I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to The Evil Within 2. As someone who’s logged over 100 hours in the first game, I was constantly begging Bethesda for a follow-up. Especially since the first game had so many bits that were unresolved. So you can imagine my excitement when the sequel was finally announced during E3 2017. Now that game has finally been released and I’ve played through it twice, I’m a bit conflicted. Sure, it’s a good game, yet it doesn’t feel like The Evil Within. Is that a bad thing?
Developer(s): Tango Gameworks
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2017
Reviewed On: Intel Xeon E3 1231 v3, GTX 1080, Windows 10
Also Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Link: Official site
Alright, before we go into the review, I wanted to address something. While we all know that Shinji Mikami was responsible for The Evil Within. He did not direct the follow-up. Instead, that honor was given to John Johanas. Now before you ask who he is and why he was given the role, let me explain. If you played the DLC (The Assignment and The Consequence) then you’re already familiar with his work. I’ve always said those two were my favorite DLC for the game. So I’m glad to see he was able to get a chance to work on a full game. Shinji Mikami vouched for John, stating he has a lot of talent and would do the sequel justice. And if my two playthroughs of the game are any indication, I felt that John Johanas has done a fantastic job here.
Upon starting The Evil Within 2, we find Sebastian a broken man. He’s lost everything that he ever cared about. His daughter, Lily, and wife, Myra. His job and even his friendship with Juli Kidman. Turns out that she was never a detective and was actually sent to spy on Sebastian. Now, at the end of his rope, we find Sebastian wasting his days away at the local tavern. That is until Juli Kidman shows up unexpectedly and tells him that not only is his daughter alive, but she can help get her back. Apparently, her death was a cover-up so that Mobius could use her as a core for STEM. Being a child makes her the perfect candidate. So here we are. Sebastian wants a chance for redemption by saving his child. Juli wants to help him and after a bit of catching up, you’re sent on our way to Union.
The city of Union is where the game takes place in. And while we’re informed that Union is nothing like Beacon, where the first game took place. We find out very quickly that nothing is what it seems. Stuff is completely out of wack, creatures are roaming the street and worse. There’s some crazy guy by the name of Stefano that is hell-bent on stopping Sebastian from reaching his goal. Apparently being the core gives Lily some immense power. Stefano wants that power to turn Union in his vision of a masterpiece. Naturally, he sees you as a thorn in his plans and needs you out of the picture.
But what chance does a washed-up detective have against a mad-man? Well, it turns out that Sebastian hasn’t really lost a step since The Evil Within. In fact, he’s gained a few new abilities. Now he can quickly turn around to address issues behind him. In addition, he’s gotten better with stealth, thanks to a new cover system. He can now crouch and lean around corners and other objects, to stay hidden. He still retains his ability to get an instant kill if he can successfully sneak up on someone as well. He also has access to a knife, so doesn’t have to depend on his bare hands, unlike the original entry.
The skill tree from the first game makes its return, along with a few upgrades. Now you can choose from five different branches and level them up. Meaning that you can pick and choose from every branch to give Sebastian a fighting chance. Boost your health, combat abilities, Stamina, stealth and recovery abilities. Just like the first game, you’ll find the green gel that you’ll need to acquire these upgrades. Initially, I thought that this expanded tree would be a hindrance. However, after getting acquainted with it, I found it to be superior compared to one found in The Evil Within. There’s a huge amount of possibilities that will help you through the game. Including some helpful escape tactics.
Then there’s the crafting system, which is a game changer, This lets you craft ammo and health items on the either in your “safe house” or in the game world. Something that can easily change a bad situation to a good one – assuming you have the materials. However, I felt that this also cheapens the game’s immersion. And in some instances, breaks the game. You can craft at any time. In the middle of a fight or even during a boss battle. Doing this also pauses the game, which I felt removes the suspense that’s happening at the moment. A great system, but one that I feel was poorly implemented.
Unlike the first game, The Evil Within 2 is actually pretty ambitious. It goes and does things that I honestly didn’t think about. For example, the game isn’t as linear as the first one. While the introduction and the initial pacing is straightforward, it changes heavily and starts to give you options. Instead of being forced along a corridor, you’re dropped off in a hub which you’ll frequent for the majority of the game. Here you’re able to focus on the main story or you can split off and work on several side missions. Being given a choice on what you can do is a nice touch. While focusing on the story ensures that you’ll eventually beat the game sooner. The side missions yield value items and provide some backstory for the game.
