The Evil Within 2 Reviews

  • Slam Shot SamSlam Shot Sam860,480
    20 Oct 2017 22 Oct 2017
    12 2 0
    The Evil Within 2 | Xbox One | Review

    2014’s The Evil Within was renowned game director Shinji Mikami’s spiritual successor to the classic Resident Evil titles of his creation, so, with the seventh instalment of Capcom’s horror series successfully returning to its roots earlier this year, The Evil Within 2 needed to evolve to garner attention. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened: TEW 2 improves and expands on its forebearer in almost every way, making for a great example of a sequel done right.

    By handing the reigns over to the younger talent at Tango Gameworks and switching to a more supervisory role, industry veteran Mikami opened the series up to a new generation’s ideas and inspirations, which have helped to produce a more modern, refreshing take on the survival horror genre.

    Protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, a downtrodden detective whom you also played in the original, has taken to drink and vendetta following the events of The Evil Within and the apparent loss of his wife and child. That is until mysterious double agent Julie Kidman offers a glimmer of hope, revealing that Sebastian’s daughter, Lily, is alive and somewhat well, serving as the Core in one of shady corporation Mobius’ STEM machines.

    When hooked up to STEM individuals enter an alternate, virtual reality in which the unprotected become part of a hivemind ripe for Mobius’ manipulation. This power proves difficult for the game’s lead antagonist to resist, entering STEM with a plot to kidnap Lily (the Core) and harness her power in order to be revered by all in a world of his shaping. His actions destabilise the simulation however, transforming Union citizens into zombie-like creatures and literally tearing the fictional town apart.

    This is where you come in, sent back into the nightmarescape of a failing STEM to save your daughter and put your tortured past to rest. The Evil Within 2 has a heavier focus on story than its predecessor, posing a character-driven narrative that’s full of tropes and cheesy dialogue, but that’s nonetheless engaging thanks to its anchors in intriguing conspiracy and relatable family issues.

    Alongside a variety of new characters and enemies are a returning breed that, coupled with further references, manage to nail rewarding fanservice down without feeling pandering or alienating towards newcomers.

    The Evil Within 2 improves and expands on its forebearer in almost every way, making for a great example of a sequel done right.
    While perhaps a little difficult to wrap your head around initially, STEM’s alternate reality is a fantastic means to remove all barriers and let The Evil Within’s design run riot. You’re relentlessly shown exciting new visuals, bolstered by HDR compatibility, all of which are so considered in their grotesquery that they achieve a morbid beauty. Just as you wouldn’t generally link beauty and brutality, The Evil Within 2 revels in making further juxtapositions feel natural next to one another, be that in reality-based and abstract settings, affluence and dilapidation, or low and high technologies.

    This serves to complement another of the game’s villains, the artist Stefano, a character that has more than a little in common with BioShock’s fantastic Sander Cohen, complete with his very own Fort Frolic. Using human flesh as his canvas, you’ll bear witness to many of his works, and, somewhat disturbingly, very likely stop to calmly admire them with the fitting accompaniment of an original (and excellent) classical music track.

    Having gone quasi-open world, the game’s two truly sandbox areas (one of which is cheekily recycled as a faux third) are, thankfully, packed with exciting and significant optional activities. Compliments for open world design are thin on the ground these days - we, along with many others, have grown tired of the map-filling, tedious brand of busywork many games have come to rely upon. The Evil Within 2's unique boss encounters, side missions, collectibles and secrets put that issue to rest however, maintaining consistently high quality whilst also serving to fill in the wider narrative and bridge the three-year gap between instalments. This makes scouring the crumbling streets of Union a thoroughly enriching experience, akin to exploring Batman: Arkham City for the first time.

    STEM’s alternate reality is a fantastic means to remove all barriers and let the The Evil Within’s design run riot. You’re relentlessly shown exciting new visuals.
    What’s more, especially if you up the difficulty to Nightmare, this nonlinearity sees the survival element begin to shine. You might clamber onto a rooftop and use your sniper scope to scout a location in the distance, spotting a tempting loot pile surrounded by enemies before weighing whether or not it's worth pursuing; perhaps you then make some supplies via the simple new crafting system, these convincing you to head in with stealthy intent. You’re spotted. An unnerving chase begins, more and more enemies emerging from all directions, drawn by the ruckus, as you narrowly avoid an incoming swipe and hurriedly slip into the nearest safehouse, breathing a heavy sigh of relief as you stand, shaken, behind the boundary door. That’s just one example of the many possible, and quite memorable, self-contained stories The Evil Within 2's emergent gameplay can facilitate, in much the same vein as State of Decay.

