It’s hard to get me excited for a game then crush my expectations. Survival horror, especially really cerebral ones, always get me amped though, and the original The Evil Within just did not deliver what I was hoping for, to the stage where I couldn’t even finish it. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice? Shame on the developer. Not this time! But, I try and remove whatever preconceptions I have about games before I play them, so let’s do this with an open mind.
The Evil Within 2 feels very different. For absolute starters, the world is, well I won’t say necessarily ‘open world’, but you do have a lot more freedom in the areas you’re playing in. Truth be told, I’d often feel a little bit like a magpie, wandering the area and turning over everything shiny and sparkly before even doing the main quest, or even side quests. By the time I got around to the actual story the area was almost bare.
You’re mostly moving between two types of set piece, and that works to alter the pacing; to keep you a bit on your toes. As with all things, if you’re doing too much of anything for one time you’ll become too adjusted to the experience of it, and it won’t have the same impact. The first set piece, small corridors in a locked off area, exists as the traditional horror to set you on edge, to move the plot forward. These are (mostly) tense, more dramatic sections. The other is moving around the open town, and this acts as a way for you to scrounge for ammo and resources, to level up and to even hunt for collectibles. It’s still tense, but allows you to find an abundance of healing items and ammo, should you want to spend the time looking for it.
Of course, this plays against the “survival” part of survival horror, as I had more than enough ammo to spare. Wandering through the hellscape that is the town of Union, you’ve got a lot of options in how you take down enemies. I think the one it leans most heavily toward is stealth, which is the way I played it. Sure, shooting off enemies legs is hilarious and fun, but when you’re suddenly swarmed by a lot of monsters, it’s less fun. Absolute stealth isn’t always viable though, for some sets and boss fights, you’re going to need to fight. This is actually a game about adapting. I still remember the first time I snuck up on an enemy, a weird, tall amalgam of corpses seeping gas trails and stuck my knife in it for that satisfying insta-kill, only to find out it didn’t die instantly and instead both sapped all my stamina and alerted all the enemies around me.
The ‘horror’ part of the game however, is really interesting. I don’t think it goes quite far enough, but there’s a lot of interesting thematics around power corrupting absolutely, religion, and even the fracturing of the human psyche. The enemies reflect this too. My two favourites were a huge mass of corpses and buzzsaw blades, and another based on an onryō, a vengeful spirit from Japanese culture which hunts you but cannot die. Fun!
World design works on that same level. The world is broken apart and gravity has very little meaning. Sebastian is as trapped in his own mind as he is trapped in the town on Union, and as the game goes on, both take a heavy toll on the world around him. It’s incredibly fascinating to witness, even if it’s just a way to break up the game into chapters.
It’s not all great though. The plot is pretty damn generic, there’s no way to backtrack to complete unresolved sidequests, the shooting doesn’t feel particularly amazing, and there’s not quite enough horror for what I like. This isn’t A-grade horror by any definition, but you know what? Sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy some silly B-grade horror, and I think that’s completely ok.
By the time I finished this game, I was enjoying myself an incredible amount. If time permitted, I actually wanted to jump back in on one of the more insane difficulty modes and have a right thorough frolick around the world, but sometimes time just doesn’t permit. Even going through and just completely wrecking house with some of the new game unlocks (and skills) would be a great time. Hopefully over year end I can get back to it.
This game serves as a way to revolutionise the previous title. As I said, it doesn’t go quite far enough in the direction I wanted, but I hope that this lays the groundwork for this series to continue. There’s some really interesting concepts (to both lore and gameplay) that I’d love to see fleshed out in future titles.
The Evil Within 2 was received as a physical copy on PS4 for review purposes from the publisher. The entire game was played prior to review. I’m a sucker for good horror, and a bigger sucker for bad horror.