Game Corner: The Evil Within 2 (Xbox One)

Released: 13 October 2017
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 4

The Background:
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.

The Plot.
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.

Gameplay:
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.

The game’s controls are largely the same as before but tweaked for the better.

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.

Stay low and sneak around to avoid detection and perform an instant kill move.

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.

Save areas have now been expanded into two locations to allow you to heal up and upgrade you attributes.

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 addition of a Communicator, map, and waypoints makes navigation a breeze this time around.

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.

Access your weapons on the fly without fear of attack and chat with NPCs for side quests and exposition.

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.

Puzzles are few and far between and extremely simple, even when compared to the first game.

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.

The game is much more linear but there are still opportunities for exploration..

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.

While surreal imagery is still prominent, it’s not as visually interesting or macabre as before.

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.

Graphically, the game doesn’t seem much better than its predecessor and is arguably worse in a lot of ways.

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.

Enemies, while still horrific at times, seem much more generic and predictable compared to their predecessors.

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).

The monstrous Guardian is a nightmareish mish-mash of linbs and giggling heads with a buzz saw for a hand!

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.

It’s a shame more of the game’s enemies aren’t as disturbing as these bosses…

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.

After getting past Stefano, you’ll be tasked with fending off some familiar faces from the first game.

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.

Myra’s horrific final form is a much more difficult finale compared to the simplistic battle against Ruvik.

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.

Weapons can be upgraded at workbenches at the cost of Weapon Parts.

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.

Additional Features:
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.

A few unlockables and bonus content add a little replay value but there’s no additional story DLC this time.

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.

The Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

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.

Game Corner: The Evil Within (Xbox One)

Released: 14 October 2014
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360

The Background:
Shinji Mikami joined Capcom in 1990 and worked on a number of successful handheld, 8- and 16-bit titles during his first six years with the company. In 1996, though, Mikami developed the first Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) videogame, which not only popularised the “survival-horror” subgenre but was an incredible success upon release. Since then, Mikami spearheaded or was heavily involved in Resident Evil’s sequels and spin-offs, including taking over as director of Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) and changing the direction of the franchise. However, by 2010, Mikami had left Capcom to develop new properties and titles under Tango Gameworks; the first of these was The Evil Within (known as Psycho Break in Japan), a title which Mikami aimed to return to the roots of the survival-horror genre, which had become increasingly actionorientated over the years. Despite some criticism regarding technical issues, The Evil Within was received rather favourably; while some struggled with the game’s difficulty and convoluted plot, the atmosphere and horror elements were notably praised. The game was also the second-best selling game in the United Kingdom upon release and earned an even more highly regarded sequel in 2017.

The Plot:
After arriving at a brutal massacre, Detective Sebastian Castellanos is pulled into a distorted world full of nightmarish locations and horrid creatures after pursuing a mysterious, seemingly supernatural hooded figure known as Ruvik. Trapped with limited resources and relentlessly hunted, Sebastian is left to fight for his survival and uncover the mystery of Ruvik and the horrific world Sebastian’s found himself trapped in.

Gameplay:
The Evil Within is a survival-horror videogame very much in the style of Resident Evil 4 in many ways; my experience with the Silent Hill franchise (Konami/Various, 1999 to 2014) is sadly limited but, from the bit I’ve played of the first game, The Evil Within is clearly heavily borrowing from the more nightmarish and twisted reality of Silent Hill than the virus-heavy narrative of the Resident Evil franchise. Like in Resident Evil 4, you have full 3600 control of your character and the camera rather than being restricted by tank controls and set camera angles, and you’re also given much more options in terms of combat. You can melee attack with Y using your fists or bottles, interact with the environment with A, burn bodies and pools of gasoline with your limited supply of matches with B, aim with LT and shoot your weapons with RT, reload with X, and spring with LB. you can’t hold the sprint trigger down for too long, though, as you’re hampered by a stamina meter and Sebastian will be left vulnerable and out of breath if you run for too long.

