The Evil Within 2 is the sequel to one of the most debated survival horror games of recent years; mostly because over expectations can kill any fun that people can have these days. Some people loved it, some people hated it. Of course, we’ve moved on from then, but we still have and Shinji Mikami and Sebastian at the helm. With this in mind, it does sound like it’s off to a good start, no?
WARNING! SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!
Taking place after the events of the first game, Sebastian has a lot of trouble coping with the Beacon Hospital incident and the eventual loss of his wife, Myra, and daughter, Lily. Found in a dive bar by the same Kidman from the first game, Sebastian has been given an opportunity to find his previously thought to be dead daughter, by an elusive company called Mobius. It’s now known that Mobius had kidnapped Lily and used her mind as the core for the new STEM world and now, Sebastian is forced into this dying world if he ever wants contact with her again. To keep a STEM reality stable, a “core” is required and what better way to keep a place bright and cheerful than to use a little girl’s mind? Instability issues have arisen and Mobius themselves do not have control over the sheer screw up that they’ve managed to create. Whilst travelling throughout Union, Sebastian will learn more about Mobius and what had happened within STEM and his outlook on the past and how his future will play out will be forever changed.
The overall length of this game is, by far, one its best assets but it also can be its killer at times. Stefano’s part of the story, which I’ll speak a little about later, is one of my favourite parts of the game and it’s easily the most fear instilling part; it’s dark, gritty and emphasises the monster design to higher levels than later in the game. The Evil Within 2 has been paced rather well and my immersion was never broken. Chapters change seamlessly and transitions between cutscenes and gameplay are flawless; it’s nice to be sucked in so deeply into a game after so many break their pacing and immersion so commonly. The only time that I found myself questioning everything was after the Stefano storyline and when everything switched onto Theodore as the main enemy. It pulled you into his version of Union straight away, which was very religious like, comparable to the castle section in Resident Evil 4, and it just didn’t seem to fit perfectly in line with what had come before it. It also did this another time with a dream, having you waking up to meet a new member from Mobius. I wish that we could have had been told by Kidman to travel through the Marrow and I would have accepted the changes, more than it being forced on you rather quickly. However, once you make it into the new area, everything does follow with the same perfect pacing, with a lot of buildup for the upcoming chapters.
Storywise, it did only have a few slight faults but in my eyes, the main base of it was great; save Lily from STEM. Sebastian has seen so much growth as a character, with him facing his fears once again but with slightly more understanding about them. The journey to Lily was a perilous one, filled with characters who ultimately changed and challenged Sebastian by simply them being there. Everything has been pieced together like one of Stefano’s gruesome artworks. Depth and weight have been bundled behind the majority of every character that you’ll meet, albeit a couple during some side missions are slightly dull; yet they’re optional so I can understand that there wasn’t a need to increase the variety of them. Adding all of these into the interesting story made for a satisfying playthrough and it managed to achieve the story that it set out to tell. Every twist and turn managed to play upon my fear and emotions and by the end of it, I wanted to boot the entire game up again.
Union is one of the biggest changes from this game and its predecessor, being that the areas are now fully open to explore. Running around Union really does have a rather unique feel to it. Due to the instability of the core, when you arrive in town, you can see parts of buildings, roads and other such things floating around everywhere in this Matrix-esque place. Having the town centre directly above your head as you explore is like something straight out of a science fiction film and it looks absolutely awesome. I’m still hesitant of my liking towards the open areas as having enemies that are simply roaming around does take away from the scares slightly. However, once certain environmental triggers occur, the area might repopulate with stronger enemies in different locations, so things are constantly happening and changing. Thankfully, even though “open world” has been sprinkled over this title, it hasn’t been littered with a tonne of useless collectables or annoying and repetitive sidequests. What The Evil Within 2 does have is a great deal of resources to gather around every area and the sidequests that it does include seem natural to the entire game, such as finding a broken sniper rifle and needing to find the parts to reassemble it. My favourite part of travelling around is throughout The Marrow; interlinking tunnels that have a feel of some sort of research lab from the Resident Evil series. Even the loading screens themselves are completely immersive, bringing you into a pitch black area with trees and other objects forming, as you wait for the next area to load up before transporting to it through the computer. This is all felt rather familiar to the Animus from Assassin’s Creed.
Evil Within’s core formula hasn’t really changed much from the original but this isn’t a bad thing, as I was rather happy with what we had been given before. One gripe that I had about the first game was that the stealth didn’t work as brilliantly as intended, yet this time around, it has all been tweaked to near perfection, so stealth is back feeling like a very viable choice. Creeping around doesn’t ever go unnoticed and The Lost will follow the sound of your footsteps, which is when bottles come in handy. Throw one and it’ll distract any nearby enemies, however, it seems that if you launch one across an enemies visible path, they’ll see where it came from and run straight to that direction, instead of following that noise. The first attempt at stealth in the original had me giving up and running around gun-toting, which is also viable in this game too, although, I would recommend you upgrade Sebastian before doing this or you will get ripped apart.
