The Evil Within 2 Review

The Evil Within 2 Review

English Title The Evil Within 2
Japanese Title Psycho Break 2
Kana Title サイコブレイク2
Director John Johanas
Release Date 2017
Developer Tango Gameworks
Series The Evil Within
Platforms Playstation 4
PC
Xbox One

Building upon where the previous game left off (or perhaps more confusingly, where the DLC left off) The Evil Within 2 follows Sebastian Castellanos, a gruff, damaged ex detective who hasn’t taken the events of the Beacon disaster too well. Finding solace in drink, Sebastian is visited by Kidman and informed that his wife and daughter are still alive, somewhere within STEM, a nightmarish virtual reality designed to ‘unite humanity’ under one mind. As with the previous game STEM has been hijacked by the mind of a killer, turning the idealistic town of Union in to a gory art show of violence and the macabre. Seb re-enters STEM to find his missing daughter and put an end to the company that has torn his life apart.

Unlike the first Evil Within in which the macro story of Mobius and living inside the mind of a psychopath are kept relatively close to the chest until the game’s final third, the sequel has no choice but to open with Sebastian Castellanos ‘plugging in to the matrix’ as it were. There are positives and negatives to this, but let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

The positives to this are that now that there’s a concrete frame work and explanation for what’s happening in the game there’s mostly a greater sense of consistency. The Evil Within 1 for better or for worse was a ‘greatest hits’ collection of Shinji Mikami’s career and Survival horror history. When the chapters worked, they really worked, but just as often you’d be met with a chapter that really didn’t work with the game’s mechanics or story. Here however these bite sized chunks have mostly become part of a larger whole, except…

The Evil Within 2

The Evil Within®

The Evil Within The Open World

So I’ll just say it. I loved the bulk of the game, but I really don’t like the open world.

Now, here’s the thing. If The Evil Within 1 was a game of 15 parts, its sequel is one of two bigger parts; the open world and the more linear sections of the game. I’m not opposed to an open world when one is implemented properly, but the open world sections are not only at odds with the games mechanics, but also its story and mood.

I’m not going to rant on about this for too long, because I have enough to say for an entire article, but the frame of mind the game wants the player to be in during these chapters (chapter 3 and 7 in particular) is the antithesis of how you’re supposed to act in the rest of the game. Do I say this because it’s an open world? Not really. It’s because it’s an open world tied with a levelling system.

Now, I know the game isn’t truly open. The first environment that you’re set free in is probably only a few times bigger than a single town in Skyrim, but it’s big enough that I’m now distracted from the experience and I’m faced with tasks designed to distract me from the main thrust of the game. Distracting a player from a horror experience? Not exactly something you want to do.

If you bypass that group of six enemies ahead of you that opens chapter three? Well you’re going to pay for it later, because you didn’t get the requisite Exp to level up. And the moment you learn about leveling up? You got it. You’ve made your horror game about systems. Those future scares? They’re now never going to bring the gamer’s mind from schemer mode. “If I can just sneak around and kill all of the enemies and find the side quests to eventually earn 15,000 gel which I can use to unlock predator mode, etc, etc,.” I’m now thinking about systems, not your carefully crafted experience.

Similarly, Union isn’t an interesting world that I want to explore. The manifestations of Sebastian’s mental state within it? Absolutely. But the ‘story’ of this town isn’t interesting, because as the plot dictates, Union is nonexistent.

While the stakes are certainly real, akin to Nightmare on Elm Street or the Matrix (you die here, you die in real life), there’s an abstraction that serves as a road block to the horror. While I emphasize with Seb’s search, the plight of the dilapidated, digital town of Union fails to connect as it does in say, a game like Resident Evil 2. The citizens are certainly dying in Union, but there can never be a true sense of place in an environment that endlessly shifts to the will of the antagonist and protagonist’s psyche and therefore an open world exploration of that world fails to connect. These ransacked bars? They’re not really bars. It’s all an illusion. An illusion in which people are dying, yes, but an illusion nonetheless.

The Evil Within®

The Rest of the Game

Bringing things back round to the positive, thankfully the bulk of the game is still your classic, carefully crafted survival horror experience. And crafted it sure is. Outside of its drab open world chapters, The Evil Within 2 is astonishingly beautiful. Taking advantage of being inside the mind of a psychopath that fancies himself as a bit of an artist, many of the chapters really are akin to walking on the synapses of a killer inside the most world’s most macabre art gallery. I’m not usually one to take endless amounts of screenshots in a game, but with the linear chapters of The Evil Within 2, I really couldn’t help myself.

Unfortunately, due to the open world sections the game isn’t particularly scary as there’s too much room to power yourself up, even on Nightmare mode, but there are certainly some great horror moments. From Stephano using a theater of people to create his ultimate masterpiece to Sebastian’s first meeting with the Camera Obscura enemy each moment is so well directed and staged that these guided chapters never once became dull.

The Evil Within 2 has also removed the controversial ‘cinematic filter’ from the previous game, allowing players to experience the game in full, glorious 16.9 instead of the 2. 50:1 ratio that constantly had me stepping in traps and being shot by unseen assailants in the game’s predecessor. I still lament how zoomed in the camera is and the lack of being able to change which shoulder you’re looking over, but ridding itself of The Evil Within 1’s biggest flaw helps this game in spades.

The Evil Within 2 is still really recommended to any fan of classic survival horror despite what appear to be serious complaints. In truth, the open world sections aren’t terrible in themselves, it’s that they break up a game that would otherwise be much stronger without them.

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Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 40 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
3.5/5

3.5

Average
3.5
Summary

The Evil Within 2 comes recommended to any fan of classic survival horror despite what appear to be serious complaints. In truth, the open world sections while not terrible in themselves, break up a game that would be much stronger without them.