I shouldn’t have played this. I mean, look at how much I disliked the original game. With its wonky controls, broken mechanics, and wild difficulty spikes, I found it to be an experience I couldn’t enjoy in spite of the occasional successful horror moment. So I shouldn’t have bothered with the follow up. Not only that, but I heard that it had one of my least favourite things: open world gameplay! But I heard positive things about it, and it was on sale for half price only a month after release, so I slapped down my cash and gave it a go.
Sebastian Castellanos returns as a down-and-out former detective with an alcohol problem (because you’ve got to hit those clichés!) and finds out that his dead daughter may not be as dead as he thought! His former partner Kidman returns to put him back into the STEM system, a digital world in which people connect themselves to the mind of a host. Or something. The original game really wasn’t terribly clear. Anyway, it turns out this digital world has PSYCHOPATHS IN IT! And their brains are really powerful apparently, so they can manipulate the world. Which means there are monsters everywhere for some reason. Anyway, killing the psychopaths is the main task this time, as you search for your missing daughter.
Ok, so the plot isn’t all that bad this time, but there are a lot of things that feel like they happen because they’re convenient rather than because it fits in with what’s going on. The gameplay though, works much better this time. At it’s core, this is a third person shooter in a semi-open world. You’ll find yourself in a town that can be explored to advance the plot or simply discover secrets, complete side quests, or rescue people from death by monster.
The town is crawling with said monsters that can kill you rather easily if you let them gang up on you (or if you’re carless to be fair as they hit pretty hard), so stealth tends to be the order of the day (at least early on), and by god does the stealth actually work this time! In the last game stealth kills would sometimes simply not work, or monsters would see you through the backs of their heads. This time stealth feels like a genuine option for most of the game, with a variety of ways to approach most situations, and always the option to run away if you find yourself overwhelmed. The enemy AI is fairly stupid most of the time (which is fitting with most enemies you face) and you can hide fairly easily if things go wrong. Gunplay still feels a little loose for my liking, with aiming being not nearly as sharp as I’d like it to be. Thankfully the shotguns seem to be very powerful this time, and the ability to craft ammo mid fight really helps when things get a bit messy. The weaker AI, greater array of options, and more open environments make this game feel a fair bit easier than the first (which is a good thing to my mind).
The enemies themselves are interesting, but there is a lack of variety. The standard enemies are absolutely everywhere, and it’s only occasionally that you’ll see one that’s a little different. Most will charge at you, or throw hatchets, but there are huge corpse monsters, exploding zombies (obviously) and the very creepy looking smoke monsters. The bosses are fairly interesting in how they are presented (some of the imagery is great) and one or two have interesting mechanics during the confrontations. The whole game took me about 15 hours to finish on Survival mode (medium difficulty) with a few deaths here and there, mostly during the boss battles. The difficulty was spot on for me on this setting, and much more enjoyable than the punishing (read: frustratingly cheap) challenge of the first game.
Visually, the game looks great, which is no real surprise considering the first game. The environments aren’t as varied this time, but they do make a great deal more sense. The world has some really interesting things going on in it if you look around the environments. The characters are voiced very well for the most part (although the first main villain feels like he could be Goldman from House of the Dead 2), and the music is quite fitting, although not all that memorable.
Now, the horror element is kind of important in a horror game. Just like the first game, the focus is often on body horror here, with blood and gore flying all over the place. The open world sections don’t have a huge amount of horror going on, but the feeling that you could be attacked from any angle does keep you on edge, as do the noises of creatures that are just out of sight. During the more linear sections, the developers have done a good job of building tension through sound rather than visuals. The more connected world this time means that there are fewer opportunities for bizzare and unsettling visuals, but the game does try from time to time. I still wouldn’t call it horrific, but it does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere in certain sections.
The Evil Within 2 was developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda. I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend this one over the original game. Whilst playing the original would probably help you have even the slightest clue about what’s going on, this is by far the better product. I’m glad I looked past my preconceptions on this one.