Each and every gun feels as if it serves its own purpose. Rather early on in the game, you’ll get a hold of the Warden Crossbow which, personally, I find the most valuable weapon that you’ll get in the entire game, as it plays many different roles with the different bolts, including electrocution, smoke, explosion, freezing and normal harpoon bolts. Having this huge variety of ammo choice makes it the most adaptable weapon in any situation, also giving it the most damage possible when it comes down to certain enemies, however, the base harpoon bolt is weak without a headshot. Thankfully, the game also produces a variety of weapons that you can find and collect throughout the story. For example, there are six different types of handgun which are catered for different playstyles, including using the silenced handgun for stealth situations. These have all been balanced nicely and appropriately; the silenced handgun does less damage but allows drawing enemies out from a crowd, the starting shotgun can have a large magazine, whereas the double-barrelled packs a mighty punch. Simply put, everything feels exactly like it should; pistols are accurate but slow, shotguns carry their mighty weight and even the assault rifle has a great sounding “thud” when shot.
Once collecting the required amount of weapons parts to upgrade Sebastian’s arsenal, you can choose between upping the clip size, firepower, reload speed and fire rate for every weapon. Some of these upgrades have the ability to branch off into other paths, such as the firepower route can also increase the critical hit rate. These upgrades carry over into similar weapons in the same category, which is a perfect feature. Weapon parts are only one of the five different currencies and you won’t be receiving it from just killing enemies; it’s definitely a finite resource so you really do have to choose your upgrades wisely. Green Gel is what is used here and in the previous game to upgrade Sebastian himself, which, again, is a finite resource but a lot easier to acquire, due to enemies dropping it. There are a total of five paths you can choose to upgrade and these are Health, Athleticism, Recovery, Stealth and Combat, with each path improving a great deal of many talents that will make Sebastian much more capable to deal with the situation in Union. These upgrades are never overpowered, so don’t expect them to be. In my opinion, the best options to upgrade are the base health improvement stats, which will later also give you the ability to “grit your teeth” through enemy attacks which will leave Sebastian with a slither of health, instead of dying. In the Stealth category, you’ll have the option to use your stash of bottles to break free for a grab. The reason I love these two specific abilities is that they don’t make the game ridiculously easy to survive but are still incredibly handy. With the bottle breaking skill, it cannot be used on the bigger types of enemies, whereas the gritting ability will only go so far and stops attacks from killing you if it would have just removed the remainder of your health.
Crafting is a new system that has been added and in the whopping seventeen hours it took me to complete the game on Nightmare difficulty, crafting well, was a must within that time frame. Collecting specific resources around the world will allow you to craft ammo, bolts and health syringes. You can craft these items at a workbench, many of which are found inside certain safe houses, or you can actually craft them wherever you are, without a bench but this uses more resources. I tried to keep my resources for when I was in a safe house so I was able to get more bang for my buck from the materials, yet sadly, I was strained to get there on some occassions, so crafting on the go was sometimes necessary. It’s an absolutely great feature and one that offers a risk and reward type of deal. Even though the crafting system gives the ability to craft ammo and health, it never makes the game harder nor easier; if anything it’s another resource that you’ll have to manage and not squander if you want to stay alive. Will you craft some pistol bullets in the hope for a critical hit? Or do you need a shotgun shell for a knockback and a hopeful stomp kill?
Two side notes that I made whilst playing through the game, which I’ll quickly round off. Firstly, I always tried to pick up as many collectables as I could and after finding a specific journal, a ghost lady started following me. After later research, we found out that she’s called Anima and she is supposed to be the “physical manifestation of Sebastian’s guilt, fear, and trauma”, according to the Wikia page. Without any true explanation to why she kept popping up, I was curious to her backstory, who she really was and why she seemingly transports Sebastian back to Beacon. Although she’s a very interesting addition, even though she can be skipped, it’s confusing and I wish that they added in some more detail for this optional boss. Finally, there is a sewer level which forces players into a first-person view, where not a single weapon is allowed to be fired, due to some explosive chemicals around, pushing an entirely stealthy approach. Overall, this ended up feeling a bit unnecessary, especially with its general one-shot kill mechanic, as you couldn’t fit back against the enemies. The change of pace was nice and with the new perspective, it felt like I was a playing grotesque version of Amnesia. However, this would have fitted greatly into some sort of VR section of the game or of something akin to that but right now, it feels rather lacklustre and tacked on.