    Frequently breaking away from the open areas for more linear main story segments, as well as trips through a series of tunnels called The Marrow, had us longing to return at times. This feeling isn’t helped by the fact that these sections occasionally force either open combat or stealth on the player, rather than leaving them to choose their own method of approach. Both play styles are at least engaging, with a highly customisable loadout of loud, punchy firearms and a versatile tactical crossbow making up the bulk of your offence, while conventional-but-satisfying hidden melee kills and a slightly dodgy cover system mostly comprise the sneaky side of things.

    Having a sizeable arsenal at your disposal unfortunately relieves many of the malformed cast of enemies of their scare factor; provided you’re actively scavenging for resources, you’ll never be in any desperate need for either ammunition or medical supplies, even on the hardest difficulty setting. Throughout a playthrough, which should last around twenty hours, ways to manipulate the dopey AI and reliably spot enemies lying in ambush also become apparent, further tipping the odds in your favour.

    Other than some great late game boss encounters, The Evil Within 2 gradually leaks horror until there’s little left to be scared of; this might be either welcome or disappointing, depending on how much you like sitting in your own leakage. Maintaining the first game’s body burning mechanic - which saw enemies have the potential to spring back to life if their corpse wasn’t ousted using a limited supply of matches, à la the Resident Evil remake - would likely have helped the game remain more engaging on that front, however.

    All in all, despite a weaker second act by comparison to the superb first, The Evil Within 2 is a mechanically gripping game. It’s a sophisticated mix of old and new, along with Western and Japanese influences, thanks to its diverse development staff. A considered audiovisual feast that, in a year where Resident Evil 7 convinced us first-person perspectives and VR were the unchallenged future of survival horror, compellingly challenged that notion.

    Pros

    + Evolves in myriad exciting ways, rather than resting on laurels
    + Rich, open areas packed with significant optional content and emergent gameplay
    + Satisfyingly visceral gunplay and stealth kills
    + Sheds the limitations of reality to allow for some creative visuals
    + Pulls from a wide pool of strong inspirations, implementing their elements seamlessly

    Cons

    - Gets less scary the deeper you delve
    - Predictable, manipulable enemy AI
    - Cheesy writing and voice performances
    - Wonky cover mechanic does as it pleases

    8/10

    Achievements:

    You'll need to do at least a couple of standard playthroughs to get all of the upgrade related achievements, so feel free to play at your leisure first time around and follow a collectible guide for those achievements on your second. There's an easy and enjoyable 950G on offer here, though the final achievement and 50G are related to finishing Classic Mode, which requires you to play the game on the hardest difficulty without checkpoints or upgrades and just seven manual saves. That said, it's definitely doable with a guide and a bit of determination.

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    Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

    You can check out my PlayStation reviews over at TrueTrophies.

    Thanks for reading!
    4.0
  • Removed Gamer
    Gamer has been removed
    6 19 6
    Some of you may remember my review of the first The Evil Within title, a game that still holds up today as a pinnacle of mediocrity and an attempt to steal as many ideas from Resident Evil 4 as could be legally allowed. You'll be thrilled to hear that The Evil Within 2 completely broke away from this design choice; moving from incredibly mediocre to crushingly awful and by replicating every other AAA game on the market instead of Resident Evil 4!

    The story, as could be expected from the events of the first game, is an absolute mess. You are once again taking the role of Sebastian Castellanos, sent back into STEM to retrieve your daughter Lily, who was previously believed to be dead for years after a house fire. Apparently this was not the case, and Lily was instead kidnapped by Mobius (a mega-corporation with extraordinarily lax ethics which are very common in the realm of Japanese horror games) to be used to create a world within STEM, the same way Ruvik was in the first game. Mind you, Lily was not chosen because Sebastian already survived a trip through STEM or anything like that, it's purely coincidental. The rest of the plot follows suit similarly, introducing people, places, and ideas that do nothing to form a cohesive narrative. One of the highlights was when a support NPC was explaining to Sebastian about a series of computers that can be used to access passages and "phase-shift" to various parts of the city without walking. Sebastian replies with "That doesn't make sense", (which is absolutely true) to which the NPC retorts "It doesn't have to make sense, you just have to do it". That right there sums up the extent of writing and world building that went into this contrived mess of a plot.

