The Evil Within 2 Review
The truth behind the reality you know, and the reality they want you to know, are polar opposite. The things you’ve come to know and understand have never been the same since Beacon Mental Hospital. Your experience there haunts you to this day, three years later. There is only one thing that could possibly make you go back into STEM…
The Evil Within 2 is the new third-person survival horror game developed by Tango Gameworks, and published by Bethesda Softworks, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, as the sequel to the first “The Evil Within”. The game has been released worldwide in October 2017 and has seen many generally positive reviews, which will be including this one too! The director of the first game, Shinji Mikami, also referred to as the “father of survival horror”, for his hand in the first Resident Evil game, stepped down to become the game’s producer, and mainly supervised the development. John Johanas, who Shinji described as having “a lot of talent”, was assigned director, along with the story being written by Syoji Ishimine and Trent Haaga. The aim for this installment was to make the game’s story easier for players to comprehend, which was in response to the criticism in the first game, allowing newcomers to the series to be able to play this game without needing to play the first one. The events from the previous game gets rehashed a few times in this game without it feeling like the story gets interrupted. I tell you this, there is a seamless balance between story, horror, and gameplay in this installment to the franchise!
You once again take the role of Sebastian Castellanos (and to clarify pronunciation, you pronounce the double-L as a “y”), now an ex-detective, having left the Krimson City Police Department after the events of the Beacon Incident three years earlier, being haunted by his experience there, as well as the disappearance of his wife, Myra, and the so-called death of his daughter Lily, as a result of a house fire. Sebastian gets approached by Juli Kidman, your former partner from the first game, who also worked undercover for Mobius, a secret organisation responsible for the events of the first game, and tells you that Lily is alive, and that she was kidnapped by Mobius, staging the house fire to make it look like she was consumed by it. She further explains that Mobius needed her innocent mind to be the Core for the new STEM System that they’ve created, however, some time ago, Mobius lost contact with Lily in the simulated utopian town called Union, and they need Sebastian’s help. Sebastian, in grief and reluctance, agrees to help Mobius so that he can save Lily, and enters STEM once again.
For those unfamiliar with what STEM is; Mobius took control of a system, created by the first game’s antagonist, Ruvik, called STEM, in order to fulfill their end-goals. This system requires one central mind, called the Core, which is responsible for shaping the reality of the world created by STEM, allowing others to connect to this world through a bathtub-like terminus and, developed later on, via frequencies. The application for STEM was meant to be positive, to cure mental illnesses, to aid in interrogating criminals, or learn forgotten memories, etc. Mobius, however, had more sinister plans. They sought to use it to unify the entire world’s minds, and control them, in order to eradicate wars, pain, etc. Global unification which strips away individual choice and thought is pretty darn evil, especially if their methods include killing the original creator or kidnapping and staging the death of a little girl. All that aside, along the way, Kidman also asks Sebastian to track down the Mobius members who were sent in to find Lily, whom they’d also lost contact with. These people end up being a major help in finding Lily.
Upon entering STEM again, you find yourself in your old office at the KCPD. Kidman explains this is what your subconscious built, and will serve as a Safe Room. Not far outside your office is a chair in the middle of the hall, and when you sit in it, you’re back in the “Adjustment” chair from Beacon, where Nurse Tatiana comes to welcome you back. After a short conversation, you exit and proceed , you find that a murderer with strange abilities, who you later learn is named Stefano, is on the loose. Being able to freeze and manipulate time within a limited field, the murderer takes to creating art using the inhabitants, especially Mobius members, by killing them in particularly dramatic ways, having a camera set up to capture the moments of death. In your pursuit, you get chased by a monster with many laughing heads, wielding a huge spinning saw-blade, called the Guardian, a result of one of the murderer’s creations. After narrowly escaping your encounter with the Guardian, you learn that the town of Union is collapsing, with the town’s inhabitants having turned into the Lost, mindless zombies similar to the Haunted in the first game. It’s up to you now to find out what caused the collapse, where Lily is, rescue the Mobius team members, and attempt to deal with Stefano, hopefully preventing him from finding Lily! Though you’ll learn that Stefano isn’t the biggest threat you encounter…
Haunted by the Past
The story of this game captivated me from the start. Having played, but not being able to finish the first game, learning of Kidman’s betrayal was a shock, probably as much as it would have shocked me if I managed to finish the first game. Even though I enjoyed the first one, this installment felt like a major upgrade, not only in the story-telling, but even the gameplay. The letterbox display was done away with from the first game, which I didn’t mind too much, but I definitely love having a full screen display of the world around me. The letterbox had good intentions, attempting to simulate a sense of claustrophobia, though like this game has shown, you don’t need to change the display to add to horror. This game has every element a good survival horror game needs. What defines a good survival horror, you may ask? Definitely not hordes of zombies and machine guns. It’s the sense of danger looming over you no matter where you go, making you reconsider turning at a corner at the risk of getting your head gnawed on, or going down a street that has a singing ghost-lady on it that changes the environments around you in her pursuit of finding you. It’s having to run from an enemy that you can’t kill, needing to hide, desperate to survive.
