The follow up effort to Bethesdas 2014 release The Evil Within overshadows its predecessor in almost every way that I almost cant believe they’re in the same franchise. The original game, a horror/action effort from Resident Evil 4’s director Shinji Mikami fell flat in a lot of ways and suffered from finicky controls, frustrating boss fights, and of course the dreaded letterboxing inserted into the game as a last ditch effort to salvage frame rate drops from the finished product. Though you could occasionally see peeks into what the game could have been, it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. At times a psychological horror in the vein of Silent Hill, and at times an action horror run and gun clone of Resident Evil 4, the game never quite found its footing and was relegated to the ranks of “just ok” horror games when it could have been so much more.
The Evil Within 2 fixes almost all its predecessors mistakes and I was blown away by what an improvement it was. The sequel follows original protagonist Sebastian Castellanos as he again enters the STEM program to save his once thought dead daughter Lily from the city of Union, an idyllic small town that has been corrupted into a nightmare realm with all the inhabitants transforming into bloodthirsty monsters. Sebastian has to fight his way to save his daughter and unravel the horrible truth behind Union.
Whereas the first game was more of a linear experience, the sequel lets you roam and explore the small town streets of Union, leaving you to scrounge for weapons, health items, and of course the staple of every good horror game: files that reveal some backstory to the town and its residents. Being able to explore the town creates a more unique experience for each player, as you can either explore as little or as much as you wish. The atmosphere is immersive and eerie, with disturbing set pieces at every turn.
The game also introduces as communicator which allows Sebastian to track frequencies and pinpoint ammo and weapon caches as well as trigger some side missions, which was a welcome addition. Gameplay mechanics don’t stray too far from the original game, and the menus are smooth and easy to use. The stealth mechanics have been improved, and the melee attacks are also much stronger, for instance if you have a bottle in your inventory to throw as a distraction, Sebastian will automatically use it to smash on an enemy that grabs onto him. There are some crafting elements in the game, but not so much that it’s a constant hunt for materials. Ammo and health can both be crafted at designated work benches and require less raw materials, or if you’re willing to use more materials you can craft on the fly in a pinch.
Level design is fantastic and really takes advantage of the impossible spaces and bizarre scenarios possible in the dreamlike environment, The enemy design is great, each creature has its own look and attack, and the inclusion of a human serial killer stalking the residents is a really interesting addition, as is his killing method. The game also takes advantage of the often forgotten speaker in the PS4 controller, with one of the ghost enemies humming eerily through it to let you know it’s in the surrounding area. The character design for Sebastian and other NPC’s you run into along the way is classic Bethesda, but nothing too special. The creative and inventive enemy design is really where the game shines, and made me feel nostalgic for the Silent Hill monster types.
On the technical side of things, the only issues I ran into was just a few slow texture load ins and occasionally the stealth prompts were a little buggy. Other than that, the game is really polished and improves on a lot of existing mechanics while introducing some new fun enemies and weapons. The voice acting is less than perfect, but we all forgave Resident Evil 1 for its bad voice acting so I’m willing to let it slide.
If you were a fan of the first game you will absolutely love this sophomore effort. The sequel is a completely new experience from the original, so even reading the wiki for the game or watching a recap of the first game could bring you up to speed, so its also a good jumping off point for people new to the franchise. The difficulty level sliding scale and option for auto aim is more forgiving for people that aren’t as deft at horror games and could get frustrated with the original game, but also lets you make it an unforgiving experience if you wish. The Evil Within 2 is absolutely worth a look, and the improvements to the original vault it from “just another horror game” to a survival horror classic.
The Evil Within 2 is currently available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.