The long wait for the unexpected sequel of The Evil Within has finally arrived. The only problem: it’s a sequel. Too often we get sequels that don’t compare to the original. It may not be weak, but it sometimes just does have the same spark. Think of games like Final Fantasy X-2, Bioshock 2 and Deus Ex: Invisible War. They’re good, just not as good as we’d hoped. Then there are games like Tomb Raider 2, Uncharted 2, Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 2. They go beyond the original, giving us so much more, and that’s is exactly what you’ll get with The Evil Within 2.
A word of warning to those who’ve not played the first game, I have to mention a few things that’ll give a few things away.
Welcome to Union
The story kicks off a few years after the Beacon Mental Hospital incident, i.e., The Evil Within. Sebastian Castellanos, is down on his luck and drinking his despair when out of the blue Juli Kidman pays him a visit. After years of trying to find and confront the secretive “Illuminati-type” institution called Mobius, they come to him for assistance. Turns out his daughter, whom Castellanos thought died in a house fire, was kidnapped by Mobius to use for the STEM system. Using Lily, Sebastian’s daughter, they were able to perfect what Ruvik attempted to do: create a Matrix-esque world using the power of a single person’s mind.
Just like the original, The Evil Within 2 has a remarkable intro.
The only catch is, Lily, who was used as the core for the STEM project, has gone missing and the STEM system has begun to fall to pieces. Using Lily, Mobius was able to create a fabricated utopia called Union – which is nothing more than a fancy prison. With her missing, the people (or at least their consciences) have become corrupted and turned into monsters called ‘the lost.’ It’s up to Sebastian, who’s faced enough problems in STEM to save his daughter and end the nightmare once again.
A new blend of horror
My initial synopsis sound very simple, but it’s far from it. Unlike the first game, there’s a lot of story to this game and a lot of moving pieces to keep your mind guessing. Just like the original, The Evil Within 2 has a remarkable intro. It’s not as grotesque as the first, but it’s unsettling and slowly shows you the twisted world you’re about to enter and face. From Chapter 2 (which is when you enter STEM) you find yourself walking around in what I can only describe as an art gallery that slowly increases in its mental instability. You meet a few of the villains in the game, namely a sadistic and deadly serial killer/ photographer and a crazy saw wielding monster called The Guardian. This slow dive into the depths of insanity is the perfect foreshadowing for the events that follow.
After surviving the haunted gallery, you enter Union, an idyllic town where everything looks perfect, only it isn’t. The place is overrun by monsters, killing innocent people and Mobius operatives alike. It’s not the hellscape that was The Evil Within, but it’s its own form of terror. As you play through the game, you slowly see how the town and the world of Union crumbles and changes forming the nightmare. Think of it like the decay in the Silent Hill series. It’s effective and well executed. The openness of the town and the way you explore, make the game very interesting, despite exploration being a tough sell in a survival horror game.
The atmosphere changes as the temperature drops and you slowly begin hearing the humming sound of the female ghost coming out your controller’s speaker.
The large scale of the environments allows for new concepts to be brought into the franchise, specifically side missions and the new communicator tool. This tool allows you to hone in on signals found throughout the level, often sending you to places to find hidden caches, secrets, crafting components, weapon parts or ammo. Also new to the game is crafting, which can be done in the few safe houses in Union. By using components, you can craft the much needed ammo to survive. Together with exploration, this new feel to a horror game works well, especially since the enemies are just right for the game.
You’ll always be vulnerable
Like any horror, the enemies need to be tough and scary, and these are. No matter how buffed up Castellanos is, he is always vulnerable. Even having loads of weapons doesn’t always ensure survival – a mix of stealth, strategy and clever use of weapons is what is needed to survive. Each encounter with an enemy is a tough one, even tougher when there’s more than one. What’s worse, is that they’re a lot smarter this time round. They’re creepy as hell too, with many of them making these gut-wrenching noises that make you severely uncomfortable. In addition to that, during the first half of the game, you’ll randomly encounter a particular soul-sucking apparition whom you have to out-sneak to survive. These encounters keep you on your toes and are very spooky. The atmosphere changes as the temperature drops and you slowly begin hearing the humming sound of the female ghost coming out your controller’s speaker. It raised the hair on my neck with each encounter, and as a horror vet, I’m not easily uneased.
Where the first game felt like the spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4, the sequel feels like the same for Silent Hill 2.
While the use of environment is great, as well as all the sound effects that go with it, I can’t help but feel the overall visual standard isn’t that mind-blowing. I don’t often expect great graphics, but I was expecting to see more. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it feels very ‘seen before.’ Having said that, the character designs are great and the ageing of both Juli and Sebastian feels real. What threw me was the change in voice actors. I was already used to the voices in the first game, and I didn’t quite buy the new voices. This is specific to Sebastian and Juli as they are the two main returning characters. I don’t think it fits the characters and Sebstian’s voice actor didn’t exactly nail some of the more emotional scenes. His crying didn’t sound authentic and neither did any of his screams.
My negative bits don’t end there either. On a few occasions my action commands either wouldn’t show up or would have a delayed effect. This doesn’t sound very bad, but your stealth kills depend on this action being well-timed. On a few occasions the stealth kill didn’t bother to show up, which resulted in me dying. In other cases, I’d have to repeated press the X button just to pick up an item. It’s not game-breaking, just annoying and I hope there will be a fix for it soon.
Does it scare?
Now for the important part: is it scary? I don’t think so. It’s unnerving and serves as a phenomenal psychological thriller, but it doesn’t have many ‘scare the pants off you’ moments. Unlike the first game, it doesn’t use gore to form the basis of horror. Instead it opts for a more refined approach, such as slowly increasing your level of dread. Where the first game felt like the spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4, the sequel feels like the same for Silent Hill 2.
What impressed me the most about The Evil Within 2, is the message behind it. It’s a horror game with a lot of heart. It’s not a kill-a-thon, or hack-a-thon or getting out of the hell house alive – it’s a heartbreaking story of a dad trying to save his daughter. It tackles issues that are relatible to all of us, regret, shame, fear, self-loathing, guilt and, most importantly, forgiveness.
The Evil Within 2 is not only a great horror game, but it has soul. Sebastian Castellanos’ journey through this game was special and treated with respect. There may be some issues and hiccups, but the overall experience is wonderful. As a sequel, this one stands with its head held high. And if I may, the last chapter was so freaking good. I guess what I’m saying is, this game is worth your money.