Producing a sequel to a hit game can be challenging. Developers will always annoy fans in some way by ignoring a mechanic that made the original game a masterpiece or by adding something that doesn’t fit. However, it is safe to say that if developers choose to continue their established ideas, then they should please the fans. But there has to be a reason to make a sequel. Are there more stories to tell in that universe? Is there a way to close out a protagonist’s story? With some of these points in mind, The Evil Within 2 manages to present a reason for its existence, building a game that is worth exploring for the story alone.
The Evil Within 2 continues the story of Sebastian Castellanos after the events at Beacon Medical Hospital. The events of the original game have left him scarred as he agonizes over his greatest regret: losing his daughter Lily. It is soon revealed that her death was actually fabricated by the organization Mobius in a plot to build one giant hive mind in a virtual world known as Union. Lily has gone missing inside of Union, destabilizing the world and creating chaos. This leads Mobius to approach Sebastian with a demand to recover his daughter.
There is always charm to games like this where the developers choose to emphasize a parental relationship as a means of pushing the player forward. The main motivation for finding Sebastian’s ostensibly dead daughter provides an excellent reason to continue through the game. In rare moments, the story drags as you handle the threat of the moment, but the narrative twists and turns keep you invested up to the closing minutes. You want to see Sebastian succeed, and you want to help him navigate the dangers within Union to complete his mission and find closure.
The Evil Within 2 attempts to change things from the original as there is a focus on pseudo open-world environments. Union acts as a hub world for the game’s key events, providing a full world to explore filled with resources and smaller objectives. These areas are filled with enemies ready to kill you on sight, although these do little for a survival-horror game.
The biggest issue that stems from The Evil Within 2 is a matter of world design. The first hour of the game builds tension through the scripted exploration of a mansion. There is fear in every moment as you see bodies dragged or suspended in time, and you are even chased by a freaky monstrosity. After this, you enter the open sections.
As a genre, survival horror feels best when you are closed in and feel exposed, knowing anything could happen. The use of pseudo-open world environments in a suburban neighborhood didn’t mesh well with the general idea of the game. When you encounter enemies you can often run away, gaining enough distance that they give up. This makes enemies feel like obstacles instead of genuinely frightening opposition.
While these areas may not mesh well with the genre, they do offer bonuses for those willing to explore. Choosing to stray off the main path offers players an assortment of side stories leading to some great moments. In one instance, you can wander into a diner where you will find the dead owner and a note detailing the reason behind his death, and before you leave, a ghostly monster will appear and drag you into another world. These side moments play into the original game’s strengths of close-quarter tension as you are hunted and find a way to escape the danger, often only having a few seconds of reprieve before you are quickly thrown into danger once more.
The open world handles the story well. When the world tangibly plays into the story, it demands greater respect. During the early search for Lily, you will spend a decent amount of time following signals to find out what happened to her. This search takes you all across the map, making use of random front yards or derelict buildings. It helps that Tango Gameworks at least provided a reason for its decision in creating a grander scale for its story to play out on, such as a later quest that sees you “respect” art as you seek buildings out for pictures placed in the area. The lack of linearity in these moments is effective in building the living world, providing a greater scale for key story beats to play on.
The strongest moments do come from the classic close-quarters approach. There is always tension in moments where you are dragged to an interior setting; you are left feeling exposed and anything could potentially happen. You have one path forward, and a multitude of dangers are in the way for you to approach either weapons drawn or quietly. In classic horror fashion, though, things aren’t as cut and dry.
These sections will often attempt to mess with your head through the use of a clever puzzle mechanic or a perceptual twist. In one optional section, you need to use a mirror to find the room’s exit, then the next area will use the same mechanic but with the added danger of an enemy that will kill you on sight, forcing you to think fast.
Similarly the game’s early story arc surrounds an artist who finds art in death, and during his section you encounter several instances of Layers of Fear style mechanics. The game chooses to mess with your head by changing the perception of the environment in certain moments, which was handled well to make the area uncomfortable and disorienting. One moment you could be looking at a wall with a picture, then you could be walking down some stairs which could lead you to your original position with a door present. The Evil Within 2 uses similar mechanics across its run time that keeps you on your toes.
Combat in this game is surprisingly enjoyable. There is a decent amount of depth that goes into taking down any foes in your way, especially as you are forced to scour to survive. It is rare that you feel safe in The Evil Within 2; you will often feel like you are a few bullets short. There will be times where you will desperately scavenge through the environment in hope of finding a couple of herbs or some gun powder to provide some quick health recovery or a couple of bullets.
Every bullet counts, so you don’t want to mess up a shot or it could be problematic. The game does make this easy, even playing with aim assist that aims your weapon at the enemies’ weak spot, but you will still regularly miss the shot. Enemies move fast, and even when lined up in your sights, enemies can quickly move out of the way as they draw closer to you, making them harder to hit. You have a very small window, which adds tension to every encounter, especially as you waste bullets on shots that barely miss. You will spend a lot of time attempting to back away from foes to get off a desperate shot that may not even meet its target.
There is a stealth option, which is given a low priority. You will often find yourself in situations you can’t sneak through, but some moments do handle the mechanic well for a suspenseful situation. Since it is such a major mechanic, it would have been nice if the developers had chosen to make better use of it in the main story. It almost feels pointless focusing on this upgrade path when other skills seem more prevalent in hindsight. Yes, it helped once or twice, but a focus on stealth was ineffective in a multitude of dangerous combat situations.
Speaking of upgrades, there are many. Enemies will often drop green gel when killed, which is used to upgrade your skills like stealth, combat, health, athletics, and recovery. You can provide boosts to your weapon handling, your crouch speed or noise as you move, your health bar, your stamina meter, and, of course, how much health healing items will recover. This is all in addition to a series of other improvements that will alter how you play.
You can also upgrade your weapons by finding parts as you explore Union. Weapon parts can be used to improve the varying weapons you have available. You are able to increase damage or hold more ammunition before you need to reload. You will need to spend a decent amount of time finding weapon parts. Upgrading weapons is as instrumental to survival as upgrading yourself.
The Evil Within 2 has some questionable decisions regarding its pseudo open-world environments that will likely annoy some players as it is counter intuitive to its genre. However, Tango Gameworks still succeeds in creating an interesting world that keeps you engaged until its closing moments. In classic linear sections, The Evil Within 2 is a masterpiece filled with exciting moments and heart-pounding sequences. You will remain invested throughout as you fight to find Lily, who is the heart and soul of this game.
The first screenshot is from Game Crate and can be found here.
The second screenshot is from PCGamesN and can be found here.
The third screenshot is from Trusted Reviews and can be found here.