The evil within 2

Throws a bucket of guts at the wall, and most of it sticks

Games Master - - Contents -

Ap­par­ently if you link a bunch of brains to­gether, all you get is a big gory night­mare. Peo­ple are weird.

“We’re con­stantly, and pleas­antly, sur­prised by the di­rec­tions the game takes”

Like an overex­cited chef with a twisted mind, be­fore you’ve had a chance to fin­ish your first serv­ing of hor­ror Tango Game­works whisks your plate away, re­plac­ing it with an­other, gorier course – and then an­other a minute later. And while its nar­ra­tive isn’t quite strong enough to tie all of that to­gether neatly, most of what it serves up tastes damned good. (Just don’t ask what kind of meat you’re eat­ing.) The first game’s hero, Se­bas­tian Castel­lanos, is forced back into ac­tion when he dis­cov­ers his daugh­ter Lily — who he thought died in a fire years be­fore — is alive. A shady or­gan­i­sa­tion called Mo­bius faked her death and is us­ing her mind to power STEM, a ma­chine that al­lows peo­ple to plug into a night­mare-scape. But Lily has gone miss­ing in­side the vir­tual world, and it’s fall­ing apart as a re­sult. Mo­bius needs Se­bas­tian to go and find her so it can sal­vage STEM, and for Se­bas­tian it’s a chance to save his daugh­ter.

You fol­low the trail of bread­crumbs Lily leaves be­hind, shoot­ing, stab­bing, and sneak­ing past the cor­rupted cit­i­zens of this for­merly idyl­lic world and bat­tling bosses at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. It’s struc­tured as a few small open-world hubs con­nected by more scripted se­quences. In the open-world bits you can charge after the next bread­crumb or take on side quests, which will re­ward you with ammo, health kits, and craft­ing ma­te­ri­als. Re­sources are tight, so it’s worth step­ping off the main path. Ex­plor­ing side ar­eas will re­veal unique sto­ries, too; at one point we sneak through an aban­doned hos­pi­tal wing past a gig­gling ghost that can pass through walls.

The spice of strife

Away from the hubs the game never lets you sit still, throw­ing all man­ner of me­chan­ics, en­vi­ron­ments, and boss fights your way. We fight flam­ing en­e­mies in cat­a­combs, solve a puz­zle by putting a neck­lace on a man­nequin, dodge laser beams so that we can slash works of art with our knife, and de­feat a boss that tele­ports around the map and takes pho­tos that freeze us in slow mo­tion. There’s far too much to de­scribe it all here, but we’re con­stantly, and pleas­antly, sur­prised by the di­rec­tions the game takes. Most of the set­tings look fan­tas­tic, too — while the graph­ics are noth­ing special tech­ni­cally, each area has a unique, con­sis­tent style.

Given all this va­ri­ety you might think The Evil Within 2 is more of an

ac­tion-ad­ven­ture game than a hor­ror ti­tle, and we’re tempted to agree. Yes, there are slower, at­mo­spheric seg­ments, and some of the dingy cor­ri­dors and pierc­ing screams gen­uinely make the hairs on the back of our neck stand up. But most of the time we aren’t dread­ing round­ing the next cor­ner, we ac­tively want to take a peek just to see what the game will throw at us next.

None of the scripted seg­ments would work if the com­bat was bad, but it holds up well. En­emy AI is ba­sic (your foes will re­tread the same routes over and over), but good enough to make sneak­ing up and stab­bing them in the back fun. When it all goes wrong you’ve got an ar­se­nal that con­tin­u­ously ex­pands, from a pis­tol to our favourite, a cross­bow. There are nu­mer­ous types of bolts to fire: one elec­tri­fies pud­dles of wa­ter and fraz­zles en­e­mies, while the smoke bolt gets us out of count­less sticky sit­u­a­tions.

The over-the-shoul­der shoot­ing feels sat­is­fy­ing, es­pe­cially when you hit an en­emy’s weak spot. The Lost, the main en­emy type (think zom­bies that can sprint), will go down in two head­shots — the first splits open their skull to re­veal flail­ing ten­drils, the sec­ond turns ev­ery­thing above their neck into a red mist. The weapon va­ri­ety means you’re never short of op­tions, and you can use the en­vi­ron­ment, for ex­am­ple kick­ing over petrol bar­rels and shoot­ing the oil that drips out. The com­bat’s only weak when en­e­mies are up close: be­cause of the way the cam­era works it’s nigh-im­pos­si­ble to hit any­thing that’s right up in your face, even if the aim­ing retic­ule is point­ing be­tween their eyes. It feels un­fair when you die be­cause of it.

And you will be dy­ing a lot in The Evil Within 2, be­cause it’s fiendishly dif­fi­cult. The cam­era is de­lib­er­ately slow to swivel, and reload times are long. The imag­i­na­tive bosses (fight­ing the masked flamethrower was a par­tic­u­lar high­light) hit hard and of­fer a real chal­lenge, even when you’re do­ing ex­actly what the game wants you to do. We only beat a buz­z­saw-wield­ing corpse amal­gam be­cause of the con­ve­nient trip­wires set up nearby, and even then it takes us seven goes. Bosses high­light just how gory the game is, too. In one, a sham­bling mon­ster made of corpses will grab you and vomit green goo into your mouth un­til you go limp. In an­other, Se­bas­tian is pinned down by a spiky-limbed foe and stabbed re­peat­edly in the head.

So, you’ve got tough boss bat­tles, im­pres­sive en­vi­ron­ments and solid com­bat. What ties it to­gether? Two strands just about man­age to keep things co­her­ent: one, Se­bas­tian’s quest to find his daugh­ter, and two, an in­ter­nal power strug­gle be­tween Mo­bius op­er­a­tives for con­trol of STEM. We never be­come fully in­vested in the Mo­bius part, though, which is essen­tially a pa­rade of vaguely in­ter­est­ing bad guys.

Daddy is­sues

Se­bas­tian’s search for Lily is far more re­lat­able, but again only half draws you in. A par­ent’s search for their child is a re­fresh­ingly sim­ple story thread that pro­vides an ex­cuse to keep the game rum­bling for­ward, but we see too lit­tle of past in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Se­bas­tian and his daugh­ter to re­ally care. And it doesn’t help that the writ­ing is pre­dictable and voice act­ing laboured, land­ing half­way be­tween ul­tra-se­ri­ous and B-movie bad.

The pac­ing, too, is a lit­tle off. We like how the game eases you in with an open-world sec­tion be­fore throw­ing you into the ac­tion. But to­wards the end of the game we’re los­ing in­ter­est, partly be­cause of the story, partly be­cause it sim­ply be­comes a se­ries of boss bat­tles. We would’ve liked to have seen some of the mid-game va­ri­ety nearer the fi­nale.

How­ever, over­all The Evil Within 2 im­pressed us. None of its in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments are spec­tac­u­lar, but its core sys­tems are solid, and we’re con­stantly left won­der­ing which en­vi­ron­ment the game will show us next. Fans of the first game should tuck in, as should any­one who is look­ing for a more ac­tion-packed route into the sur­vival hor­ror genre (and can stom­ach the sight of a par­tially opened skull).

The bosses are grotesque. This one chases you, grabs you with one hand, and bi­sects you with a cir­cu­lar saw.

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