Sneak past enemies or creep up behind them to pull off an instant kill move.

One of the big mechanics of The Evil Within is the sneaking and stealth-based gameplay that is pushed as a big thing in the first few chapters of the game’s story and then all but vanishes for the bulk of the gameplay as you’re given more ammo and weapons, before rearing up again near the finale of the game. You can use RB to sneak around when enemies are nearby and a helpful eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon will let you know when enemies are unaware of you or actively searching for you. When the eye widens, you should sprint out of site or hide inside a nearby locker or wardrobe until the danger has passed but be careful as enemies will pull you out of your hiding place if they see you try to hide. Still, if you manage to sneak up behind enemies, you’ll be able to pull off an instant kill move with a press of the A button but I found enemies become very aware of your presence even when you’re being super stealthy so this was often quite tricky to pull off. As much of the game is seeped in an unsettling darkness, you can also use your lantern by pressing in the left analogue stick to light the way but this will also attract nearby enemies (though, again, this becomes less of an issue hen you gain more resources).

Set your weapons and healing items to the D-pad for quick use and take advantage of any backup.

Like all great survival-horror titles, The Evil Within excels in building a horrific, foreboding atmosphere thanks to its unsettling, often gruesome visuals and twisted, reality-bending narrative. To help with this, the heads-up display (HUD) is extremely sparse to increase your immersion in the game’s horrifying locations and narrative. You’ll see your health, stamina, and currently-equipped weapon and ammo and that’s about it unless you’re joined by one of Sebastian’s partners, like Joseph Oda, who often help you out with some additional firepower. If they’re attacked, you can fend off their attackers and heal them by holding down A (which helpfully doesn’t waste your own healing resources). You can set your weapons and healing items to the directional pad (D-pad), which helps you to quickly switch weapons or replenish your health without going into the inventory wheel, which slows the in-game action to a crawl but doesn’t pause it completely and can thus leave you vulnerable.

Puzzles are few and far between in The Evil Within but are suitably macabre (and a bit unfair, at times).

Interestingly, The Evil Within is surprisingly light on puzzles, labyrinthine environments, and the use of keys and other items to progress. Occasionally, you’ll have to acquire a key to open a door or work your way through a grim and grimy location avoiding instant death traps, fending off enemies, and running from Ruvik as you try to open a central door, but these moments are few and far between. Instead, The Evil Within is a much more linear game than its forefathers, meaning that you’re not afforded a map this time around. For the most part, this isn’t an issue but it wouldn’t have hurt to have a map available since a lot of the environments are a bit grey, dark, and look alike so it can be easy to get turned around sometimes. As a result, though, you never really have to worry about pushing statues or getting a bunch of extraneous items or combining them together and, instead, will be more focused on blasting enemies or bashing their heads in than worrying about jewels. However, when puzzles do crop up, they’re fittingly gruesome: you’ll have to insert probes into brains while looking at nearby diagrams and listening to audio tapes, press the right buttons on surgery tables to avoid being skewered and reveal a hidden exit, sneak past wire traps and rush through spiked traps, and shut off valves of steam or activate flames to get past certain areas, and turn a few dials here and there in order to progress, take out enemies, or free your comrades.

You’ll need to constantly watch out for traps and hazards that threaten to skewer or explode you.

During Chapter 11, though. you’ll also have to shoot down corpses hanging above the flooded streets in order to distract and swim past a monstrous creature, which can get pretty tense as your window of opportunity is very small, and you’ll also be chased by chainsaw-wielding berserker’s and suddenly ensnared in traps that you must shoot or run out of or face a grisly end. Indeed, traps and hazards such as these are one of the most recurring dangers in the game; these are dotted around every location, springing up on you when you least expect it and often skewing you or blowing you into bloody chunks with little warning. Many of these will result in instant death, requiring you to retry from your last save point, but others can be disarmed by holding A, sneaking up on them, or pressing A at the right time in a small mini game. Disarming traps such as these will net you additional junk (which you can also acquire by smashing crates and such), which is used in the game’s (thankfully) extremely limited crafting system to create ammo for your “Agony Bolt” crossbow. You’ll also find Green Gel in jars and bubbling on the floor after you defeat enemies; be sure to grab this whenever you see it as you’ll need it to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities and weapons in the game’s haunting save areas.

