The Evil Within 2 is a bold sequel refining what people loved about the original game while introducing a mini open-world, side quests and a host of new villains and, for the most part, it’s a very successful endeavor!
The story of Evil Within 2 picks up 3 years after the original with Sebastian still haunted by the events that occurred at Beacon Hospital. Desperate for answers, we find our hero at the lowest point in his life drinking at bars and having a recurring nightmare about the death of his daughter, Lilly. As it turns out Lilly isn’t dead and is being used as the core of the new STEM machine from the shadow corporation known as Mobius. They need Sebastian’s help to get Lilly back from within STEM as the world falls into chaos. The story this time is much easier to follow than the original and the stakes are much more personal to Sebastian, giving me a reason to care. However, it’s not perfect. During the first 4 or 5 hours, I was concerned that the story would fall flat due to weak voice acting, poor writing, and a lack of focus on the main plot. Thankfully, over time, the story rapidly picks up in pace and the stakes are raised even further in the second half.
Sebastian has some great emotional moments and character building all leading up to a very satisfying ending that ties up loose ends nicely. Seeing Sebastian still mentally dealing with the events of the last game was a nice touch and giving him his own personal motivations to return makes him instantly more likable despite some of the bad dialogue.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast isn’t very interesting and I’ve already forgotten about most of them with a few exceptions such as returning character Julie Kidman and the main villains who each have their own unique motivations. My personal favorite being Stefano, a flamboyant artist with a passion for creative kills looking to create his ultimate masterpiece, he embraces the cheesier side of the game without taking the player out of the experience.
Graphically not much is going on here. The game doesn’t look as good as it should and in some cases it looks worse than the original. It’s clear that some of the visual fidelity was sacrificed in order to have larger and more complex environments and a lot of the time it’s well worth it. At certain points in the story the main villains are able to twist the world in unique and interesting ways, and every time this happens I stop for a minute to take it in.
Gameplay mostly stays the same as the original with only a few improvements to make it feel better to play. The cover system from the first game’s DLC has returned and unfortunately it can feel a bit clunky. Sometimes I just found myself not really using it, instead just crouching behind the cover to avoid detection. The guns feel a little improved over the original and often pack a serious punch; getting head shots leaves a very satisfying head explosion.
The monsters themselves are similar to what they were before, now called the “lost.” These are your main threat and they can be pretty dumb on the game’s regular difficulty; often they won’t see you or take way too long to react when you’re really close to them. Of course, there are boss fights and some of the earlier ones are rather disappointing, not really challenging at all, and don’t really do anything unique. Later on the boss battles do get better.
The open world, for the most part, works well for the rest of the game. As you move through the small town of Union to get to your objective you will naturally encounter a number of side objectives that can lead into much wider side quests. But these side quests don’t feel tacked on like they would in other games, they feel integral to the experience and do a great job of expanding the world of Evil Within and what’s going on in more subtle and unique ways. Overall, the small scale open world feels very organic.
For fans of the original that aren’t convinced by the open world, don’t worry. A lot of the story sequences will take place in more focused, self-contained levels and these are wonderful. During these sections the environments will shift and play against Sebastian and become an obstacle themselves. The developers do an excellent job of playing with your expectations. You could enter a room and be smoothly transitioned into a completely different environment or for the layout to change once you leave, it was an interesting idea in the first game but the potential wasn’t fully explored. Here, however, it is used to great effect. The best thing is that these aren’t purely exclusive to the main story chapters. A number of side quest will pull these tricks on you. A great deal of work has been put on messing with the players’ expectations.
Despite being a survival horror game, the horror aspect is fairly limited. Only a few times did the game really scare me but when it did the scares were solid, and simply creeping around Union can be pretty intense as you try to figure out where enemy groups are and which bodies won’t jump at you. Thankfully the survival elements are incredible here. Throughout the adventure you’ll have to conserve ammunition and make choices. You can craft ammo at the workbenches using the resources you find or if you are in need of a few more rounds you can actually craft on the go at the cost of spending twice as many resources. A few times I had to make the choice to either push on in hopes of finding a workbench, craft more ammo and waste more resources or backtrack to the last safehouse. Upgrading Sebastian is almost the same as the first game, you get green gel for killing enemies and you can use this resource to upgrade anything from health to stealth and combat abilities. The twist is this time you will need to collect the rarer Red Gel scattered around Union to progress through the skill tree.
Despite some very mixed voice acting the rest of the sound works incredibly well. All the weapon sounds fit their weapons perfectly and feel more impactful. The soundtrack, whilst not entirely memorable, does a fantastic job setting the scene in the more dramatic moments or during some action set pieces.
It took me around 15 hours on my first completion of Evil Within 2 doing most of the side objectives and a decent amount of exploration, and the NG+ mode gives some solid replay value here as well. There’s also an extra hard difficulty setting that removes auto-saves and limits you to only 7 manual saves for the entire adventure.
In the end, Evil Within 2 is a worthy successor to the original and even surpasses it, with the semi open world coming as a surprisingly successful addition to the franchise. For fans of the original this is a must play, and for newcomers there’s plenty to enjoy.
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One