The pacing, which was a huge complaint from the first game, is definitely better here. I never once felt that the story was moving too fast or drags on. The writing was decent and explained exactly what was happening. In addition, there were plenty of supporting characters that helped move the game along. Multiple NPCs that I actually grew to enjoy. I had started to worry on if they’d survive until the end or not. Several also had their own stories within the game that progressed parallel to yours.
The fact that Tango Gameworks has changed so many times from the first outing, I’m conflicted. On one hand, I enjoyed the retooled gunplay, which feels responsive and fun. Then there’s the expanded skill tree which gives you various ways decking out Sebastian. All of this is good stuff, but then there’s the gripe. While the game had a good bit of horror, it feels watered down. Sebastian is possessed with getting his daughter back and nothing more. Which is fine and dandy, however, there’s so much that has been sacrificed for him to accomplish this. Sure, you encounter a few crazy creatures, and the game has a steady amount of suspense. It’s just the game wasn’t scary. It doesn’t have that charm from the first game and I sorely missed this. It feels like for the most part, an action game with some horror elements tossed in instead of it being the opposite. The encounters that made the first game so memorable are absent here. Unless you count the parts that force you to relive the original game. Fans of the first game will enjoy this, but some will definitely be put off due to the amount of emphasis placed on the combat.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. Outside of a few texture issues, the game’s art direction and style were enjoyable. Performance-wise, I was able to run the game at both 1080p and 1440p on high settings at 60 frames per second. For the most part. I did encounter segments where the frame rate dropped between 55-60 frames per second, but not often. The game engine, while being a heavily modified id tech 5 engine, is leaps and bounds better than the original game. I don’t know what magic Tango Gameworks worked to get the game this smooth, but it’s appreciated. The sounds were also decent. The gunshots were loud and got the point across, while steps on certain surfaces forced you to take it slow around certain creatures. I particularly enjoyed the screams and cries from the enemies as well. The music was dramatic with the right amount of “be super careful now” at key moments. If there’s anything that I felt could have been better, it would be the voice acting. Specifically, Sebastian. It’s not that it’s bad, he just talks way too much. He tosses out so many one-liners now, I wished he’d go back to how he was.
While I’m glad to see that this game Sebastian a redemption story, there are still issues lingering from the first game. Issues that I wished were addressed. This maybe spoiler-ish, so I apologize if you haven’t played the first game. That said, the game never once addresses Ruvik. Not only did he develop STEM, but at the end of the first game, it appears that he survived. He’s an important figure of the series lore and I hope that he resurfaces later. At the same time, while Sebastian gets his daughter back, the game still ends in a cliffhanger – which we won’t talk about here. And there’s poor Joesph, who many thought to be dead in the first game. Yet, his body was never recovered and he appears in both of Juli Kidman’s DLC. Then there’s conversation in The Evil Within 2, where Juli mentions that Joesph is still alive. Apparently, the two of you are supposed to talk about it at another time. But when exactly?
Here’s to hoping that this isn’t the final chapter of The Evil Within. There’s still so much more than can be and should be explored. Of course, judging by certain events in the game, we’ll at the very least see some DLC in the form of expansions.
That said, as a horror survival fan, I enjoyed the journey. My first playthrough clocked in at 16 hours, with a large amount of that playing and searching. My second, however, took about 14 hours. Though I still managed to miss out on a few items and collectibles.
Now if you excuse, I need to go punish myself by playing the classic mode. Wish me luck!
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The Evil Within 2 does a good job of finishing the original story. Seb gets reunited with his daughter and overcomes his guilt. That said, the game revisits multiple events from the first game. This assumes you've played it and if not, you're left following scraps of content from the game. Outside of the story, the game is quite different from the first. It's a good follow-up, even if the horror takes a back seat to the action. Thankfully the game also addresses the performance issues from the first game and it runs like a champ (if you have the hardware). A solid entry for those new to the survival horror genre. While veterans may be a bit disappointed as the game puts more focus on combat than providing the scares. Still, fans of the first game will eat this up and come back for seconds.