The Evil Is Back And Better Than Ever
The Evil Within was the first game that I purchased when I got my shiny new Xbox One back in 2014. Being a big fan of the survival horror genre, I was super excited to see what Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami’s brilliant brain had cooked up next. The Evil Within was survival horror through and through and I loved every gory minute of it! It was scary, it was hard, and most of all, it was horribly acted! Well, the acting wasn’t complete garbage. Jackie Earle Haley did a bang-up job as Ruvik, who I still consider to be one of the most interesting villains in video game history.
Needless to say, I was really excited when The Evil Within 2 was announced during the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo. My excitement dulled a bit upon learning Shinji Mikami would not be in the director’s chair this time around.. After a bit more digging I also found that Ruvik would not be making an appearance. So, no Mikami and no Ruvik….eh, this could be bad.
Welcome Back Mr. Castellanos
Evil Within 2 may be missing some major components, but it does at least bring back main protagonist Sebastian Castellanos. Haunted by the aftermath of the first Evil Within, Sebastian has now left the police force and is coping with the disappearance of his wife Myra and the death of his daughter Lily. He’s tortured by vivid nightmares where he must repeatedly watch his daughter burn to death in the house fire that took her life…supposedly.
While looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle, Sebastian is greeted by his old friend, Agent Juli Kidman. Kidman explains that Sebastian’s daughter is actually still alive and her death was faked. Apparently, Mobius faked Lily’s death and are now using her mind in place of Ruvik’s to be the center of their new STEM (artificial) world, which is a town called Union. But they’ve run into a big problem: Mobius has lost contact with Lily and they no longer have control of Union. After some confusion and obvious hatred, Sebastian agrees to help Mobius by entering the STEM world to locate his daughter. Well, unfortunately for Sebastian, the town of Union is full of zombies, monsters, and a psychopath who has a fascination with taking pictures of people as they’re dying.
Glad to Be Here
If you were a fan of the first game you’ll be pleased to know that The Evil Within 2 is better in every way. The first big difference that I noticed is that everything feels bigger and far less linear. Early on in the game Sebastian acquires a radio that alerts him of important events to investigate. It’s up to the player to decide if they want to check out these events or not. The town of Union ultimately becomes the player’s sandbox, and is full of alleyways, dark corners, and homes to explore. I spent my first few hours of the game totally ignoring the story while scavenging garages for gun parts and ammo.
While checking out Union I was surprised to see how alive the town felt, even though it was full of undead zombies. Game changing events just seemed to happen at random. On one occasion I was walking down the street just minding my own business and a string of zombies chased a girl into a building. She slammed the door shut and screamed for help. I should have been courageous and tried to save her, but I only had a handful of bullets to my name. So I cowardly slipped by the house and took advantage of the empty alleyways. I felt really bad, not just for her, but for myself. I later found out that helping some of these people opens up large chunks of additional gameplay.
Get Outta My Head!
Since the game takes place in an artificial world, Sebastian is constantly being toyed with. Walls that seem impassable will turn into hallways if given a second glance, and a simple room can transform into a maze at the blink of an eye. Layers of Fear came to mind often throughout my playthrough. I never knew what to expect, and I loved every minute of the uneasiness that I felt. Zombies are easy enemies since they can be killed, but when someone is messing with your mind, that is a whole different fear entirely.
The Evil Within 2’s combat closely resembles the combat in the first game. Sebastian will acquire several different types of weaponry to fend off enemies. The handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle, and crossbow all make a return, and each can be upgraded by using gun parts at a crafting station. Sebastian also has an in-the-field crafting kit that he can use to make ammo for the weapons that he has on hand. Since this is a survival horror game, most of the time you’ll be wondering if you have enough ammo to make it to your next destination. If you search around enough this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I personally always seemed to have just enough to get by, and I wasted a LOT of ammo.
Fun Is Just a Step Away
The Evil Within 2 entices the player to sneak by most enemies, but by doing so, they may be limiting themselves when it comes to ability upgrades. Similar to the first game, most enemies dispatched will bleed a green ooze that Sebastian can scoop up into a mason jar. This ooze is basically XP, and can be used to upgrade different combat, health, and stealth abilities. The deadpan, but oddly sexy Nurse Tatiana is back and will assist you with all your upgrade needs. But as I stated, it’s up to the player if they want to waste the ammo to get the green stuff, or avoid conflicts entirely.
I’d be hard pressed not to mention the one glaring issue I had with the controls. The damn camera moves way too slow! I felt the need to press the thumbstick harder to get the camera to move faster. I was hoping there was a setting to speed this up, or even an ability upgrade, but unfortunately there isn’t. I’m sure this is intentional, but it became really annoying when trying to explore an environment.
Once Upon a Time
Since this is a survival horror game, there are obviously files to read that attempt to flesh out the story. There are a total of 40 laying around in various locations, but I didn’t see the NEED to locate all of them. I felt that most of these were put there to just entice the player to head down a hallway that they normally wouldn’t.
The items that I DID find that added a lot to the story were the photographic slides that seem to be taken from the Castellano family photo album. These are a bit harder to find, but doing so will flesh out Sebastian’s family’s backstory. When Sebastian brings these slides back to his office he’ll call Kidman on the radio and discuss several different aspects of his family life. More importantly, how his wife always had a hunch that Lily’s death was suspicious. I advise anyone playing this game to locate all of these.
Layers Upon Layers
There are times that Sebastian must travel to unreachable sections of Union, and he does so by way of something called The Marrow. The Marrow is best described a the backstage area of Union that connects to a different stage. Union is falling apart at the seams, and so is the Marrow. The team behind The Evil Within 2 let their creative juices flow when it comes to this part of the game. If you thought you were going to kill everything, think again. Portions of the Marrow are filled with a flammable gas, so stealth is the only option down here. At first I was disappointed that my weapons were taken away from me, but the tension was turned up to 11 and I really appreciated it. Exhaling after these sequences felt pretty good. The Marrow was ultimately a refreshing change of pace.
Who Made Who?
The Evil Within 2 looks and sounds amazing, except for one big detail. The lip syncing is way off. It’s especially noticeable at the beginning of the game. As long as the characters aren’t speaking to one another, everything is amazing. What really works is the lack of music throughout most of the experience. The town is filled with zombies and their moans triumphantly provide the game’s score. The guns sound as they should and the voice acting is intentionally (I hope) cheesy.
I was playing on a PS4 Pro and did experience some texture pop-in during cutscenes. This was really noticeable while switching cameras. It’s as if the game engine wasn’t working fast enough to keep up with the on-screen action. This wasn’t game breaking, but it did take me out of the experience more times than I would have liked.
Fans of the first game NEED to play this. As I stated, everything from the original has been improved upon. The stakes are higher, the sandbox is bigger, and the gore is gorier! Sebastian Castellanos may not be the most interesting protagonist, but he doesn’t need to be. The town of Union is the main draw here, and it’s packed full of interesting areas to explore.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Bethesda Softworks ; Developer: Tango Gameworks; Players: 1 ; Released: October 13, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of The Evil Within 2