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The Evil Within 2 Review

The survival horror genre has seen all manner of variations in the last decade while developers try and find the magic spot where their games are still desired by the masses. The most common route taken has been to turn up the action knob. The Evil Within showed up on the scene with some of that same cranked up action, but at least attempted to keep the feel of a horror game. While it provided moments of good atmosphere, the story wasn’t delivered very well and the last third of the game was almost comical. The controls weren’t exactly a shining example of responsiveness either, and so while it seemed to still go over well enough with some it most definitely left much room for improvement. Now we have The Evil Within 2 hitting shelves hot on the tail of some reasonable hype post E3 2017 having built up a respectable audience with the first title and so now we get to discover how many lessons were learned since the series’ debut.

The game kicks off two years after the end of The Evil Within. Sebastian has spiraled further into a roughed up, alcohol fueled man on a mission following the events at the hospital. In his search for his ex-partner Kidman, she ends up finding him first and has one hell of a plot twist to drop on him. Long story short, the corporation behind the madness of the first game needs Sebastian’s help, and there’s more than enough incentive for him to take them up on the request. Needless to say, things are worse than they thought, and Sebastian is the one to discover it all. Now it’s up to you to unravel the madness, and get home in one piece. In the interest of trying to avoid too many spoilers, we’ll just say he’s not the only one he wants to escape alive.

The very first thing I noticed when I pressed the go button was that while the game ran infinitely smoother than the first, the controls with a gamepad were still awful. There’s no option for scoped sensitivity separate from general sensitivity and so you’re up against turning quickly and aiming more accurately. What’s worse is the games analog acceleration which when coupled with the games base reticle sway before upgrading makes for one hell of a time landing shots consistently. After about 8 hours of play I switched to keyboard and mouse and immediately saw dramatically improved results. It’s not uncommon for keyboard and mouse to best a gamepad to be certain, but the analog acceleration really makes The Evil Within 2 more difficult than it needs to be. Also, while I can’t say for certain, it felt like the base movement speed had been slowed down compared to The Evil Within. The result is that until you upgrade your crouch walking speed you feel like you are perpetually moving through molasses. While the game plays better than the first entry in the series, it still carries the burden of the horror game genre’s tendency to have less than ideal controls.

The combat itself is actually quite good when all the moving parts come together. Weapons are generally satisfying to use, and there’s a number of environmental combinations available to you that can get you through without expending so much precious ammunition. Perhaps the highlight of the combat is the enemy movement animations and patterns. The bobbing, weaving, and charging is so well mixed it’s rare to not get caught off guard at least once in a while.

The next thing that grabbed my attention was just how unabashedly it borrows from various sources. The game world is almost exactly The Matrix, with similar goals and reasoning behind its creation. They created an over world that mimics Silent Hill with enemies that borrow even more heavily than before. The combat was further shifted to match The Last of Us, and one of the villains is almost a dead ringer for G-Man from Half Life. It’s not exactly like video games aren’t largely derivative but they tend to at least do a reasonable job of making it their own most of the time. The Evil Within 2 comes across as a paint by numbers showcase of movie and game pop culture with almost no originality. This kind of laziness is headlined by the recycling of high profile enemies from the first game instead of new boss encounters. That doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, because it does have its moments, but it definitely didn’t help the ever-important immersion that the horror genre leans on.

There is absolutely a decent story that’s threaded between The Evil Within 1 and 2, but unfortunately not much was learned when moving on to the sequel regarding delivering that story in an impactful or even competent way. The aforementioned over world isn’t used to any effect, and the scant side quests that are scattered around the map limp along without fleshing out characters or the story itself. There are rewards to completing them but they aren’t particularly life changing and so it all just kind of feels like it’s there for the sake of being there. These vague feelings permeate the experience in a way that’s hard to describe. There was a segment that spanned three chapters that I realized I didn’t even know what happened between those two points. It doesn’t help that the writing is barely mediocre, and the character animations in conversations are comically bad. I found myself spending a lot of time just trying to pay honest attention whenever a character was talking.

Perhaps the most important thing for any horror game is that it scares you in some way. There are all manner of ways in which they can accomplish this but a good horror game needs to be able to scare you. The Evil Within 2, in my opinion, doesn’t get the job done. It seems as though there was a want for the game to be both a thriller and also a horror. In the midst of attempting to do both of these things it ends up doing neither any justice and instead ends up making it feel like a 3rd person shooter with spooky enemy designs. I would hazard a guess that unless you have a particularly weak constitution, or are highly susceptible to even poor jump scare tactics, The Evil Within 2 will fail to scare most players at all.

Visually speaking, The Evil Within 2 is a great looking game. There are some odd textures, specifically when it comes to liquids, and dialogue animations are often questionable but it’s certainly not an ugly game. As of this review it seems while the Xbox version has some issues, the PS4 version is a mostly smooth experience. Some people reported issues with the PC version but I didn’t have any major problems. The sound effects are really fantastic, providing a gruesome auditory experience and while the soundtrack is mostly forgettable it has its moments. In general, it’s an across the board audiovisual improvement from the first game, especially on the PC where the first was a porting disaster.

The Evil Within 2 is an interesting game, though perhaps not for the reasons you’d hope. It’s interesting in that it manages to be so middling that it’s an almost forgettable experience while also not being the worst game you’re likely to play this year. There’s no doubt that it’s a technical improvement over the series’ debut, but unfortunately it loses what little atmosphere and horror the first game had and replaces it with a muddied mix of horror and thriller that accomplishes neither well.

So, who then is The Evil Within 2 for? Honestly, I can’t recommend the game to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the first game. It’s not likely going to scratch the itch of horror fans, nor those fans of the thriller genre. Its combat while mostly satisfying isn’t enough to carry the full AAA price tag, and this isn’t a title to be sold on its audiovisual elements alone either. If you have played the first game and greatly enjoyed it then feel free to pick up the sequel. For everyone else I would suggest you keep The Evil Within 2 at an arm’s length, and keep your cash within your wallet.

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Adam Morehouse

Adam Morehouse

I play games and write stuff about them! Blessed with an amazing online community for many years now. One half of the LAGTV duo.
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