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within is quite a bland game in many ways; much of the environments take place in such uninspired locations as a hospital, sewer, grimy caverns, and gothic laboratories, meaning that a lot of the colours are subdued and feature a lot of black, grey, and brown. However, the game excels in the use of lighting and a perverse, macabre atmosphere that really adds to the sense of dread and tension in every area. Things may look perfectly normal one minute and then, very quickly, become warped either by Ruvik, Sebastian’s apparently fragmenting mental state, or the presence of certain enemies.

Environments are forboding and ominous, if a bit drab and interchangeable at times.

Bodies, bloodstains, and gore are in abundance in almost every area you visit; you’ll find dismembered corpses, flickering lights, smashed up areas and some truly disturbing labs and operating theatres that more closely resemble torture chambers or slaughter houses. Sebastian’s journey takes him through a variety of locations, all of which are generally seeped in a thick, ominous darkness or carry an menacing sense of dread thanks to the carnage that surrounds him or the use of screams and ambient sounds (mostly haunting, almost taunting voices). There’s also some cool weather effects on display; rain splatters on the screen, wind blows through trees and grass, and environments twist and change as Ruvik bends them to his will with often devastating effects.

Much of the game draws visual inspiration from Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and other horror franchises.

When The Evil Within breaks free from restrictive corridors filled with barbed wire, wreckage, and corpses, it really starts to feel much more unique amongst other survival-horror videogames; you’ll wander through the castle-like ruins of weird mish-mash of cultures, venture through a city that is constantly shifting and changing and collapsing around you like something out of Inception (Nolan, 2010), but you’ll also recognise a number of the tropes and references to Resident Evil along the way. The hospital and laboratories of the game, for example, are very reminiscent of Umbrella’s facilities, as is the mansion you eventually explore; you’ll also spot a few familiar typewriters but the game also evokes imagery from Silent Hill through its narrative and horror franchises like The Ring (Various, 1991 to 2019) and Hellraiser (Various, 1987 to present) in its enemy designs.

Sebestian might not be the most compelling character but he’s thrust into some horrific situations.

While the game’s use of music and ambient sounds is pretty good, if uninspiring at times, it’s the lapses in sound and use of ominous groaning or wails of some unspeakable eldritch abomination that really add to the game’s unsettlingly atmosphere. The voice acting is okay, for the most part, but kind of reminds me of the B-movie delivery of games like The House of the Dead (SEGA AM1, 1996) and even the original Resident Evil while still treating the events of the game with a grim seriousness that further emphasises that its meant to be unsettling and disturbing rather than thrilling or cheesy. Sadly, thanks to the nature of the game’s narrative, the plot is all over the place; much of the narrative is focused on Sebastian trying to figure out the mystery of Ruvik while the world literally falls apart around him and questioning his sanity but it turns out to be this weird, pseudo-virtual reality environment of sorts that really isn’t elaborate don all that much in the game’s cutscenes or dialogue. Instead, you’ll have to root through the many mysterious and ominous documents and the comments of non-playable characters (NPCs) around you to get a better idea of what the hell is actually going on which, while creating a bit of a disconnect between me and Sebastian’s plight, I found did lend to the nightmarish appeal of the game as it was literally like playing through some ghastly nightmare where nothing makes sense and the world is full of shrieking, gabbling zombie-like creatures and unspeakable horrors and gore.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you desperately plough your way through the game and try to figure out just what the hell is going on, you’ll find yourself besieged by a number of grisly creatures that literally come to life before your eyes as corpses stagger upwards, seemingly innocent blood stains burst free with screaming ghouls, and enemies burst apart into freakish abominations. The most common types of enemy you’ll encounter are known as “The Haunted”; these dishevelled reanimated corpses are like a cross between zombies, Cenobites, and the Las Plagas enemies of Resident Evil 4 and will stagger and rush at you in a blind fury looking to take a bite out of your neck. They’re also capable of attacking as a group and with weapons such as knives, crossbows, and even guns, and will eventually don body armour and wield machine guns, shotguns, Molotov cocktails, and can even activate traps by pulling levers. Thankfully, they go down relatively easily, especially after a few shots to the head, but you’re also encouraged to burn their bodies upon defeat to avoid them springing to life once more.

