The Evil Within 2
puts us back in the shoes of Sebastian Castellanos three years after the events of The Evil Within
. He's still haunted by the death of his daughter, Lily, in a house fire five years before. Now, having fallen on hard times and traumatized by the events that unfolded at Beacon Mental Hospital, Sebastian has resorted to searching for answers at the bottom of a bottle. Will his latest horror fuelled foray drive you to the drink?
Sebastian is approached by his former partner Juli Kidman, who reveals to him that his daughter's death was faked by the shady Illuminati-esque Mobius. Furthermore, Lily is being used as the Core for a new STEM, a Matrix-like system that is being used to simulate an idyllic town called Union. Unfortunately, Mobius has lost control of the system as the retrieval team they sent in is missing. With Lily compromised, the world inside STEM is beginning to deteriorate, and Mobius gives Sebastian the chance to save the daughter he feared lost forever and earn his own personal redemption. The story is a lot easier to follow than that of its predecessor and, although a little clichéd, it provides enough of a reason for our protagonist to delve deeper into Union.
The most noticeable difference to its predecessor is the world. The far from idyllic town of Union is a selection of open world hubs where you can search for materials, hidden weapon caches and additional information that flesh out the plot, rather than a series of clearly defined linear levels. These hub locations are not safe areas by any stretch of the word; there are grotesque enemies at almost every turn, most of which you'll hear long before you see, and increasingly dangerous foes begin to emerge as the story unfolds, but there is a clear amount of risk and reward to exploring. One such example is the broken sniper rifle that can be found and repaired early on in the game if players are willing to scour the area for the required parts.
Dealing with the many nightmarish creatures isn't simple. Erratic enemy movement coupled with Sebastian's initial inability to hold a gun straight, likely caused by his excessive drinking, makes hitting targets quite difficult and you'll burn through ammo. As you upgrade your weapons and steady Sebastian's aim through the upgradeable skills, combat begins to feel sharper and regular enemies fall much more easily, but often you will find yourself up against many more, or just more powerful creatures that take a lot more punishment before collapsing.
As a result, players may still end up getting through their ammo reserves, but it feels satisfying to survive an encounter by the skin of your teeth. It shows just how well the developer has scattered the available resources. You are always aware of what you have and you will end up using most, if not all, of what is available, but there always seems to be just enough around to get you through if you actively look for it. It's a well-implemented difficulty curve that keeps you on your toes and rewards players for going out of the way to scavenge, but never leaves you feeling under-prepared.
There is a multitude of skill and weapon upgrades available. The skill menu is broken down into five main sections that correspond to Combat, Stealth, Health, Recovery and Athleticism. Rather than just increase damage output or maximum health, for example, new abilities can be unlocked, such as Bottle Break that uses bottles as defence items when grabbed by an enemy, or Second Chance that automatically uses a health item when you are about to die. Each is useful in their own way and grant extra ways to survive, although how you choose to upgrade is down to personal preference and allows Sebastian to be fine-tuned to a specific style of play.
Stealth is thankfully utilised far more than it was in The Evil Within
. There is plenty of cover to use and sneaking up on enemies gives you the opportunity to instantly kill your quarry. Not all creatures can be killed in this way and some will turn around and gut you as soon as they get the chance. Even the ones that you can kill with a well-placed knife to the head don't always play fair — their unreliable patrol routes and odd movements can often result in them catching a glimpse of you as you make your approach, alerting them and many other nearby horrors to your location. Strangely, though, your flashlight doesn't give away your position and the majority of the creatures of Union will only attack if they have a clear line of sight or a loud noise draws them towards you.
Once you are ready to proceed with the plot, there is a distinctive shift in the locations as they become closed off and far more linear, although they do still offer a few different paths to take that allow for a stealthy approach or some exploration. These areas are also where you’ll find the game's scariest and most heart-racing set pieces, utilising some of the most well known survival-horror tropes to great effect, and where a wrong turn can lead to a quick death.
