The Evil Within 2 Review

By
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gaming:
Todd Rigney

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3.5
On October 15, 2017
Last modified:October 20, 2017

Summary:

When compared to other games in the horror genre, The Evil Within 2 seems a few steps behind its contemporaries, both in terms of storytelling and execution. However, what it lacks in genuine scares and creepiness it makes up for in atmosphere and gore, especially during the final chapters.

I arrived at Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within about two years after its release, having grown tired of survival horror and the staleness of the genre as a whole. However, when I finally settled in for a playthrough, I couldn’t let it go. Roughly fifteen hours later, I’d guided embattled hero Detective Sebastian Castellanos through a series of terrifying encounters and remarkably freaky scenarios inside one of the most hellish mental hospitals in video game history. It was a grueling experience, complete with sweaty hands and muffled screams, but it reminded me of why, exactly, I’d spent so much time with Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and their ilk over the years.

Naturally, I had high expectations for The Evil Within 2, especially considering the team responsible for the first outing — writer and Troma vet Trent Haaga, in particular — was returning for yet another horrifying go-around. Thankfully, the game didn’t disappoint in the blood and violence department, but it’s essentially just more of the same. Depending on how you felt about the first installment, your mileage with the follow-up will likely vary.

Three years after the original, fans are finally able to guide Castellanos through another surreal, gore-choked adventure. Following the events of the first game, the scruffy detective spends most of his time in seedy bars, reliving the moment when a house fire tragically claimed the life of his daughter. Just when he thinks his pitiful existence can’t get much worse, a face from the past gives him a bit of good news: His daughter is, in fact, very much alive, though she’s currently under the nefarious supervision of Mobius and used to power one of the company’s STEM machines. Unfortunately for Castellanos, his daughter has mysteriously disappeared, and the underhanded folks at Mobius want him to venture into the machine and locate her whereabouts in the small town of Union, which has unexpectedly transformed into a waking nightmare for the poor, unsuspecting folks trapped inside.

To make matters worse, Castellanos must also contend with a deranged killer who wants to turn Union into a gallery for his collection of bloody artwork. Granted with powers beyond our hero’s comprehension, the psychopath with a penchant for macabre photography stalks the understandably freaked out residents of Union, capturing their eviscerations in a way that allows their untimely demises to play out in perpetual, gore-soaked loops. In some levels, the killer’s photography and artwork are on full display, adding to the game’s already gloomy atmosphere. He also has the ability to summon an assortment of otherworldly creatures, which he doesn’t hesitate to do on several tense occasions.

Thankfully, you’ll have plenty of ways to dispatch Union’s unsightly residents, thanks to The Evil Within 2’s enjoyably nasty combat system. Although our hero starts out a little weak at the beginning of the game — after all, he has apparently spent a lot of time gazing at the bottom of a bottle of booze — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to upgrade his abilities by eviscerating the never-ending army of uglies you’ll encounter during the game. Although Castellanos’s trusty crossbow is good for setting traps, solving puzzles, and occasionally electrocuting large groups of baddies, it’s the shotgun that a packs a satisfying punch. Think Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado and you’ll have an idea of the kind of impact this bad boy makes. Heads pop, bodies fly backward, mobs of monsters hit the dirt — it’s weirdly satisfying, and I effectively dumped nearly all of my weapon parts into the shotgun to ensure that it continued to do an incredible amount of damage throughout the campaign.

Weapons aren’t the only things you’ll be able to upgrade during your time in Union, though. The good detective himself needs a little tender, loving care, especially considering the past few years haven’t done him any favors. Although he still looks like a certified tough guy and packs a decent punch, he’s definitely a little out of shape, thanks to an abundance of psychological scarring and a prescription of cheap alcohol. Thankfully, weirdly alluring nurse Tatiana is there to lend a helping hand, using the mysterious green gel Castellanos collects from fallen enemies and dead Union residents to upgrade his abilities. Before long, you’ll have the disgraced detective back in tip-top shape, although he still runs like an octogenarian with a serious breathing problem. Regardless, he’s still a lot of fun, despite his propensity for ham-fisted dialogue and the occasional bouts of unchecked whining.

Naturally, since this is a survival horror game, you’ll need to make sure that every bullet counts; trigger-happiness will only get you killed, as ammunition and crafting ingredients are in decidedly short supply. And while there is a very forgiving stealth mechanic for those who prefer to creep up on their foes for a silent kill, if you play your cards right, you’ll really never find yourself in a position where you’re engaging in a boss battle without the necessary weaponry. Of course, upgrading your stealth kills is fun — unlocking the ability to murder folks around corners is particularly useful — but The Evil Within 2’s focus on combat means you might want to invest in boosting your health or upgrading the steadiness of your reticule when you’ve collected enough green goop to do so.

While all of these elements add up to a pretty enjoyable experience, The Evil Within 2 isn’t without its fair share of problems. Union, for starters, isn’t the most enjoyable place to explore; it’s essentially the town from Silent Hill 2 without the moody fog and eerie soundtrack. And while there are a few places to poke around, there’s really not a lot to do in Union, with the exception of locating a few Mobius operative corpses and investigating the few buildings that aren’t hardwired to the main plot. After trying a number of different doors to no avail, I realized that Union is essentially a big missed opportunity, as it would have been nice to search through houses, stores, and what-not for the additional jolt of adrenaline when you wanted to kill some time in-between story missions. Those opportunities do exist, mind you, but they’re in very short supply. To keep things lively, the map occasionally repopulates with enemies, but the developers never truly take advantage of Union’s empty streets.

Considering the central storyline doesn’t have a lot going for it, a few more side missions may have helped flesh out Union, its inhabitants, and the people who were charged with keeping the peace. As it stands, all of the characters are fairly one-dimensional and ultimately forgettable, though it doesn’t seem The Evil Within 2 takes itself or the plot very seriously. Castellanos utters variations of “What the hell?” more times than I can count, and he often comes across like a Bruce Campbell/Bruce Willis hybrid who knows just how ridiculous and frequently corny the tale becomes during certain sequences. He’s your typical 80s macho Hollywood action hero, a man on a mission to save his daughter against insurmountable odds. And if he has to mow down dozens of mutated human beings, multi-headed giggling monsters, and a creature with an old-school camera for a head in the process, he’ll do it without batting an eye. It’s goofy, over-the-top B-movie fare through and through.

When compared to other games in the horror genre, The Evil Within 2 seems a few steps behind its contemporaries, both in terms of storytelling and execution. However, what it lacks in genuine scares and creepiness it makes up for in atmosphere and gore, especially during the final chapters featuring the intimidating Father Theodore. Fans will no doubt enjoy how developer Tango Gameworks improves and builds upon the elements found in the first installment, especially when it comes to taking down the world’s hideous inhabitants.

That said, The Evil Within 2 seems dated when compared to Outlast 2, Resident Evil 7, and Alien: Isolation, as those games have taken the survival horror genre to lofty new heights. As it stands, Detective Castellanos’ latest adventure delivers plenty of visceral, action-packed bang for its buck, even though you can probably find better scares elsewhere.

This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided by Bethesda.

The Evil Within 2 Review
Good

When compared to other games in the horror genre, The Evil Within 2 seems a few steps behind its contemporaries, both in terms of storytelling and execution. However, what it lacks in genuine scares and creepiness it makes up for in atmosphere and gore, especially during the final chapters.

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