The Evil Within 2
It seemed bleak. The official reception to The Evil Within had drawn such mixed feelings that it seemed Shinji Mikami’s attempt to create a new world of survival horror was going to languish into the world of “one and done” titles. Having been one of the pioneering talents behind the Resident Evil series, Mikami and his team departed Capcom and created Tango Gameworks, with The Evil Within (or, as some like to call it, “New Residence Evil”) launching as their tentpole title. Just when it was believed that the polarized reaction to the title had assured that there would not be any sequels, Bethesda announces there would be more to come at E3 2017. Now that The Evil Within 2 is on store shelves, what remains to be seen is if gamers are properly terrified and compelled at the same time. After spending many dark nights with the game, one thing can be said: despite any small flaws the game may have, fans of the genre will find themselves wishing there was a special edition that comes with a spare 3-pack of underwear.
Having narrowly survived the events of the first game, our hero, Sebastian Castellanos, has spent the last few years at the bottom of a bottle. His daughter’s demise has taken a heavy toll on both Sebastian himself and his marriage. Just when things seem like they could not get any worse, Juli Kidman steps back into Sebastian’s life and informs him that his daughter, Lily, is not actually dead but being used as the core of a new virtual world far more terrifying than before. Sebastian reluctantly agrees to assist the organization that has caused all the misery in his life, if only for the opportunity to save his daughter.
As soon as one picks up a controller, the game feels completely different from its predecessor. Gameplay mechanics feel smoother and the character designs and interactions have an overall feel of improvement. There is a distinct cinematic feel to the whole thing in a way that was missing from the first title. The explorative nature of the “open world” town of Union, mentally crafted by minds within the Mobius corporation, has all the hallmarks of the best of the Silent Hill series, and there were moments where a few of us old-school gamers were reminded of such classics as D2.
The Evil Within 2 does a fine job of separating its linear story progression and its open-world segments. Players are encouraged to go exploring to find all sorts of fascinating content that would otherwise be missed if one sticks strictly to the main story path. It can become quite easy to lose oneself in this maddening world, and all of the horror you unearth feels properly disturbing. That having been said, you may find yourself overcome with feelings of deja vu periodically, as a lot of what you’re seeing in the game has a definite ‘homage’ feeling to it. While it is uncertain if this was deliberate, there will be many moments where you may think, “Oh, that’s just like the creature from that other game,” or “That weapon is just like the one from…” etc.
The graphical fidelity and aural presentation is top notch. The visuals get your skin crawling and your gag reflex churning in all the proper places, while the sound effects do a proper job of ratcheting tension in silence and sheer, stark terror during the more caucophonous passages. The controls feel fluid and this time around, thankfully, Sebastian moves in a much more human and believable fashion with the exception of his running speed. Cripes, it is as if the guy decided to place lead orthotics in his shoes before embarking on this journey through the minds of others… from a bathtub… ummm, he’s just too damned slow. I hate to use the dreaded “S” word, but there are several sections where Sebastian will have to utilize stealth tactics and kills instead of “Chow Yun-Fatting” his way through an area. The execution of both the stealth mechanics and aiming/gunplay are vastly improved and can be considered a finely tuned game mechanic this time around.
From one of the minds that brought us the Resident Evil series, The Evil Within 2 serves as a survival horror delight. It’s a jolting, excellent tale of horror and mystery with a strong story and a driving narrative, plus a multitude of side quests and sub-plots to keep even the most seasoned players engaged and thrilled. It is not a perfectly executed game by any means, but, like the original game, the flaws tend to get buried under the bloody heap of viscera and terror players will experience should they decide to pick up a copy.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
This review is based on a digital copy of The Evil Within 2 for the Xbox One provided by Bethesda Softworks.