Ghastly, zombie-like enemies will rush at you and attack using edged weapons, explosives, and even firearms!

The haunted come in all shapes and sizes, including much bigger and more rotund enemies who can tank your shots, ones who rush at you in a suicide run, and even ones that appear invisible until the moment before they strike. You’ll also have to contend with some disturbing little baby versions of the Haunted that seep out through walls and drop from the ceilings, but these are easily dispatched with your melee attacks. You’ll also encounter far larger versions (who are best avoided rather than tackling directly unless you have some heavier weaponry on hand) and the disgusting AlterEgo variants who shamble about the place, take far more damage to defeat, and puke up viscera onto you when they got close to you!

The game’s bigger, more dangerous sub bosses will require your more powerful weapons to put down.

Such larger, more grotesque enemies serve as The Evil Within’s mini bosses; the first enemy you encounter, for example, is the chainsaw-wielding Sadist who cannot be harmed. Instead, you have to frantically run from him and sneak around him to avoid being sliced in two but, later in the game, you’ll encounter these brutes as mini bosses in increasingly confined areas; thankfully, by then you’ll be packing a shotgun and some explosive weaponry so they’re not too difficult to put down as long as you keep away from the wild swing of their chainsaws. Similarly, while exploring Cedar Hill Church, you’ll have to fight past the misshapen, monstrous formally conjoined twins Neun and Zehn, who rush at you and try to smash you into a bloody puddle in a confined area. Luckily, Joseph is on hand to offer support with a sniper rifle and you can use your more powerful weapons to slow them and finish them off one at a time.

The Keepers are similar to Pyramid Head but are much easier to put down…with the right weapons…

Another prominent sub boss, of sorts, is the Keeper; these hulking creatures wield meat cleavers and pursue you with a screen-distorting effect and dropping barbed wire mine traps on the floor. Because their heads are protected by a metal safe, the only way to kill these bastards is to aim for the ample chests but, quite often, killing one will simply cause another to spawn out of nearby safes, which can also spring to life and attempt to attach to your face. As a result, a mixture of stealth and tactics are advised when facing the Keepers, which can often be avoided altogether and mainly serve as a formidable distraction while you try to shut off steam valves and progress further.

The Amalgam Alpha was a horrendous boss figh, especially when it enters its second phase and eats you!

As you might expect from the man behind Resident Evil, you’ll also have to battle a number of bizarre and monstrous creatures to progress; one, the Sentinel, is a giant wolf-like creature transformed into a hideous monstrosity and which likes to hide in nearby bushes before pouncing on you and trying to bite your face off. Another is Quell, a massive octopus-like creature that attacks you in the sewers and likes to hide in pipes and grab you with its tentacles; when it does, you have a small window to shoot its face to damage it and save yourself from a gruesome end. Easily the most prevalent and annoying, however, is the Amalgam Alpha creature, which appears to be an eldritch, nightmarish spider/scorpion hybrid that rampages through an underground car park and was, easily, the toughest and most annoying boss fight of the game. This thing is really big and its weak point (an eye on either its tail or within its gaping mouth) can be really tricky to hit; luckily, the car park is full of ammo and other resources but you’ll have to be quick on your feet to avoid its super frustrating instant kill move.

Laura is a shrieking, persistent threat best staved off with fire and avoided lest she pummel you to death!

