Why The Evil Within 2 isn’t suited to being the outdoor type
The Evil Within 2’ s third chapter is where it begins to stretch its legs, with the first of three large outdoor maps welcoming you to Union – or what’s left of it. It’s not an open world in the strictest sense, since the fractures in its foundations force you to head underground to the Marrow, a network of tunnels that connect these disparate areas. But it still feels like an open-world game, since it rehashes a number of ideas from other thirdperson sandboxes. Not all are unwelcome, but the game is at its weakest whenever it ventures outside, these spaces proving an awkward fit for survival-horror systems.
The idea is to scavenge for supplies while tackling side missions along the way. Pulling out your handheld communicator reveals distant signals, which you’ll need to face to tune into their frequency. Then it’s a case of pulling up your mini-map, marking your destination and making your way there while avoiding the attentions of marauding mutants. You can take them on, of course, but since one of the reasons to explore further is to gather resources so you can stockpile them for trickier encounters, you don’t want to waste too much ammo.
For the most part, stealth is the way to go, then. While enemies are short-sighted, you still need to give them a fairly wide berth, since their awkward, jerky movements can be hard to read, and there’s always the possibility of them turning your way at any given time. Since the cover system is so capricious, you’ll often find yourself heading for the many convenient patches of long grass, wherein Sebastian becomes a glowing silhouette to let you know he’s hidden. Yet the foliage limits your view to such a degree that it’s hard to see what’s on the other side. And though enemies are stupid, once they’ve caught sight of you they’re irritatingly persistent: you can’t expect to simply retreat into the vegetation and hope they give up the ghost.
Sometimes it’s easier just to let yourself be killed rather than carrying on. A mutant’s growl is likely to attract others to your position, and the whole thing turns into a farce as you end up trailing a conga line of enemies. Castellanos might not be as hopelessly unfit as he was in the first game, but he can’t sprint for long, and so any distance you put between you and your pursuers will be closed once his stamina gauge has emptied. The whole thing ends up feeling silly, and any tension quickly evaporates.
At times you’ve no choice but to engage, but dealing with a group of enemies can essentially leave you back at square one, the last 20 minutes of foraging yielding resources you spend in two minutes of combat. If you can corral several into a tight cluster, you can kick over an oil barrel and set it alight with a pistol shot, or electrify puddles with bolts from your crossbow. But that’s a big if – though they’re dumb enough to be distracted by a thrown bottle, their erratic movement rarely means they’re exactly where you want them.
It’s not as if wandering off the beaten track is really optional. During one boss fight, we run around for 10 minutes gathering handgun rounds as they sporadically spawn, since our shotgun is next to useless on an opponent capable of one-hit melee kills if we get too close. Reloading an earlier save, we find a sniper rifle outside that makes the ensuing encounter laughably easy. So much for balance.
It’s telling that the best rewards for exploring are the optional set-pieces that occur when you enter a building. One, involving a haunted jukebox and an unexpected return to Castellanos’ past, is a creepy standout, but the tedious tracking missions where you follow the traces of Castellanos’ daughter Lily are more typical of the objectives you can expect. When you’re more focused on marking waypoints or locking onto targets rather than worrying about what’s around the next corner, you’re no longer playing a horror game.
This all-seeing eye has thick tendrils that slam down into Union’s streets, dropping larger opponents that are best avoided