Every single base enemy is disgusting to look at and I love it! When I first went to stealth kill one of The Lost, it turned and had another face fused within it; how lovely. My favourite, by far, is the amalgamation type monsters. You’ll come across a towering monster called the Guardian, who has a very large abundance of decapitated heads. Also included are the crawling enemies that also have multiple heads and if you manage to die to one of these, the death sequence is something that you only imagine that would come from one of these horrific creatures and it makes it one of the more frightening enemies in the entire game. Depending on which world state that you’re currently in, based on the bosses, the enemies will also change and fit into their places too. For example, Father Theodore’s enemy range is that of fire and cleansing and you’ll have maniac followers burning places down and reborn monsters encased in flames, making them much tougher them and causing stealth to be more difficult.
In terms of main protagonists, there are three. Stefano is who you’ll spend the most time with and being the first that you’ll encounter, he’s by far the most interesting. Stefano was once a war photographer who went insane after losing an eye and now, he’s intrigued by the thought of death. Once he takes a picture, time becomes distorted, making perfect traps for both Mobius team members and Sebastian alike. Being able to watch somebodies last moments on a repeated loop is something that is such a unique premise, as gruesome as it sounds. When Union is being controlled by Stefano, a huge looming camera eye will be watching over everything whilst sitting in the sky. Even his main boss battle is probably the biggest highlight of this game for me; the teleportation and suspension abilities he has access to in STEM makes it brilliant in every single way. Thrown grenades are trapped mid-air, whilst Stefano’s camera creation looms above Sebastian, launching knives.
Theodore comes forward as the main antagonist after Stefano has been defeated and it’s shown that he has allowed Stefano to do his bidding as long as Lily is delivered to him. He has formed a rather extremist cult via preying on weaknesses and this is especially easy for him when the entire world comes literally crumbling down on your head. His end boss battle ended up annoying me quite a bit, though. Before fighting him, you’ll have a fantastically tense battle with one of his turned acolytes and former Mobius member, Liam, who was your very first point of contact in Union. The fight has emotional weight behind it, along with a rather tight staging area, creating an overall great fight. However, once it came down to Theodore himself, it was rather uninspiring, reusing old enemies from the first game who end up being even less threatening. After working your way through his massive stronghold, he even has the audacity to die in a bloody cutscene! Thankfully, Theodore doesn’t dominate the game as he is a rather small portion of it, so I didn’t hold this against it for too long.
Finally, Myra takes the end antagonist spot in the trinity that they’ve created. She only holds Union for a short time after Theodore and she ultimately has it when it’s in its worst state, so you won’t see many changes within the enemies, rather just they’re caked in sludge. With Myra being Sebastian’s wife, there comes a part where an internal struggle does take place and both Myra and Sebastian begin having to fight themselves for the better of Lily. STEM’s corruption of Lily’s mind has been rather gruesome and when it comes down to the last encounter, she has something akin to a Resident Evil-esque mutation. A big glowing weakness and overall grossness end up making the fight feel rather familiar, but the scale of it was remarkable and the art direction made it one of my favourite boss battles within Shinji’s games.
Just like within other Shinji games, there are a tonne of unlockables and other things. Firstly, you’ll be able to access a shooting range, which actually benefits the player since as you gain more and more points, you’ll be rewarded with helpful aids such as Green Gel and weapon parts. Once you complete the game for the first time, you’ll unlock New Game Plus, which will allow you to run through the game a second time with different gear and outfits; I wish the Magnum was in the base game, but alas, you need to finish the game to unlock it. The collectables have been more than just shiny items, like most of the time with games in an open world platform, and you can come across many of the different easter eggs included. Thankfully, just like old school horror, you can collect journals and other such items which will give a deeper insight into Union, it’s inhabitants and Mobius team members. Are these little features just added filler? Of course. However, they are more than worthwhile hunting down if you wish to further deepen yourself into the story.
Overall, The Evil Within 2 takes the idea of its predecessor but pushes it into so many different and new locations. It’s ambitious but gets so many things right, which is a definite relief. With the added open areas being absolutely filled with useful items to find, players will actually be rewarded with worthwhile gear, instead of a simple collectable that means nothing. The combat is generally the same but has been tweaked in areas to provide a sleek and enjoyable gunplay system. Stealth actually works this time around and provides a whole different style of game, if you wish to use it in every scenario. Enemies are gruesome and massively unique, which ends up bringing a big scare factor to the entire game, especially the ones that click and make that disgusting noise. However, after wading through the first major area, the game falls short slightly when you enter Theodore’s domain, but it soon picks up again once you move to the final stage. With inspiration taken from different titles, as well introducing some new and great features, The Evil Within 2 feels like a completely different game to the original but in every good sense imaginable.
The Evil Within 2 was reviewed using a retail Steam key, provided by Bethesda.