The Evil Has Landed
Game: The Evil Within 2
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Effective and thrilling horror is something games really struggle with. For example, even with the likes of the imaginative mastermind behind Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, The Evil Within just wasn’t ambitious enough and fell short of a lot of fan expectations. Luckily for you horror-craving fans, The Evil Within 2 has taken all the first games shortcomings into account, leaving us with a much more thrilling and exciting game this time around.
Things have subtly improved since the first title, bringing a tense and unnerving atmosphere and frightening gameplay. The game is set several years after the events of The Evil Within and we find former detective Sebastian still heartbroken over the loss of his family and haunted by his previous nightmare. When he’s given the chance to set things right, though, he’s more than happy to re-enter the nightmare and do what he can to save his presumed-dead daughter.
The sense of deja-vu hits you immediately as you find yourself once again wandering around a crazy and dark atmosphere, this time in the creepy world of Union. The first thing you need to keep in mind is the difficulty setting in which you play on. TEW2 is a tough game, and I did find myself changing the difficulty midway through a chapter. Maybe starting on Nightmare mode probably wasn’t the wisest idea. There are 3 difficulty settings to pick from; Casual, Survival and Nightmare. Finish the game entirely and you then go on to unlock a fourth difficulty setting called Classic Mode in which you only get 7 saves throughout the entirety of the game and you only have what you start the game with. That means no upgrades, no crafting, and you can only use what you find lying around. This offers replay-ability to people seeking a challenge and seeking collectibles.
The game itself is easy on the eyes and does stick with next-gen standard. It’s nothing on the likes of Uncharted 4 or Horizon Zero Dawn but it holds up well and does the job. One major flaw from the first game was the poor framerate, but thankfully the second one sustains consistent visuals. The camera is very free flowing which is ideal in a game which in which you sometimes need to be stealthy and taking cover. It’s also now very open when it comes to the world in which you find yourself in. It’s by no means an open world game but the sandbox is huge, giving you plenty of places to explore and plan a fight, or flight, with enemies. I played on PS4 Pro; this doesn’t take advantage of the Pro’s capability, and only runs at standard 30FPS at 1080P. It plays the same on PS4 slim as it does on Pro; a missed opportunity there maybe, but this is still an improvement as the first game struggled to maintain 30FPS
Audio is key when it comes to a horror game and you’re in for a treat with TEW2. The music is harrowing and the sound effects are gruesome which constantly leaves you with a feeling of constant dread and despair. It’s what you’d expect from a horror game, you know? The sound of guts being ripped, the sudden shock of music as an enemy is hurling itself towards you… yeah, it’s all terrifying. The voice acting holds up well enough, which again helps with the tense atmosphere the audio, is trying to make.
The storyline itself has vastly improved since the first title. It’s now much more personal, as you’re on a quest to find your estranged daughter who’s known as The Core. However, I won’t go too much into the storyline itself because… you know, spoilers. The narrative is touching and fulfilling which really makes you feel for Sebastien. I won’t lie, IMO the main character is very bland and doesn’t have much about him with regard to the way he’s been designed, but I did find myself feeling the tension and the struggle in which he went through in the macabre town of Union. Sadly you do have to do a fair share of backtracking while doing different parts of quests which can be annoying. To venture all the way across the map to then be told to go right back again; who wants to do that over and over? Not me. There are more characters to now interact with which really help with keeping the story likeable and make you want to play more, this felt very absent in the first game so it’s nice to see that noticeable improvement in this title. Definitely be sure to explore parts of the map which aren’t marked, that way you can find more valuable and rare resources.
The controls are very standard and what you’d expect from this type of game. In fact, think of The Last of Us and you’ll find it plays very similar to that. You can craft items such as first aid kits, upgrade weapons, and all the usual survival-horror things. This leads on well to my next point; resourcefulness. It does depend what difficulty you’re playing on, but if you started on Nightmare mode like some crazy maniac you’d HAVE TO be resourceful. Ammo is scarce, herbs to make into first aid kits are hard to come by and 9 times outta 10 you will find yourself running for your life with no stamina left and no bullets and trust me, that’s not a good time.
The progression tree in the first game was very rewarding and unique in which it was done and luckily that’s been carried over into the second game. You do really feel like you’re helping the character as you upgrade your capabilities. What makes it even better is that it’s expanded from the original skill tree and is now much more diverse. You’ll need a substance called ‘green gel’ which will help you to upgrade your skills. You’ll mostly get this from killing enemies so all I can suggest here is to bloody kill everything (partly because the monsters are so horrifying you don’t want to leave them alive anyway). Luckily for you and Sebastien there is literally no limit to the amount of green gel you can carry so hey, collect as much as you can. Also be sure to check vending machines, they sometimes hold green gel too.
You can distribute your gooey currency across the 5 main tree stems; Health, Athleticism, Combat, Recovery and Stealth. There’s no right or wrong way to play this game. If you’d rather sneak around and avoid head on combat, you’ll want to invest more in the stealth progression. If shooting everything in sight is more your style then invest your green goo in combat. The way you play is entirely up to you and because the progression tree is so diverse it really helps towards giving the game replay value.
Level design is also skillfully varied, which is forever leaving you rethinking your steps and having to plan your next move. One minute you’re in a tight-knit house with what seems like endless corridors and sharp corners, next you’re outside in a very open-plan world. As the game pans out, environments will descend into complete chaotic nightmares which will constantly have you on the edge of your seat. Think of the movie Inception; the streets will suddenly be floating and you’ll find plenty of blood firing out of places blood should never fire out from. The way the world changes really makes you feel the sense of erraticness and unpredictability of the world of Union. Typically horror games are very linear and keep to a very strict path in which you follow. The Evil Within did have a few large areas to explore but nothing on The Evil Within 2 and thankfully the pacing doesn’t suffer. I’m not entirely sure how Tango Gameworks accomplishes this but they do, and it’s indeed brilliant.
Another aspect which makes the game good is the enemy AI. You have on an on screen detection cursor which lets you know if you’ve been spotted or if you’re hidden, a lot like the eye icon in Bethesda’s monumental title Skyrim, a game so ubiquitous it’s probably getting released on Tamagotchi soon. Once you’re spotted, that’s it. The enemy AI is very responsive so you want to make sure you’ve got somewhere decent to hide if you’re seen, because you will be chased and more than likely killed and where’s the fun in that? If you remain hidden for long enough without being initially followed then the eye cursor will close and you’re once again safe to venture outside your safe place and carry on your way.
Ultimately you should definitely give The Evil Within 2 a chance. If you were left feeling disappointed by the first title, don’t worry; a lot of us horror fans were. But with The Evil Within 2, you’re in for a rollercoaster of emotions. It is a brilliant horror game and knows just when to rack up tension and unleash the mother of all scares, but also knows when to fall back and let you pick yourself up off the floor. It has a more chilling atmosphere, much more interesting characters and a pretty harrowing soundtrack which will most likely leave you on the edge of your seat. If I had the chance to speak to Shinji Mikami, I’d say this; The Evil Within 2 truly captures the eerie spirit of the classic Resident Evil 4 and it was an absolute delight to play, even if you didn’t direct this one. Story wise it wasn’t the most thrilling but if you’re looking for a tense and unnerving horror game, this is the one for you.