I will be honest and say I wasn’t crying out for The Evil Within 2, but I am so very glad that there is one.
Tango Gameworks have proven that this franchise not only needed a second chance, it also has plenty left to give.
Players will reprise the role of Sebastian Castellanos three years after the events of the first game. He’s grief-stricken over the loss of his family, affected by the nightmares and horrors of Beacon which still distort his view of reality. However, his life seems set to change when he’s approached by his ex-partner – now part of Mobius – claiming Sebastian’s daughter is still alive. They know this because they’re the ones who faked her death!
Cue Sebastian having to work for the “enemy” to find his daughter in the creepy town of Union. He’s also been roped in to do them a favour and find their missing research units. Throw in a load of horrific creatures and a mysterious killer who seems to have ties to the former detective and The Evil Within 2 really starts to take shape.
And that’s one of the marked improvements over the original. Shinji Mikami and co haven’t just created the most deranged, vulgar entities possible for jump scares and iconic villainy. This time, there’s a well-paced story here with layers and intricacies. They’ve even made room for character development with a tight script.
The Evil Within 2 feels like a more mature, older sibling to the original. It’s not trying to scare you needlessly to get a reaction. Instead, this is a smarter horror that wants to get under your skin and stay in your thoughts for weeks after.
This also bleeds into the games’ semi-open world, another distinct evolution from its predecessor. The original worked on a scene-to-scene basis, sewing them together with one cut-scene after the next. This time, most interactions are handled using the in-game engine and include dialogue trees and QTEs. It ensures the action is always flowing in TWE 2, more often than not, so that the pacing doesn’t go off the boil.
Sebastian’s detective office is used as a base to gather clues about the investigation, as well as store collectibles found through your playthrough, watch slideshows which peel back the layers of his character, perform cranial upgrades, and craft weapons. There’s even a shooting gallery! Players can access the hub by peering into a mirror found in one of the games’ many safe houses, always welcomed back by the cutest kitty you ever did see. Seriously, it’s got a little red bow and everything.
Which is something TWE 2 does so well. It unsettles you. Every time you turn a corner, you’re expecting to be scared. You’re half preparing yourself for some terrifying abomination to scream ‘boo’ or twisted imagery that hints at a much darker purpose. But instead you’re often roaming from house to house, shooting lots of zombie like creatures, picking up raw materials and crafting bullets and medi-packs. You’re looting corpses and helping people escape from near-death situations. You’re talking to other human characters, normalizing the callous structures and shattered landscapes around you. The Evil Within 2 always seems to catch you off guard, then, out of nowhere, you’re reminded of the game you think you should be playing.
Put it this way, The Evil Within 2 is more The Last of Us than it is its predecessor, but that’s not a bad thing with the crafting tables and survival horror elements. Tango Gameworks have clearly learned that you can still make your audiences feel physically sick and scare the pants off them, but you can do it in a way that’s both entertaining and meaningful. Everything you collect can be used for something, even the gel that drops from the monsters you kill. Because if you collect enough of that you can build your attributes up in Nurse Tatiana’s electric chair – which remains as disturbing now as it did in the original.
Yes, you get to run around with shotguns, pistols and sniper rifles, but the game is also unafraid to completely strip those away from you on a whim, leaving you with nothing but a knife to defend yourself. From the word go, The Evil Within 2 defies expectation, refusing to let its player-base get complacent and comfortable. As you progress from chapter to chapter, the game is able to stay fresh through these sudden, dramatic changes in gameplay, and unexpected shifts in scenario. Yet, the mechanics always remain consistent, fluid and responsive, and the narrative is able to keep pace most of the time.
Occasionally, the game does slip up on itself, with some slight padding and frustrating backtracking. I also found some of the voice acting missed the mark, especially in scenes which should feel quite emotional. But these are minor blips in an otherwise thoroughly compelling experience that’s just chock-full of references. Seriously, the first few hours has nods to everything from Twin Peaks to Metal Gear, and even a cheeky one to Resident Evil 7. It’s quite something!
I went in with mixed expectations, but The Evil Within 2 kept me glued to the screen from the very first chapter. If you’re a horror fan looking for a comparison, I feel like Res 7 just pips it for atmosphere and creativity – especially with the VR support – but TWE 2 is a solid and serious thriller with a story that can punch you right in the soul.
Perhaps the highest praise I can give The Evil Within 2 is that I want to see a third game, a feeling that was far from my mind while ploughing through the first. With The Evil Within 2, Tango Gameworks won me over. They even left me wanting more.
+ Much improved storytelling
+ Lots of variety and exploration opportunities
+ Good upgrade options and customisation possibilities
+ Atmospheric and immersive
– Camera issues sometimes distort view completely
– Some voice acting is a tad underwhelming and weak
– Slight narrative pacing issues
The Evil Within 2
8.5 out of 10
Tested on PC