The Evil Within was a horror title that tried to revive the old school run and gun action of Resident Evil. It was a bold claim, considering all the cool kids play games like Outlast (or more accurately watch some screaming imbecile play it). The game wasn’t bad, but it felt like it didn’t quite hit the mark. Evil Within 2 is here to try its luck (on Friday 13th no less).
Washed up, grizzled ex-cop Sebastian Castellanos is preparing to plunge head first into the den of the madness with a survival horror that wants to bring back old Resident Evil. There have been some staff changes this time around, and it really shows in the game’s structure. The question is: Can The Evil Within 2 still scare us if we have a shooty gun?
Predictably, The Evil Within 2 opens with Sebastian reliving the horrible events experienced in the psychiatric hospital of Beacon during the first episode. Tortured psychologically, boozing and living on the edge, he decides to accept an offer from the shadowy Mobius organization and tries to lift the veil on the real objective of the Stem, a strange machine that might as well literally be called ‘The Plot Device’
In the midst of this despair, however, there is a chance of salvation for friend Sebastian. Kidman, his former partner in Mobius’s pay, informs him that his daughter Lily, whom he thought had been dead for years, is alive. She is held prisoner by the Stem, which is a tool of shared consciousness, a sort of matrix connecting the human spirits in a fantasy world. Lily is the main experimental subject of the organization, and so she serves as a “nucleus” for the creation of a new mental utopia symbolized by the city of Union. To save his offspring, Sebastian will have no choice but to return to the Stem again to snatch him from the clutches of Mobius. For its part, the dark organization sees in our ex-inspector the ultimate recourse to save a project now a prey to a chaos that even its most trained agents can no longer control.
On the surface, Union resembles a small town typical of the United States. When you see it, however, the city is falling apart and taken over by filthy creatures that roam the streets. Castellanos finds his former partner Kidman (not Nicole) who will provide him with external support throughout The Evil Within 2 thanks to a vocal communicator serving as a link between the reality and the different mental strata explored during this journey in the form of a new descent into madness.
The city of Union is one of the main novelties of this suite. The Evil Within 2 opts for a less linear progression than its predecessor, based on the exploration of this semi-open city. Between two main missions in more claustrophobic environments, the player sets out to discover a new part of the city in order to realize one to two secondary missions obtained from the rare survivors of the corner. These sequences of play also represent an opportunity to harvest new materials needed to improve Sebastian’s skills and arsenal. In a survival horror where the least ammunition can make the difference between life and death, the meticulous exploration of places is strongly encouraged.
The switching of the Evil Within formula is not complete, however, because limitations reduce our freedom of movement. If they sometimes take the form of large impassable ditches caused by the psychic distortions of the city (in the graphic style very Inception in the soul), these barriers are also sometimes coarser via the use of invisible beasts walls that break somewhat our immersion. This semi-open world is therefore much more a wide crossing path than a real support for the setup
If one crosses zombie on almost every street corner, all the souls of Union do not show themselves hostile towards Sebastian and our hero in spite of him will regularly cross a friendly head to the return of its main missions. These Mobius agents stuck in the Stem will help our hero get his hands on material and evolve within the bone marrow, a sort of mental network necessary to navigate between different areas of Union. Access to these sections of military style corridors cold and oppressive represents the opportunity to carry out a small secondary mission in order to recover a new weapon or some baubles of improvement.
With each return the wandering creatures of Union are gaining power and the deconstruction of the city is becoming more and more important. The progression remains rather rhythmic despite these “free” sequences of play; the secondary objectives are clear, restricted in number and useful enough to motivate the player to plunge in the middle of danger. Explore the unknown also shows dangerous than necessary in The Evil Within 2 come face to face on a bloated zombie at the corner of an alley is the price to pay for finding valuable resources useful to progression.
Some buildings contain a lot of horror and plunge us into more suffocating, even more scripted, environments closer classic Mikami. Here, an abandoned church contains a corrupt pastor who will jump to the face, there, a simple garage turns into ambush for Sebastian. This balance between opening and closing ultimately yields a pleasant formula to go. The price of this opening nevertheless lies in a greater variation of the degree of tension generated by the title. The semi-open phases appear more like moments of relaxation of the pressure for the player, sequences where he does not undergo as much the staging of The Evil Within 2 and shows himself master of most of his decisions.
With this evolution, The Evil Within 2 evolves between a Resident Evil 4, a Silent Hill for its glaucous urban side, and even a The Last of Us during our phases of infiltration in the midst of the zombies. The game opts for a lot and it ends up feeling like a much more ambitious experience. While it doesn’t always deliver, it certainly gets points for trying.
The Evil Within 2 was reviewed using a PC and Xbox One downloadable code of the full game provided by Bethesda Softworks. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via digital and retail store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Pays homage to horror classics like Silent Hill and Resident evil
• Smooth controls
• Not as much ammo hoarding as the first game
• Fresher and more creative scenarios
• Some scenes are still way too difficult
• Story is a little confusing in the beginning
• Open world is not really all that open
• Console ports are better, but still no support for HDR