Following on the heels of 2014’s The Evil Within, this year’s sequel, simply titled The Evil Within 2, is now out. The game is a wonderful example of a survival horror videogame. It is, in its best moments, scary and very compelling. However, it is not perfect, the title all too often trades away effective gameplay in order to boost atmospherics and general creepiness.
While playing the first game may deepen the backstory for the main character, Sebastian Castellanos, it is most definitely not necessary. In fact, all that one has to know going in is… well, not a lot. Essentially, Sebastian has had some pretty terrible experiences in his life both on personal and professional levels. The game really offers all the necessary details one needs on those elements of his life, sometimes in repeated, excruciating, detail.
The upshot of all this is that at the start of game, Sebastian is convinced to work for an evil corporation in order to try to do something good. He is compelled to enter a world of nightmares, ones of his own making as well as the making of others (people’s subconscious minds are connected to create it). And, while the world he’s in may not be the real one, it is most certainly deadly. In this way, think of Evil Within 2 like an amalgam of Assassin’s Creed and Resident Evil.
The location for the majority of the game is the small (fake) town of Unity. The place is falling apart, zombie-like creatures have invaded, and Sebastian needs to rescue those who can be rescued. Along the way there are a number of revelations, almost all of which are predictable in terms of their flavor if not in the specifics as well.
The Evil Within 2 is, on this level, moderately compelling. It isn’t an entirely new story, but it is carried off with enough of a dedication to the atmospherics that it does cause a few jumps.
Of course, as a devotee of the survival horror genre, it also falls prey to the pitfalls of the genre. Too often the game will not allow the player to go where they want or do what they want as doing so could stop the game from delivering those atmospherics and potential jumps. That is, one can slide down ladders… unless the game wants to have the ladder break halfway through the trip, in which case one has to go down slowly and wait for it to break. Similarly, one can kick open doors unless something is supposed to happen when the door is opened that the game would rather reveal in its own way. This telegraphing undoubtedly lessens the effect of the scares the game intends to create.
Although The Evil Within 2 does offer a few nods towards open-worldness, indicating that the player can go back to places within Unity later in the game, some of that feels feigned. There is a definite sense that Evil Within 2 doesn’t want you to do that, that it wants you to keep pushing Sebastian forward, ever forward.
In true survival horror style, there is too little ammo (and the components to make ammo) strewn about Unity. One has to regularly attempt ways around the zombie-like mutations rather than facing them head on.
Too make this easier, Sebastian’s ability to sneak can be upgraded (as can a whole lot of other things), but here, too, the player will have to select just what areas they want to be upgraded (health, recovery, use of weapons, stealth) as it is difficult (or impossible) to upgrade everything. The same is true of upgrading the weapons themselves – choices have to be made. Making judicious choices, I regularly found himself running low on ammunition, but rarely running out.
All in all, it is an enjoyable game. The Evil Within 2 may spend too much time on a well-trodden path, but it is a really good example of what can be done within the formula.
The Evil Within 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: Xbox One and PC