The Evil Within 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 25.10.2017 1

Review for The Evil Within 2 on PlayStation 4

When The Evil Within released back in 2014, it received plenty of praise for reviving some of the fundamentals of the survival horror genre that had been seldom seen since the likes of Resident Evil 4, some generations ago. With that franchise's co-creator, Shinji Mikami, at the helm of the project (and of Tango Gameworks itself), it's easy to see how it helped to fill a void, in the absence of a new Silent Hill, and with Resident Evil 5 and 6 foraying more towards action over traditional elements. The original instalment was atmospheric, scary and gripping, despite there also being a sense of familiarity to it, since mechanically, it treads very similar territory to Resident Evil 4. Perhaps it was even a little too evocative of previous generations, with quite cheesy dialogue and a convoluted storyline. Fast forward to the The Evil Within 2 - some things never change, but other things do.

For one thing, the story of The Evil Within 2 is just as convoluted and weird as before, although it does explore a lot of interesting topics and themes in interesting, but ultimately only promising, ways. Moreover, the protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, is every bit as dull and odd in his reactions as before, which new players can't help but pick up on immediately. In this sense, there's clearly been no tempering down of the illogical features, which people were very much used to back in the days of the PS2 and GameCube, but not now. Back then, there was more suspension of belief going on generally, in order to engross oneself in a game. These days, however, especially when a title is cinematic and reliant on atmosphere and storytelling, it's fair to say that most gamers expect more polish and finesse from such experiences. What must be commended about The Evil Within 2 straight away, though, is that it disregards these concerns, to its long term advantage, making that self-assessment confidently to deliver a survival horror game that really works the player into a state through its gameplay fundamentals - although that, too, signals a missed opportunity, of sorts, which will be unpacked.

Screenshot for The Evil Within 2 on PlayStation 4

First, however, what must be commended about The Evil Within 2 is how well it self-assesses the really important elements in the series, despite changing a set of values by the players of this generation. Tango Gameworks has made the right choices in terms of tweaks to the gameplay formula, introducing several open world areas that players can free roam, to locate loot and pursue secondary tactics, which is imperative as a way of opening up the skill tree and making progress. Crucially, these upgrades, and the gear Sebastian can craft, only ever feel like a leveller, giving you a better chance of survival against the extensive range of enemies hiding around every corner. For this reason, particularly in the first portions of exploring Union, players will be much more inclined to stealth their way around.

Although some of these elements feel cherry picked from a range of other titles invested in these mechanics (such as The Last of Us and Tomb Raider), the game is careful not to become entirely disassociated from linearity and traditional mechanics, playing more with claustrophobia, paranoia and fear in the second portion. In other words, it's still using the fundamental survival-horror toolset.

Screenshot for The Evil Within 2 on PlayStation 4

While (by design) not every hideous looking creature encountered will be particularly scare-inducing, the impressive and unpredictable AI behaviour certainly will stoke up a fire of fear. In fact, their intelligence and ferocity is the lasting memory retained from the twenty-hour experience, the horror of back-pedalling into a corner with one last bullet to your name, praying that your aim is true and that death can be cheated this time round. Unlike other similar survival horror games, there's no such pattern to enemies or bosses, and that breeds a sense of comfort the more you play. In fact, a lot of the larger enemies don't provide much of a hint of hit detection, either in the way of an audio cue or flinching, even from headshots, which further amplifies the sense of doom, even though it's not always realistic.

In this way, The Evil Within 2 seems to revel in peculiarly retrograde notions of what to expect from a survival horror game. As previously touched upon, the general dialogue really is a bit flat, and even cringe-worthy at times, particularly Sebastian's laboured exclamations to everything that's supposed to scare him or incite questions. Even the main plot - that Sebastian is told his daughter Lilly is still alive, providing the incentive to re-enter the STEM, and go into the town of Union - is thrown in the player's face in an altogether too blatant fashion. Although there are some resonations and evocative themes within this plot, they are not carried so well by the feckless protagonist, nor by the fragmented way the narrative is delivered. It certainly doesn't make perfect sense, and a lot of it ends up like pointless filler, when the mood and atmosphere is already self sufficient. This is a shame, since you end up investing in the story, anyway, because of the number of cut-scenes and pauses for exposition, and the amount of times you will die trying to complete it.

Screenshot for The Evil Within 2 on PlayStation 4

At least the brutality of the gameplay and its general fear factor is maintained well throughout, despite some quite interesting shifts in expectation and tone. A lot of this is simply down to how impressive, and therefore spooky, the visuals are, with particularly impressive use of darkness and lighting. Arguably, however, despite many atmospheric scenes and sequences, the first portion of The Evil Within 2 is arbitrary build up to the far superior second half - in gameplay terms, as well as story. It flows at a much more consistent pace, and while it's more scripted, without a doubt, it provides the most exhilarating moments. That said, the experimentation and freer licence has an emphasis that shows itself earlier, leads to a more contrasting variety of experience and, despite its difficulty, doesn't feel over extended. Arriving back at a safe house, having been out using the communicator to seek out resources, and only narrowly avoiding a mob of zombies, provides a different type of survivor's relief, especially as Union is such an atmospheric, well-designed environment, which begs to be explored, despite the likelihood of danger afoot.

Screenshot for The Evil Within 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The real issue with The Evil Within 2 is that it has tried to marry too many foreign gameplay elements to the genre, whilst not addressing a lot of technical annoyances that, if remedied, would have provided enough refreshment to the third-person horror experience alone. Whereas Resident Evil 7 shifted the perspective into first-person, and re-discovered its core emphasis - much to its advantage - The Evil Within 2 has expanded mechanically without really acting on the criticism of the first game. The controls are sluggish, the camera doesn't react fast enough, and it has the habit of limiting player perspective in an obnoxious way. Even though this experience is quite different to the original, and far more compelling and successful, it's disappointing that the abstract mind games it pulls couldn't be left to speak for themselves. All the same, this is a solid survival horror title, although in the end it borrows just a bit too much from Resident Evil 4.

Developer

Tango Gameworks

Publisher

Bethesda Softworks

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

i found this to be the most generic and bland, nonscary horror game i played since the first game.

the first game has a ton of technical issues, but it had more personality than this. it was also alot more challenging. this was so easy on nightmare.

this was so dull and lifeless. uninspired.

4/10 game

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