|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Tango Gameworks|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks|
|Release: October 13, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language|
by April Marie
In an era when sequels, trilogies, and series are all incredibly commonplace, it’s a big deal when one is actually better than the original. Developers nowadays have a tendency to turn to the community and listen to what their concerns are. While they might not be able to fix everything, they can still give it a fair try. That seems to be the case with The Evil Within 2, which took a mediocre game and improved on most of its weak points.
Let’s start with one of the biggest ones, the main character Sebastian Castellanos. In the original The Evil Within, Sebastian was a pretty dull character. A lot of times, the point of a video game is for players to put themselves in their avatar’s shoes. But story-heavy games need to have a solid and concrete voice and personality to make it shine. In The Evil Within 2, Sebastian still doesn’t have much personality, but it’s clear that Tango Gameworks gave it the old college try. Sebastian will crack jokes from time to time, much like that one guy at the office who wants social interaction, but isn’t quite sure how it works.
The biggest improvement to Sebastian in The Evil Within 2 is the addition of a clear goal and driving force. His daughter, who he thought was dead, is trapped within the Matrix-like STEM system, and he has to save her. When he was under the impression that she had died in a house fire, Sebastian was a tormented alcoholic. The motivation of saving the one good thing in his life carries him through the game. It’s a really smart direction for the series to take, because The Evil Within 2 does a really good job of making you care about the little girl from the very beginning. I actually abhor children, but even I cared about Lily. There’s a flashback near the start of the game in which Lily discovers one of her favorite dolls is broken. There is genuine sorrow in the actor’s voice as she points out the problem to Sebastian. Just that small exchange was enough to get me emotionally invested in rescuing this innocent little girl.
Those that played the first The Evil Within will enjoy the return of some familiar faces, but it’s still enjoyable for those that didn’t. The Evil Within 2 generally makes it very clear when a character is from the first game. The best example is Nurse Tatiana Gutierrez. When she first returns to the game to help Sebastian upgrade himself, she says something like, “Nice to see you again.” This will prompt players to do their own investigating if they want to learn more about the recurring characters. But even if you don’t look up anything about the first game, you’ll still enjoy this one. The characters, setting, and plot are all thrown at you fast and haphazardly (in the case of flashbacks), but that’s just the style of the game. It takes place in a virtual environment that is based on people’s mental states, so things are bound to be a bit insane.
When it comes to characters, the best part are the bad guys. There are two main antagonists in The Evil Within 2. They are both absolutely bonkers in their own unique ways. The first we are introduced to is Stefano Valentini, and later we get to know Theodore Wallace. The former is an artist, the latter a cultist. Stefano is crazy in that he can manipulate STEM to suit his own needs, which are heinous to say the least. He’s a psychopathic killer who sees blood and corpses as his finest works. To be fair, the things he creates are in fact beautiful, albeit macabre and haunting. Wallace can’t alter his STEM environment, but rather coerces the people around him. He’s a smooth talker who can get people to see things from his perspective. While it might seem like he has your best interests at heart, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Of these two, Stefano was my personal favorite. He reminded me very much of a character from the Japanese series Tokyo Ghoul called “the gourmet,” what with his snobbish personality. (Give the character a search, if you’re curious!)
The Evil Within 2 boomerangs between third-person shooter and horrific walking simulator. The shooter aspects of the game are much more open than the first and leave plenty of room for the player to do as much or as little as they’d like. If you want to dash from checkpoint to checkpoint within the main mission and progress as fast as you can, you can do that. It’ll be a little tougher if you don’t stop for supplies along the way, but it is possible. For those (like me) who like to take their time, there are plenty of side-quests to experience and a reasonable number of locations to explore. We’re not talking open-world RPG sized maps here, but they’re definitely bigger than most “follow-the-rails” horror games. The walking simulator sections of The Evil Within 2 are super thrilling, especially in the beginning. However, the walk down a hallway, turn around, see something spooky, then turn around again for another spook, rinse, and repeat can get a little old after a time.
Thankfully, the creatures within The Evil Within 2 make up for this. There is plenty here to challenge you, from the zombified residents who have gone insane within STEM to the large boss battles. The more common creatures are called the Lost, and they’re similar to a mix of the classic zombie and The Last of Us’ Infected. Some of them have their own personalities and don’t just wander aimlessly or feast on corpses. I saw one in particular actually slamming a body part into a wall before it started eating it, almost like it was tenderizing it. It was definitely a bizarre moment. As far as the bosses are concerned, one of the most spectacular involves one of Stefano’s creations, his Obscura. She’s a combination of a bunch of body parts, including dainty looking feet that wear ballerina slippers and an accordion style camera for a head. She has the ability to climb walls, so you always have to be on your guard. Plus she alters the flow of time, so there’s that to contend with as well.
The creatures within The Evil Within 2 all vary in difficulty, so it doesn’t get boring. Only four bosses within the game are invincible, but it’s pretty easy to discern this in the moment. I mean, one is a giant eyeball tentacle monster floating in the sky; of course you, as one person, aren’t taking that thing down. For the other battles, it’s crucial that you check your surroundings for items, as it’s possible to miss things if you’re just running in fear. My first boss battle I completely missed some explosive bolts for my crossbow, which could have ended the battle much sooner.
There are very clear references to creator Shinji Mikami’s previous work, the Resident Evil series. The movement scheme is very similar, and if you’re not familiar with hitting a button to quickly spin around, you might want to practice. It’s crucial to become a master at this move in The Evil Within 2, since Sebastian moves very sluggishly otherwise. Plus his flashlight is connected to his hip, which leaves a portion of your field of view hidden if you turn manually.
Another cool feature of The Evil Within 2 is the possibility to play in different ways depending on your style. If you’d rather be a pacifist and avoid battles, you can sneak around the various areas of the game and avoid fights that are unnecessary. For those that like to go in with guns blazing, there are definitely plenty of opportunities to do that. But, you can also just run away. I won’t call you a chicken if you do, as I did it a few times myself. Sometimes, I just wanted to get to an objective or safe house without taking down the one creature that was outside, so I made a mad dash. The Evil Within 2 does reward you if you engage in combat, as enemies award green gel (which you can use to upgrade Sebastian) or crafting items.