On paper, I was a little bit worried about The Evil Within 2. It was announced and revealed a mere four months prior to it’s release. Shinji Mikami was involved but was no longer the director. Nobody really played much of it prior to release. It all felt like a bit of a rushed project. However, midway through my second playthrough of The Evil Within 2, I can safely declare that the game is just as good as the first, if not better. Despite this, it’s important to clarify that both are very different games with very different strengths and weaknesses.
The Evil Within 2 takes place some time after the events of the original game. Sebastian is a broken man, having seen horrific things after plunging into the world of STEM and the mind of a psychopath. Suddenly, MOBIUS, the company behind the whole ordeal, reveal to Sebastian that his daughter, previously thought to be dead, was still alive. To rescue her, Sebastian must basically enter STEM once more, this time in a world constructed by MOBIUS. As you’d expect, once Sebastian is inside STEM, things are much worse than MOBIUS originally let on.The original Evil Within was intriguing but delivered its story in a rather obtuse manner. The Evil Within 2 makes great steps to rectify the latter issue. The story feels well-paced, has some surprises here and there (and some predictable moments too, mind you) but more importantly feels a lot more focused. You won’t be left with a feeling of whiplash, being ripped from area to area with little to no narrative justification. While the story is interesting, some may be disappointed to discover that several threads left hanging from the original game won’t be tied up by the end of 2.
The most striking thing about The Evil Within 2 is just how much of a different game it is when compared to it’s predecessor. The original game guided Sebastian through many environments as horrible creatures, situations or both threw themselves at him. The Evil Within 2 still has these elements, but it places more of an emphasis on open level design and exploration. This affects the way the game plays – though it ultimately gives a lot more freedom to the player.Every now and then, Sebastian will be given free reign to explore the city of Union, a town created by MOBIUS inside the STEM system designed to look like a typical American town. These moments are unexpected but fantastic – think the streets and alleys of Resident Evil 2 or the connective tissue in the Silent Hill games where you explore the town. To make navigation more bearable, Sebastian can pick up signals using his radio which highlights points of interest – some memories that might trigger a battle or others just dead soldiers with supplies and ammo.
What’s unexpected is just how easy it is to get lost in the world of Union and how much it improves the games pacing. I couldn’t tell you how many times I found myself slowly stalking enemies to take them down, or reluctantly exploring a house, shop or something else to find a new weapon or secret or file. What I’m trying to say is that it’s very easy to get lost (in a good way) in the open levels of The Evil Within 2 and that those who take the time to explore will be rewarded greatly.Such exploration can be rewarded with several side missions which further flesh out what’s happening to the world of Union or even to fill in the gaps of Sebastian’s story between games. I’d never thought I’d see Side Missions in an Evil Within game and I’d never thought I’d see them done so well – there were times where I stumbled into one thinking it was main story content when it was completely optional. Sure, there’s only a handful on offer, but they’re a great little diversion from the main story that feel just as essential.
The original game was a personal favourite of mine, but I’d wager many were less than pleased with how it felt and played. It was just not that fun to control. Thankfully, in The Evil Within 2, Sebastian controls much better. There’s still some stiffness to his movement, but it’s much easier to carry yourself in a hectic battle and/or much viable to take a stealthy approach. Not once did I find myself dying through any fault besides my own, and in a survival horror game with some instant deaths that can be quite refreshing.Similarly, the combat is tense and frenetic while all the weapons feel great. The crossbow provides unique opportunities to set traps for enemies that’ll burn, freeze, electrocute or eviscerate most you’ll come up against. The standard weapons all pack some weight and blowing an enemies head clean off with a shotgun or well-aimed pistol shot will never get old. The ability to upgrade these weapons with effects and such is welcome too, giving a real sense of progression as you fight your way through STEM and Union.
With more chapters than the original, The Evil Within 2 is a bigger game in every sense. Exploring quite a bit, most players will finish the story in between fifteen to twenty hours. Those wanting to explore every nook and cranny, defeat every enemy, and farm skills can easily extend this to twenty-five hours or more. As with most in the genre, there’s unlockables too – a new game plus mode, super hard difficulty and some bonus weapons also make a second playthrough particularly enticing.
In terms of presentation, The Evil Within 2 once again does its own thing rather than trying to mimic the more gore laden artistic direction of its predecessor. As you’ll explore Union, you’ll notice it boasts the small-town charm of fictional places like Twin Peaks and Silent Hill. When things become more abstract and surreal, you’ll be creeped out, but never quite as much as you might have been from the original game. While this is a completely subjective observation – some may be put off by the cleaner cut yet surreal style of art direction when compared to the grittier, overtly bloodier tone taken by the original game.
As a horror game, is it scary? My first instincts are that it never quite reaches the same lofty heights of creepiness and terror that the original game did, even if that game had its fair share of identity crises. The opening chapters do a great job at setting the tone and atmosphere, but The Evil Within 2 quickly becomes less and less tense as time goes by. That’s not to say it’s a bad game – it’s fantastic – just that it is significantly less creepy than its predecessor.
The Evil Within 2 is an enjoyable, psychological and somewhat emotional trip that I probably won’t forget. As a sequel to it’s predecessor, it takes things in a rather different direction and tries several new things to mixed results. Nonetheless, The Evil Within 2 is a thrilling and tense experience that’ll appeal to most fans of the original and newcomers looking for a harrowing experience they’ve probably not had before.