way of enemy attacks, perform Sneak Kills under cover of your Smoke Bolts, or Ambush Kills by stealthily approaching from cover. The Red Gel is used in this skill tree to unlock additional skill levels, which seems a little pointless but it gives you something else to look out for, I guess.
From the chair, you can also use the keys you find by smashing special statues to once again open up lockers for additional resources. Many of the weapons Sebastian has access to return, or are very similar, to those from the previous game; he carries a knife for melee combat but can instantly kill enemies if he grabs a one-use axe or distract them by throwing bottles, which can now be stacked in your inventory. Very soon, you’ll get hold of a handgun and, in time, acquire such familiar weapons as a shotgun, sniper rifle (which I had very little use for), assault rifle, and the returning crossbow (now called the Warden Crossbow and capable of firing only explosive, smoke, shock, freeze, or harpoon rounds). Later, you’ll also grab a flamethrower and, after completing the game, gain access to the magnum but you can also find better versions of the handgun and shotgun by exploring your environments. Each weapon can be upgraded from a workbench using Weapon Parts; this allows you to increase their ammo capacity, firepower, and reloaded rate, among others, and this skill tree is similarly expanded with High Grade Weapon Parts. You can also find ammo pouches of certain corpses to increase your ammo capacity and, while pipebombs are missing, the Warden Crossbow is much more accurate and wieldy this time around.
There are fifty-one Achievements available in The Evil Within 2, the majority of which are earned by simply playing through and completing chapters of the story mode. You’ll also earn Achievements for defeating a certain number of enemies (both in general and in certain ways, like with Stealth Kills and your crossbow bolts), upgrading weapons, and finding collectibles. There are a number of special items you can find that will appear in Sebastian’s office, which are tied to Achievements, and you’ll also earn them for clearing certain sections in certain ways, which will require you to reload a previous save point to pop them in one go.
Right off the bat, there are free difficulty levels to choose from; when you clear the game, you’ll unlock another, access to the magnum, 40,000 Green Gel points, and a number of skins for Sebastian (which, while nothing too groundbreaking, help to mix up subsequent playthroughs). By signing up for a Bethesda account, and depending on how you purchase the game, you can also access additional perks, such as the “Last Chance Pack” code, which adds a bunch of bonus items to your inventory but, most usefully, the ability to toggle on one-hit kills, infinite stamina, and infinite health. As you’re not penalised for using these “cheats”, the game is made a complete cakewalk with these activated and means you can stack Achievements by just ploughing through on the hardest difficulty without fear of being killed. Also accessible after clearing the game is “New Game Plus”, which carries over all of your upgrades and unlocks and skins and such to a new save file. Unfortunately, you can’t upscale the difficulty when playing New Game Plus and must, instead, start a new file to play on a harder difficulty. There is also no other downloadable content to expand the game’s story or add in new modes like in the last game, no unlockable rocket launcher, and, worst of all, you can no longer freely jump to the game’s chapters, which means that you’ll have to play through the game from the start to mop up any missing Achievements.
In many ways, I preferred The Evil Within 2 over the original; just the inclusion of a map and waypoint system makes it a much more user-friendly experience and the combat has been tweaked just enough so that you’re not hesitating to engage with enemies. The story, which focuses much more on Sebastian and makes him a far more proactive figure, is also far less convoluted (at least until the ending) and the options available for combat make it much more interesting to play. However, it’s undeniably a much more linear game despite how big the locations are and lacks a lot of the features that make The Evil Within interesting and horrific; enemies and environments are rather drab and uninspired, the puzzles are simple and barely a factor, gameplay variety leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s just far less disturbing than the original. Interestingly, while I found the first game frustrating at times, I didn’t consider it to be so hard that it needed cheats for infinite health and stamina and, while I appreciated these inclusions, making it so that you can finish the game and get all the Achievements with these activated really renders any tension redundant and I simply ran around melee attacking enemies and killing them in one hit to complete alleviate the survival aspects of the game as much as the developers eliminated the horror elements by toning down the macabre, disturbing visuals.
What did you think to The Evil Within 2? Do you think it was better, worse, or just as good as the original? What did you think to the change in presentation, mechanics, and tone? Were you disappointed with the enemy designs and presentation like I was or did you find it just as disturbing as before? What did you think to the story and the new antagonists? Did you play the game with the cheats activated; if not, what did you think to the game’s difficulty? Would you like to see another entry in this franchise or do you think it’s best left alone now? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within games, feel free to drop a comment below.