Environments change and warp, lights flicker or go out completely only for you to re-emerge in a new location once the illumination returns, shadows dance in the background directing you towards, or distracting you from, where you are supposed to be heading and keeping players disorientated. All the while screams, burbles and guttural wails keep you on edge and the occasional jump scare usually hits the spot as The Evil Within 2
doesn't actually overuse them. These sections are also where you’ll fight the game's grotesquely monstrous bosses; each is varied and unique, providing a different set of challenges.
These contrasting aspects of the open world and linear sections lead to a truly fantastic horror game, one that understands how and when to best build up the level of tension and when to give the player some time to compose themselves. The chance to explore the open world areas does begin to drop off towards the end, but the tension continues to ramp up until the conclusion, which could take between 12 and 16 hours in total to reach depending on play-style. Despite some occasional backtracking, the pacing is spot on, never feeling rushed or dragged out.
It's not all great, though, as The Evil Within 2
has its fair share of visual issues. Sebastian's movement and animation often feel disconnected from each other as if he is sliding on a greasy floor, especially when strafing. Climbing over crates or vehicles looks clumsy and melee animations have a tendency to pass through the enemy rather than actually looking like they make contact. Some assets, such as benches and mailboxes, noticeably pop into view, while others that were clearly intended to fade away slowly, begin to dissolve and then disappear abruptly, something that could have been made less noticeable with a bit of fog. This is a shame as the game does look fantastic most of the time with some horrifically visceral moments and some of the best looking fire effects I have witnessed so far this console generation.
The game is a challenge on its standard Survival difficulty level, yet it feels very fair, and all previous points on combat and resource availability are based on this difficulty. As expected, the harder Nightmare difficulty changes a few things up, featuring harder enemies, and fewer resources to find. The real challenge comes in the form of the unlockable Classic difficulty that becomes available once the game has been completed and will push players to the edge. Auto-saves and upgrades are disabled, and you are limited to a total of seven saves. For the faint of heart, there is also a Casual difficulty that increases Sebastian's survivability, grants the Bottle Break skill from the start, makes resources more plentiful and reduces enemy health and alertness.
There are 51 achievements up for grabs in The Evil Within 2
, which encompass many varied aspects of the game. There are, of course, the usual story and difficulty achievements that make up about a third of the total, as well as a handful for completing side missions or chapter specific tasks, such as killing 2 or more enemies at once using a hanging lamp in Chapter 9. There are combat related achievements for killing 10 enemies with sneak attacks or stomping on the heads of 15 fallen foes, as well as achievements for crafting items, upgrading weapons and improving skills. There are also a lot of collectables to discover from Mysterious Objects and Locker Keys to Photographic Slides and Files, each with achievements linked to collecting all of a specific type. In order to unlock them all, players will need to search every inch of Union and tackle the highly challenging Classic difficulty for the You Asked For It… Again
achievement, which currently has a TA ratio of 10.04%.This game was featured in our The Best Xbox Horror Games Available in 2017 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?
SummaryThe Evil Within 2
doesn't reinvent the survival-horror genre but makes it work in more of an open world. Blending it with the tightly directed sections we have come to expect from the genre creates a fantastic horror setting that cranks up the tension only when it's needed. Players are rewarded for exploring and the scarce resources are distributed in a way that you often feel like there is only enough to scrape by, yet it never leaves you feeling under-prepared. Unfortunately, Sebastian's movement and animation often feel disconnected and some animations do seem clumsy in general, while some visual assets noticeably pop into view. Thankfully, these minor issues don't detract too much from the overall package and The Evil Within 2
delivers an interesting and memorable horror experience that is challenging yet fair.
- An open world that rewards exploration
- Tense and well-paced linear sections
- Combat and resource placement that is tough but fair
- 12 to 16 hour campaign depending on play-style
- Some clumsy animations
- Assets occasionally pop into view
The reviewer spent approximately 25 hours running, hiding, exploring and being killed on many occasions. He mostly played on the Survival difficulty, unlocking 21 of the game's 51 achievements, but also tried out both Casual and Nightmare for comparison. A physical Xbox One version of the game was supplied by the publisher for the purpose of this review.