As Ruvik remains elusive for most of the game, the most prominent antagonist you’ll face for most of the game is Laura, an onryō-like girl who emerges, shrieking and wailing, from bubbling bloodstains in certain parts of specific chapters and scuttles after you like a spider, instantly smashing your head in if she gets a hold of you. You’ll encounter Laura three times over the course of the game and she gets more aggressive and difficult to face each time: in the first encounter, you simply have to run around a corner and set alight a pool of gasoline to scare her off but you’re then forced to battle her in an incinerator room. Here, she demonstrates her ability to teleport and emerge from nearby corpses so you’ll have to make sure that you burn these and arm yourself with nearby torches to stave her off but the only way you’ll defeat her is to trick her into spawning inside of one of the incinerators and pulling the lever. The last battle against her is even worse as it has multiple stages that see you fending her off by shoot levers on pipes to spew fire at her and desperately making your way towards an elevator before she can grab you. While it is possible to do her in using nearby flame traps and your conventional weapons, it’s worth coming back after you’ve unlocked the rocket launcher to make these fights easier as she’s basically indestructible otherwise.

You’ll battle Ruvik’s monstrous final form without fear of exhausting your precious resources.

Finally, there’s the primary antagonist himself, the mysterious Ruvik, who is apparently the mastermind behind all of the game’s events. Occasionally, Ruvik will spawn into a location and begin to chase you; if this happens, my advice is to run as fast as you can and hide in a wardrobe or under a bed until he disappears as he’ll explode you into bloody chunks otherwise. Later, you’ll encounter Haunted who assume his guise, who can be easily put down without much trouble, and the entire final chapter of the game is dedicated towards making your way to a final confrontation with Ruvik. Here, he merges with the Amalgam Alpha to become the Amalgam, a Lovecraftian beast that you must run from as it chases you up the side of a building before commandeering a machine gun and a rocket launcher to finish him off for good. In this final boss fight, you don’t need to worry about expending your ammo or running around in a panic; you simply have to move to the left or right to avoid his claws, aim for his head, and try not to miss withy our rockets. Eventually, you’re given a split second to shoot the final bullet at Ruvik’s exposed head but it’s okay if you miss as the autosave point is right before this section so take your time and put an end to him for good by stomping on his exposed brain.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the many nightmarish environments of The Evil Within, you’ll find a lot of junk and helpful items to pick up, especially if you smash open crates and open up any drawers or cupboards. You’ll acquire syringes and medical kits to restore your health (these latter will also briefly extend your health at the cost of a few seconds of disorientation), ammo for your weapons, matches, and Green Gel. You’ll want to grab as much of these as you can (be sure to reload your weapons and cycle through your Agony Bolt variants to stockpile as much ammo as possible) in order to have the best chance of success in combat.

In addition to the usual firearms, your Agony Bolt can fire a number of different arrows.

Sebastian is afforded all the usual weapons you should expect from a survival-horror videogame; begins with a simple pistol but soon acquires a shotgun, the aforementioned Agony Bolt, a sniper rifle, and even a magnum as the game progresses. These can usually be found in attaché briefcases so be sure to explore your environments fully to get your hands on more weapons and ammo, and Sebastian can also make use of nearby bottles to throw at and bash enemies with, pipebombs, and explosive barrels (which he can also awkwardly kick around to best destroy enemies). In addition, the Agony Bolt can shoot multiple different types of arrows, from explosives to freezing blasts to stun shots, all of which can be either found in the environment or crafted with a simple press of a button from the inventory menu.

Find Green Gel to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, ammo, and weapons.

At numerous points throughout each chapter, you’ll find mysterious cracked mirrors that transport you to the save room. Here, you can use any keys you find from breaking special statues to open up lockers and access some extra ammo and also use your Green Gel in a very ominous looking chair. This allows you to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, such as his maximum health and stamina and melee damage output, and weapons, allowing you to increase your maximum ammo capacity, reload time, accuracy, and overall effectiveness for each weapon. It’s worth stockpiling Green Gel and spreading it wisely to increase Sebastian’s health and the amount of matches he can carry while also focusing on each weapon at a time; I favoured upgraded the shotgun and saved that for the more troublesome enemies but you may prefer to upgrade the Agony Bolt or sniper rifle.

