Playing The Evil Within 2 took me back to the first time I played Resident Evil 4. Tense from start to finish, wondering what’s around the next corner and what horrors will I encounter, expecting the worst. Considering The Evil Within is from the mind of Shinji Mikami, the very same guy who brought us the now-famous Resident Evil franchise, it’s no surprise that there are similarities. The Evil Within received mixed reviews for its claustrophobic environments and clunky controls. Some critics loved it, however, praising its enemy design and tension. So how does the sequel fare against its predecessor?
Once again, we are thrust into the life of Sebastian Castellanos, a now-former cop who seeks solace at the bottom of a whiskey bottle after the passing of his family seen in the first game. It’s not long before he is informed by his ex-partner, Juli Kidman, that his daughter is in fact alive, and she needs his help to find her. All is not as it seems though. Lily has been used as a core for a new STEM system which creates a simulation set in a stereotypical town called Union. Problem is, Mobius have lost contact with Lily and the team sent in to find her, so they enlist Sebastian to help out. The story is best described as The Matrix meets Inception but with worse writing. Although the hunt for Lily kept my interest, complete with a psychotic artist serial killer, I had to overlook the atrocious dialogue. I mean if Sebastian said “What the….” anymore, I would have thrown my controller at the wall like I’d conceded a 90th minute goal on FIFA. Sebastian, and his co-cast, is just full of generic paraphrases like “Let me put that on your map” and “That door is locked, I need to find the key”. Look past the writing, and the story is gripping with some really tense moments which generally include some really grotesque monsters.
Survival horror is very much alive in The Evil Within 2. As you control Sebastian, you are injected into a normal looking town until the problems arise from the moment you step foot in it. The streets are littered with walking abominations who would love to rip your throat out; however, there are three very viable options to deal with them: stay hidden and creep past, crouch up behind them for a stealth attack or go all-out Rick Grimes on them. The latter option is not the best course of action though as ammunition is scarce. You’ll spend most of your time scavenging for ammunition and ingredients to create your own using an easy to use crafting system. You can smash open crates, look in trailers and buildings, but be too complacent and you’ll be surely taken off-guard. Searching a vehicle may cause you to be ambushed by terrors lying in wait, finding a diary may make you a target for one of the creepiest enemies I’ve ever encountered, but make sure no stone is unturned as those bullets you may have found may be the ones that save your life.
There are some crazy encounters throughout The Evil Within 2, the most memorable being the aforementioned diary ghost lady (called Anima), a tall, ghostly woman with multiple limbs and heads that sings a haunting melody as she hunts for you. You can’t fight her only run from her, but it raises the blood pressure for sure, and it’s one encounter I won’t forget in a hurry. What’s worse is that once you’ve encountered her once, she pops up randomly throughout your journey.
Combat is very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 onward. Sebastian is just as robotic as Leon Kennedy, but this lack of agility keeps the tension high. Do you unleash an explosive harpoon bolt for some big damage or repeatedly retreat and turn for some pop shots? Enemies rush you and leave you no time to think; even the average grunts can prove to be a problem as they sprint towards you. But it’s nothing a shotgun blast to the head won’t fix. Boss fights ramp up the tension as huge, hideous creations of humanity and, at times, machine come at you and take no prisoners. A huge circular saw-wielding hulk swings at you furiously, taking everything you’ve got to take it down. These fights will surely test your mettle.
Progression takes place within cracked mirrors similar to the first game as Sebastian sits in a messed up execution chair. Here you can spend green gel scooped up from dead enemies on upgrades for Sebastian ranging from more health and stamina to handy abilities like the life-saving Bottle Break, which allows Sebastian to smash found bottles in the faces of enemies who grab him. Weapons can also be upgraded using parts.
The Evil Within 2 improves on its predecessor tenfold with bigger environments that beg to be explored, side missions, and improved controls. This is survival horror as you remember it, bad writing and all. The level design is fantastic. A typical town until you get to the edge to find a chasm or look up to find the City Hall on another street suspended upside down in the air. It’s an unusual but spectacular sight and one that constantly reminds you that the town of Union is far from idyllic.
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 13th October 2017