Being able to kill the monsters is good and well, but there is also the possibility of your ammunition running out, in which case you must consider if it’s worth getting into a fight that might attract other enemies to your location, or go about a completely different direction… Or sneak kill them. The sneak kill mechanic in this game has been improved upon, although with a hick-up here and there. Approaching a Lost from behind and stabbing them in the head is pretty satisfying when you need to get into the building they’re guarding, but later on you get an Ambush ability, where you are able to jump out of cover and stab them in the head. These abilities are gained through the use of Green Gel, (what I liked to call “Green Goop-Juice” or “Brain Goop”) that you pick up in the environment, but mostly from killing enemies. Here’s where the debate of killing enemies really comes in. How badly do you want the “Goop-Juice”? Can you come up with a strategy that’ll allow you to take down the crowd of enemies without needing to consume all your ammo? Go for it. Otherwise, come back later. (More on that later)
The Ability Tree has been given a new look, which I really liked. Nurse Tatiana really went through some effort to make your “upgrade” experience a lot less traumatic. The tree has been segmented into five parts; Health, Athleticism, Recovery, Stealth, and Combat. I pretty much upgraded my Stealth and Athleticism first, because Stealth kills are awesome, but I need to be able to run like hell if I got discovered. The stamina guage ran out pretty fast in the beginning, which became a nuisance, requiring me to then try to shoot the legs off of my enemies and Stomp-kill them. I played on Survival mode first, so the legs required three well-placed leg-shots before anybody fell to the floor. If you’re not quick enough, they regenerate their limbs, which means a headshot is the best way to go, though even that required a few shots. Stock up on as many Weapons Parts as you possibly can, because you can upgrade your Weapons like in the first game. Although now, there is a seperation between Abilities and Weapons. Abilities require the Green Gel, and later on Red Gel as well to unlock other tree segments, while Weapons require Weapons Parts. There are other tools in the environment used to create ammunition, such as Metal Pipes, Gun Powder, Nails, Smoke Powder, Fuses, etc. Upgrading your Weapons can be done at a Workbench, where you will also be able to craft ammo. Crafting ammo at a workbench requires less parts than if you had to craft ammo in the field, so be sure to manage your ammo properly to prevent unnecessary wasting of parts in the field.
Survive the Horror
I mentioned earlier being able to “go back”. That’s because from Chapter 3 and onwards, you find yourself in a semi-open world. I see some of you rolling your eyes already. Believe me when I say that this feature made the game that much more enjoyable! The town is in chaos and ruins, meaning there are lots of places to find Weapon Parts, enemies to encounter and “farm” Green Gel from, and other collectables that add to the story. I would recommend you try to find as many collectables as you can, especially the Files and Photographic Slides. These reveal more of the story and also allows you to interact more with Kidman at times, where you get to see her true motives and heart. Finding all collectables will even reward you with Trophies/Achievements. Of course, finding the Locker Keys in the angel statues is still a feature, and is very practical to find. If you’re like me, wanting to do a completionist of this game feels very rewarding. Don’t be afraid to look in weird locations for the Statues. I found one on top of a hanging light fixture in a laboratory the once and I facepalmed. I think the developers really want you to work for that trophy. I still didn’t manage to get it for some reason, even after double checking through a guide. I got all of the keys but somehow one went missing. I guess I’ll have to retry when I go back for more in New Game Plus or Classic Mode. Be sure to keep an eye out for the eight “Mysterious Objects” strewn about different chapters. These serve as Easter Eggs and nods to a whole bunch of Bethesda’s other games.
Classic Mode is basically Akumu mode from the original game, with no autosaves, a limited amount of standard Saves, and unable to upgrade Sebastian’s Abilities or Weapons. You need to survive by using the base abilities and power of the weapons, and be strategic in your saving, which is why playing on Survival first to get all the collectables would be a smart move, to get all of that out of the way, and to get a feel for how the enemies work. Although, be prepared for the enemies to be a bit tougher than Survival. It’s basically Nightmare mode, with an arm behind your back, and your legs tied together. Possible? Only barely. I definitely intend on completing it though. There are many different enemies you you encounter, aside from the Lost, such as Laments, big ugly deformed creatures that have multiple bodies fused together, Hysterics that look similar to Lost but are a bit more crazy, Disciples, which are big brutish fiery dudes, and much more! My favourite enemy to encounter was Anima, a ghostly lady that loved to sing while hunting me down. Some are easier to sneak up on than others, or require strategy to Sneak Attack. Except Anima… she sneak attacks you! My problem with the sneak attacks were that it was inconsistent. I was told that even if the enemy is in search mode, you could still sneak attack them, but I found many times when the Sneak Attack icon was meant to popup, that it didn’t. Naturally, this was highly frustrating, but it was easy to lose the enemies again after turning a corner or jumping into bushes.
After spending a good 20 hours on the game, I finished it and was mesmerised, managing to induce a myriad of different emotions at different times. Completing the game, on any difficulty, is highly satisfying. By the end of it all, Sebastian has come to terms with what happened in Beacon, and overcomes his guilt over what happened to his family. The interaction between the characters is brilliant, and I really need to commend the voice acting. Sebastian got more dialogue opportunities this time than in the previous game, but it wasn’t over the top. The dialogues were brief, but you still felt like you got a lot out of it. The graphics were done insanely well, even though there was a bit of clipping in some sections. The timing of the music and sound effects were flawless, and I have to give a shoutout to The Hit House for remixing an already awesome song for the announcement trailer and end credits (found here). Being able to go back and forth in a semi-open environment didn’t negatively impact the horror aspect of the game at all. In fact, it added to it! I was a little disappointed by the inconsistencies in the Sneak Attack mechanic, though it isn’t a game breaker for me, it merely added some unnecessary frustration, but even so, The Evil Within 2 is by far my favourite survival horror game to date. I highly recommend it. The price of this game, at the time of review, is R645.00 for Microsoft Windows, and R825.00 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, at BTGames.