Survival Horror genre especially for third person shooters is getting increasingly rare with the death of Silent Hill and the change of Resident Evil from third person to first person. The Evil Within has somehow managed to fill the void left behind these two games and it was created by none other than Shinji Mikami himself. He is often credited with Resident Evil series so when it was announced that he is developing a new Survival Horror game – originally codenamed as Zwei – there was naturally a lot of hype behind it. The result of this was The Evil Within and it was a game that unfortunately was fairly divisive at launch thanks to its technical issues and some fundamental design flaws.
While Shinji Mikami himself worked as a director on the original game, he is only acting as a producer for the sequel which is being directed by John Johnas. The developers have also taken a look at a lot of the design flaws from the original game and made sure to create an experience that avoids repeating the same mistakes. This results in the sequel offering a tighter pace and with much more progression focused gameplay to avoid the repetitive nature of combat encounters.
I have mixed feeling about the original Evil Within. While I did enjoy the psychological aspect of it, which gave the developers full freedom to go crazy with their environments and encounters, I also hated how the upgrades were handled and not to mention the game suffered from technical issues at launch. Among them, the frame rate was particularly atrocious while the load times were overly long. The developers had also opted to go for a wide screen approach so the screen had black bars on top and bottom which felt distracting. Most of these issues were slowly patched after the launch of the game but since I only played it when it was released, I still had to deal with them which had a negative impact on my experience.
The Evil Within 2 a lot better right from the start. Load times are now no issue as the game loads faster now. There are no more black bars to distract you from the experience and the game is also optimized to help with the frame rate. So technically speaking, the game is leagues above the original in every way. Unfortunately my only minor qualm with the sequel is the lack of support for the PS4 Pro, but hopefully this is something that can be patched in with an update by the developers.
The story in The Evil Within 2 continues directly after the DLCs from the first game especially Kidman’s DLC is used as a plot device for the sequel. If you haven’t managed to play these DLCs and own them for the game, I highly recommend to check them out since you will miss out on some potentially important story moments. However, if you have no time to play them now, you can also try to read some of the synopsis online to get a better understanding of the story going into the sequel. The main protagonist this time again is Sebastian Castellanos. The game is set 3 years after the events from the original Evil Within and deals with Sebastian coming to term with the death of his daughter Lily. One day, he encounters Mobius agent Juli Kidman who explains that his daughter is not really dead but still alive and well. It turns out that her death was faked by the corporation Mobius who used her in an experiment to create a new STEM system simulating a town called Union. Lily appears to have mysteriously disappeared here which prompted them to contact Sebastian and ask for his help in bringing her back.
The majority of the game takes place in this STEM system which gives the developers plenty of creative freedom to utilize the psychological aspect of it. Environments around Sebastian will transform into nightmarish scenarios while the people roaming around in the town appear to be converted into monsters by some unknown force of evil. It will be up to Sebastian to locate the core of this mystery and save her daughter Lily.
The Evil Within 2 utilizes semi-open segments featuring the town of Union and combines them with some linear level design with a strong focus on survival horror. The game has a slow opening where the developers attempt to first set up an atmosphere making sure the players get familiar with the controls and the new locations. Once you reach the town of Union, you will have more choices in how you approach the story. It is at this point when the game gradually opens up letting you upgrade your weapons and attempt some of the side stories. Upgrades are now integrated much better letting you customize your offense or defense. You can also perform weapon upgrades or craft ammo. The new addition this time is that crafting is not tied to the safe point letting you use it outside. However, this is not without its limitation and results in more resources being utilized for a particular item.
Resources will be limited so you have to keep them in check making sure that you are not abusing them. Boss battles will require you to come prepared however this doesn’t mean you can get stuck on a boss fight. There is usually a way to find ammo during boss fights unless you are playing on a higher difficulty setting. You can also scavenge for ammo and try to conserve it by attempting stealth instead of direct combat. Stealth works well and can offer one hit kill for the normal enemies, however it is not always going to be the solution so you have to use your weapon arsenal as well. There was an annoying aspect in the original Evil Within which required you to burn enemies after killing them. Thankfully this mechanic has been completely removed with the sequel.
I have enjoyed action focused third person Resident Evil games so The Evil Within has managed to fill the void for me. While it doesn’t offer the same split-screen multiplayer experience, the game still tries to pursue the survival horror genre even if it involves plenty of jump scares. I enjoyed the twists and turns featured in the story here which seems crazy in retrospect but appears to be the norm if you consider the story and setting from the first game. Hopefully this latest entry doesn’t mark an end for survival horror games from Tango Gameworks. I would love to see where they can take their concepts from here with a fresh idea and new IP.
The Evil Within 2 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: The Evil Within 2 is a third-person survival horror video game developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The Evil Within 2 can be genuinely terrifying at times. The game masterfully blends survival horror elements with plenty of action in between moments of silence. As a sequel, it is a bigger, better and ultimately more enjoyable experience.