    In the role of "ridiculously edgy and overdone villain" we have Stefano, a mysterious and eccentric artist who delivers every line like you rudely interrupted his serial rape. Kidman from the first game is a return character, while everyone else you encounter is a Mobius employee in a running contest to see which can be the most bland and deliver dialogue in the worst way possible. Without wishing to spoil too much, the messy plot commits the Far Cry 3 sin of repeatedly switching to a new antagonist after a short period of time, giving you no real connection to who your adversary is or why they're so ridiculously evil. The plot does have a conclusive ending, something the first game sorely lacked, and many loose ends are tied up at the end. Unfortunately these few shovelfuls of dirt are not able to patch up the grave-sized plotholes this game spent hours digging for itself already.

    Ah but who buys a single player experience for the narrative story? You're just here to shoot monsters in the face and watch their head explode! Unfortunately for you, this iteration of the series features much less of that and a lot more stealth gameplay. Instead of the Resident Evil 4 thing the first game was going for by loading you down with enough weapons and ammo to genocide a small island nation, The Evil Within 2 went for a more survival horror approach. Ammo is scarce and weapons are rather ineffective until upgraded, with heavy reliance on sneaking by or stealthily shanking enemies from behind. The issue here is that the stealth absolutely does not work. You'll find yourself crouched low to the ground, sneaking up on an unaware monster, and all of a sudden it'll catch a whiff of Sebastian's masculine cologne and spin on a dime to rush you. No warning, no opportunity to get back into the shadows, just an instant spotting and screech for reinforcements. The stealth can be upgraded and that does help significantly later in the game, but the fact that the first open world map is going to leave you with your face stamped into the dirt repeatedly is enough to turn anyone off from the start.

    Oh yeah, there's an open world now, another idea copped from the "everyone else is doing it" bin. In so many ways The Evil Within 2 is the 14-year old boy that smokes cigarettes and eats spiders in front of the cool kids because they want acceptance, and the inclusion of an open world in a survival horror title solidifies that comparison. The crafting mechanics also reek of dead spider and stale Newports, seeing as how they feel so terribly crowbarred in. Both additions are unnecessary, adding nothing but busywork as we sneak around the town picking up gunpowder and fuses to craft some bullets when there's absolutely nothing wrong with a confined, linear environment that has ammo scattered around it already. If the development team were so devoted to using ideas from Resident Evil 4 they could have gone with one of the good ones as opposed to shooting galleries and bad voice acting. The introduction of crafting also added the need for crafting materials, meaning that smashing crates gives you an equal chance of getting either weapon upgrade material, ability upgrade material, or crafting material. There simply isn't enough room in the game to properly balance all of these elements, ensuring that you don't get enough material to comfortably play the game until around the halfway point.

    Some elements aside from the stringy mess of a plot remain from the first game. The upgrade system for both Sebastian's abilities and the guns he uses serve as an example. "Accuracy" should be a test of player skill, NOT an upgradeable feature for your characters or weapons. Especially in a game like this, where enemies all bum rush you in an instant, the camera zooms in about 5 feet too far when aiming down sights, and a single swipe of an enemy can knock off most of your health bar. Thankfully, the constant slew of instant-kill enemies was scaled back considerably but the unavoidable damage if you get grabbed remains, so the game breaks even in that department.

    What else has changed since the first installment? Well, a positive aspect is that there is more variety in the enemies. Different enemies appear earlier in the game and serve to break things up a bit, something the first game was severely lacking in. There is also a section where you're forced into first-person stealth, as if it wasn't bad enough when you had a full 360 degree field of view, but that was just thrown in once out of nowhere. It just seems like another gimmick that was forced in just for the sake of it, because bigger and better horror games did it already so it feels as token as the crafting system. They also updated the game so it can be played entirely in first-person, but for the sake of your sanity I'd recommend never turning that feature on.

    The main driving point here is that The Evil Within 2 had no idea what kind of game it wanted to be or what it set out to achieve, It seemed like it was going for a more pure survival horror experience, along the lines of Silent Hill 2. If that was the case, why were there so many forced combat sequences and enemies that are very difficult to run away from when you inevitably get spotted? If it wanted a more action-oriented approach like the first game, the constant barrage of enemies certainly fit that. However, that was severely hampered by the lack of ammo and heavy emphasis on stealth. Was it aiming for a sprawling open world? If so, I'd expect more than 3 or 4 menial sidequests that only amount to "Go to place and press X" or the ability to explore more than a quarter of the map at a time. The Evil Within 2 just sort of feels like a mess with it's jumbled up ideas, mechanics, and plot while at its core is going through the motions of what bigger and better games have already done better in an attempt to fit in. There's nothing here that the first installment or other games haven't already done with more polish and a better tone, so I'd say give this one a hard pass.

    3/10
    1.5