Sequels are funny old things. They feel a bit like Christmas day – you’re so excited about the next instalment that it hurts to think about, but ultimately, after it’s finished, you are left a little bit disappointed. So I was a bit nervous and underwhelmed about the idea of playing the follow up to the great The Evil Within, a game that arrived three years ago. But very soon my fears were quashed and a rare ancient prophecy happened – the sequel is actually better than the original.
You play once again as Sebastian Castellanos – albeit with a different voice actor – who is not a well man. Battered down by the events and horror found in the original The Evil Within, including the death of his daughter from a house fire, his wife has left him, he’s been fired from the police force and he has turned to the bottle. His ex-colleague turns up and tells him that his daughter is really alive, in a kind of Matrix simulation style horror world called STEM. Sebastian agrees to go inside the creation and try to find his daughter, while at the same time trying to stop the evil within.
The evil within has many faces, but for now the main big bad evil is Stephano – a sociopath wannabe artist who has your taken your daughter hostage. He controls time with a camera, and has an exhibition of artistic murders that you discover along the way, He distorts reality and causes you all sorts of nightmare problems. When you first encounter him it feels like a cliche and is someone you would have met a hundred times before. But when you embrace the cliche, know the genre you’re involved in and love the stupidness of it all, then the writing and story becomes fun, interesting and, well, scary. There are some very funny pieces of dialogue mixed in with more dramatic moments touching on the themes of loss and redemption. But how well does The Evil Within 2 actually play?
The biggest comparison to The Evil Within is of course the Resident Evil series, especially the fourth game. The action is set across a third person adventure, with the camera sitting slightly behind your shoulder. You have a crouch button, which brings about the stealth mode, allowing you to hit out silent kills on enemies. There’s a run button, with a limited stamina bar, but it’s something you will need to do use a lot, depending on the difficulty level you choose. Then there is the combat, allowing you to get involved with a melee attack in which you can swing a knife, an axe or even smash a bottle into a creature’s face. The weapons range from the most simplest of handguns, to a shotgun, and a harpoon gun with inventive bolt types including smoke and electrical. As is the needs of a survival horror, your inventory management and careful use of ammo is key to survival, but you can craft items on workbenches, upgrade weapons, or create extra bullets for your weapons. It’s all stuff that is completely familiar to those who enjoy games of this type, but it is still very neatly done and nicely designed.
The Evil Within 2 takes place in the town of Union, which has been fragmented through the mind of the villain. The many chapters on offer are normally split into two different sections – the open world environments, which bring a story mission location and a number of possible side missions. But in The Evil Within 2 you can go where you like and this is where chance encounters and pieces of the story are discovered along the way. Nightmare creatures line the world, dead bodies are strewn across the streets and it’s up to you how you progress. Do you go in with all the guns blazing, attacking the creatures that will be attracted by the loud noise of mayhem, or do you stealthily hunt down your prey one by one, delving in and out of buildings as you do so? The system works brilliantly and I found myself spending way too much time in the open world sections just exploring and having a blast. The stealth mechanic works very well, as does meleeing and shooting. There are some neat environmental tricks you can pull in combat with oil tanks and other such goodies.
The second part of the gameplay is a much more linear model, with you walking along a nightmare path devised by the villain, which involve puzzles and nerves of steel. I loved these sections because they were very imaginative, superbly designed and highly original. But then, the game as a whole really took me by surprise by just how much fun it was, and how inventive the design works within the world. Yes, I suppose there’s nothing completely new which hasn’t been done in the genre before, but what it does do it does in a way that actually made me jump out of my skin, while laughing at the same time.
Visually and The Evil Within 2 definitely sees an upgrade from its predecessor, which had to cater to the limitations of the old generation while being created. This one then has some great design aspects, especially in the nightmare sections and whilst exploring the fragmented town of Union. The creature design is really special, with all your nightmares being made real and taken up to volume ten. The bosses are especially exciting and I found them inventive and brilliantly designed affairs. It’s a world of the imaginative and the game excels very well in all its goals, strangely leaving it as a horrific pleasure to spend some time in. The audio effects are equally as wonderful, with the creatures sounding in terrible pain from their mutations. The voice-over work embraces the B-movie world beautifully, so it’s not a subtle performance, but it’s one done with gusto and commitment from the all the actors. Meanwhile, the soundtrack delivers a mixture of some great tracks, with a spooky version of Claire de Lune being a particular favourite of mine.
The Evil Within 2 is highly recommended to anyone who loves a horror game, and you don’t have to play the first one to get an understanding of what is going on. It is engrossing throughout and even though it can be too familiar and cliche at times – with some being put off by the setting from the off – if you like survival horror experiences, then you’re going to love this game.