Additional Features:
There are forty-one Achievements on offer in The Evil Within, many of which require a bit more strategy to unlock than simply clearing every chapter. Indeed, almost every chapter of the game has a specific requirement to unlock an Achievement, such as defeating a Sadist with a stealth kill, surviving an onslaught of enemies without Joseph being hurt, or killing Laura rather than simply outrunning her. You’ll also get Achievements for more mundane things, such as stealth killing five enemies in a row without being discovered, upgrading weapons and skills, or killing a certain number of enemies in specific ways, as well as finishing the game on higher difficulties or without any Green Gel upgrades.

Clear the game to unlock bonus weapons, new difficulty levels, or purchase the DLC for extra story content.

The game has four difficulty settings, with two available right from the start; while you can lower the difficulty at any time, you can’t raise it and, after finishing the game, you’ll unlock additional weapons to use in the ‘New Game+’ mode, which allows you to replay any chapter on the difficulty you cleared it on. You’re also given 50,000 Green Gel points to spend and unlock a model viewer but, annoyingly, your rocket launcher and machine gun have limited ammo, meaning you can’t just plough through the game’s chapters willy-nilly. Still, it does give you the edge in tracking down any statue key, map pieces, and documents you missed the first time through and working toward 100% completion. There are also a couple of expansion packs available to download that add an extra thirty Achievements to the game in addition to expanding upon the story with new playable characters and enemies to battle. I haven’t actually bought this, however, so it’s not my place to comment upon it but the game was appealing enough that I may explore this extra content later down the line (or if there’s a sale on).

The Summary:
The Evil Within certainly was a disturbing head-trip of a videogame; very little about it makes sense as you play it, with the events appearing to be the result of Sebastian slowly going insane but eventually being revealed to be the results of some bizarre experiment that, even now, I’m a bit unclear on. The result is a very unpredictable and gameplay experience full of unsettling imagery and enemies, gore, and ghastly creatures of all shapes and sizes that pull from a variety of other media and horror elements and mash them together in a truly nightmarish and ominous videogame that maintains a constant sense of dread and anticipation as you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next as Sebastian is battered and tossed all over the place through a constantly shifting nightmare world.

While it can be annoying and tedious, the game does a great job of conveying a macabre and ominous dread.

Having said that, though, there were a few flaws in the game. It’s not always immediately clear where you need to go as environments tend to look the same (especially in chapters set within the hospital or similar locations), some of the boss battles and enemies were ridiculously unfair thanks to them having one-hit kill moves in their arsenal (something I’m always frustrated by), and expanding Resident Evil’s save rooms out to a whole area was a bit laborious at times when I just wanted to quickly save without having to trudge about in the slowly-dilapidating hospital foyer. Still, it was a harrowing experience, one that really conveyed a tangible sense of dread and horror; Sebastian might not be the most compelling or dynamic character but his “Everyman” persona worked well with the increasingly insane and macabre things he was faced with and it was nice to feel that sense of foreboding menace once again, even if the game does veer more towards action than survival-horror thanks to you have just enough ammo and resources to get through each chapter rather than having to constantly worry about inventory management.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Are you a fan of The Evil Within? Did you enjoy the game’s ominous atmosphere and mind trip of a story or was it too derivative for you? What did you think of Sebastian as a protagonist, his supporting cast, and Ruvik as the main antagonist? Did you enjoy all the allusions and references to other survival-horror videogames and horror media or do you feel like that got in the way of the game’s more unique qualities? Would you like to see more from the Evil Within franchise? Which survival-horror videogame or franchise is your favourite and why? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within, or survival-horror in general, drop a comment down below.