It’s no secret that I’ve played my fair share of survival horror video games. In fact, it’s almost like a given here on The Young Folks. After all these years, it takes a lot for a horror game to scare me beyond the generic jumpscares. Not every video game, even if they’re a horror title, is up to snuff.
The Evil Within games – on the other hand – are a terrifying experience. Be it the demon, the creepy ambiance or the overt horror tones, the end product connects back to the horror game genre’s roots of eerie environments and danger. The original Evil Within relied on mystery, being an unknown, new horror title (and its psychological world-jumping trope). While it was confusing at times, the story had a fair amount of success. But would its sequel, The Evil Within 2, be just as good or could it suffer under the sequel curse?
The Evil Within 2 takes place a few years after the events of the original story at Beacon Mental Hospital. Players return to the role of Sebastian Castellanos, who is now a retired police officer on a mission to learn more about the mysterious organization Mobius. Since the last we saw him, Sebastian’s life has fallen into disarray and alcohol during his hunt for the truth. When his former partner (and Mobius operative) Juli Kidman returns with news that his supposed dead daughter Lily is alive and hiding in a STEM system. To save his daughter from the terrible computerized world and the organization who took her, Sebastian agrees to enter the world of STEM once again.
Right from the beginning, The Evil Within 2 approaches the game in a new structure. The game has shifted to a sandbox open world structure where players can choose to either follow the main path or explore the fictionalized small town of Union to complete side missions and explore secrets. I much prefer the progression in The Evil Within 2. Getting the chance to complete the game at my own pace and uncover new weapons helped to break up the path of the story. An issue I had with the first game was that the progression was too linear – the only way to move was forward, and once you passed a certain point, doors would be blocked off and you couldn’t backtrack. That is no longer the case for the sequel.
The secrets hiding away in the town of Union are well worth exploration. Each building and garage holds a new secret to discover. Sometimes it’s merely ammunition to pickup while other times the game pulls you into a new world with a surprise attack from a dangerous boss battle. Like, for instance, I entered a seemingly ordinary house in town and quickly discovered the house was haunted with a poltergeist – the same ghost then transported me to a new location where I had to escape its grasp or be killed. These random moments were fun to experience, and getting transported to a new location made more sense in The Evil Within 2 as compared to the original. Sometimes in the first game, the player would be pulled at arbitrary moments to settings that had no connection to the story at the time.
Speaking of the story, The Evil Within 2 had a much more understandable and concise storyline. It was easy to follow along the progression of Sebastian’s journey and what I needed to do next in the search for Lily. This difference could potentially be due to the fact that Sebastian is self-aware of his experience this time around in STEM. Not much is explained in the first game and you’re meant to just go with the flow; however, in this case, we know Sebastian’s mission and why he and the enemies are in Union in the first place. Also, the inclusion of the supporting characters, why they’re in Union, and their interaction with Sebastian is a vast improvement. Even Kidman and Sebastian, who are both mysterious and bland as main characters, got serious upgrades in character development.
Not much has changed with the weapon selection or the skill-boosting ability. However, a downside to The Evil Within 2 is the weapon upgrade system. The expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind here. I much preferred the system from the first game as it was easier to manage the upgrades and access the creation of ammunition. Having to constantly go back to a crafting bench to make the supplies was frustrating, especially at high intense moments when I desperately needed ammo and couldn’t run back to a safe house. Sure, my weapons still got upgraded and had the same type of firepower, but the restrictions ruined the fun aspect of it.
As mentioned above, you get to explore a wide open small town that continues to grow with new buildings. However, not much extra detail is placed into the design of Union’s main map and buildings. Most times when you enter a house or town building, it would have the same generic feel or items, like tables, chairs and dirt accumulation, but not much else. It’s clear that more attention was placed in the “setting jump” locations when Sebastian was pulled away from the town. For example, the military labs and the entire prologue in the red curtain building had plenty of character and creep factor added. I wish this same element was applied to the main area.
The Evil Within 2 is an action-packed horror video game that surpasses the standard created by the original game. It removed the restricted linear path from the first game in favor of an open world setting that offered many exciting hours of gameplay. Horror was still an integral part of the story, with familiar monsters returning to the series and new ones emerging from the shadows. While we got new advancements and returning favorites, we unfortunately lost a weapon crafting mechanic that should’ve been left alone – it helped more than you can imagine in a pinch. The plot made sense, the environments were creepy, and the end product left plenty of potential for where the series could go in the future.
The Evil Within 2 stills needs to define itself as to what horror game it wants to be. But, I can’t wait for the next edition to see what comes next.
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PC and PlayStation 4
Released: October 13th, 2017
Copy Purchased By Reviewer