The sounds of moans, groans, and screams fill the dark, monster-infested city of Union. Controlling Sebastian Catellanos, I slowly creep through the streets, passing vacant storefronts and piles of rotting corpses on my way to investigate a point of interest I picked up on my communicator. Doing my best to stay out of site and avoid confrontation, I see a group of Lost sprint across the street toward a gate, open it, and proceed to make a beeline to a bus.
“Help! Someone please help!” a panicking MOBIUS agent screams as he’s swarmed by a mob of hideous freaks; their skin bubbling and melting as they swing and claw at him. Thankful to hear the sound of a human voice, I sprint towards the agent without hesitation. I sneak up behind one of the ravenous freaks and drive my knife into the back of its skull, alerting the rest of the horde. Covered in blood and underequipped, I run around the parking lot, desperately knocking over oil barrels and collecting ammunition.
I bait a group into an oil slick and shoot off a handgun round, igniting a fire that burns them to a crisp. Then I switch to my shotgun and explode the head of poor sucker as the MOBIUS agent handles the last creep on his own. Before I can collect myself, another horde rushes towards us. I find a hand axe on the ground and use it to split the ugly cranium of one Lost, and then empty a few handgun bullets into another. Completely out of ammo, I scramble around the area to look for crafting supplies. Thinking quick on my feet, I open my portable crafting tool and use the items I collected to whip up enough bullets to fend off the last of the mutated monsters.
After a long, hard, and tense battle, the MOBIUS agent thanks me and introduces himself as Julian Sykes. From there, he brings me to a safehouse and briefs me on a job he needs me to do. Naturally, I accept and complete it for him. The reward for my hard work: A silenced handgun, which ends up being extremely handy down the road. So in the end, my decision to sacrifice my limited ammo to save the agent in distress positively affected my experience with the rest of the game.
These are the types of moments that truly separate The Evil Within 2 from its predecessor and most other survival horror games. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored the first installment, and I expressed that in a glowing review I wrote, but it was much more linear than its improved successor. What I appreciate most about The Evil Within 2 is its sandbox style, allowing you to explore the city of Union piece by piece and uncover the mysteries buried inside of it. From investigating resonances picked up from your communication device to scavenging through a Lost-filled scrapyard for supplies, there is much more to do in this game than I expected going into it.
While The Evil Within 2 offers sandbox-style exploration, it is still a survival horror game at its core. That means that ammo is limited and you’re extremely vulnerable. When you come across an abandoned building that looks chock full of useful supplies, you better be ready to sneak your way through or make sure you’re adequately equipped for a fight. More often than not, you won’t regret your decision to scour through the entirety of a location because the game does a great job rewarding you for exploring.
Additionally, weapon upgrades and crafting add another level of depth to The Evil Within 2. Both systems are simple and easy to understand, and also prove to be necessary for your success. For instance, since handgun ammo is more abundant than other types, I dedicated most of my weapon parts to upgrading my pistol. By the end of the game, I was wielding a hand cannon that could blast a hostile’s head off with one well-placed shot.
Likewise, since ammo and medical supplies are scarce, the crafting system comes in handy. I especially like the portable crafting option which allows you to create items on the go instead of confining the mechanic to a workbench. On too many occasions, I had to rely on scavenging for supplies mid fight so I could craft enough medical syringes and bullets to survive. Without a doubt in my mind, this feature saved me from many deaths and moments of frustration, and I am grateful for that.
Although the combat is no different than the first, I appreciate the amount of weaponry Sebastian has at his disposal, particularly the Warden’s Crossbow. This beautiful death machine is essentially the same thing as the Agony Crossbow from the first game, allowing you to fire off a variety of specialty bolts that shock, explode, freeze, and impale your enemies. Additionally, there is a flamethrower that lets you burn groups of Losts to a crisp, multiple types of shotguns you can use to explode their heads, and a sniper rifle that allows you to pick them off from a distance. Quiet, loud, close, or far – however you prefer to fight, there is a weapon that suits your playstyle.
What’s the point of having an arsenal of great weapons if you don’t have great enemies to cut down with them? In addition to the Lost, The Evil Within 2 throws a slew of hostiles at you in all shapes and sizes. From the four-legged Spawn that are nearly impossible to outrun to the repugnant Lament that are engulfed in a cloud of toxic gas, there are many different types of terrifying monsters you’ll encounter throughout the campaign. However, as great as the common enemies are, the bosses are pretty weak. Not only are there not enough, the few that you face are forgettable bullet sponges.
The real beauty of The Evil Within 2 is how it gives you a choice in playstyle. Aside from the obligatory sequences where you have to fight, you can get through the rest of the game without engaging in combat. You can use Green Gel to upgrade your stealth abilities, which include moving faster while crouching, reducing the sound of your footsteps, and silently killing enemies from behind cover. Refining these skills is extremely useful, especially on the Nightmare difficulty where ammo and health items are extremely scarce.
Lastly, the art direction and world design are phenomenal. From eerily quiet and vacant business districts to dingy underground tunnels, the environment does its part to enhance the creepy atmosphere of the game. Even Theodor’s gothic, hellfire-filled areas bring are a nice change of pace, and they are especially disturbing due to the piles of charred corpses and abundance of impaled bodies scattered throughout them.
Of course, The Evil Within 2 is not without its flaws. Its story is by no means bad, but it also isn’t unique or memorable in any way. It’s a tale of redemption about Sebastian Castellanos’ struggle to conquer his inner demons to overcome the guilt from letting his family down. He thinks his daughter is dead, but it turns out she’s alive and being used by the antagonistic group MOBIUS as a test subject. She gets lost in STEM, so MOBIUS reaches out to Sebastian to help retrieve her. In disbelief that she is still alive, he accepts and, surprise, surprise, there is much more to the mission than the initial briefing suggests. Throw in a handful of uninteresting characters, generic villains, flat voice acting, and some of the tackiest dialogue you’ve ever heard, and you have formula for mediocrity.
Additionally, the camera and controls are horrendous in close-quarter fights. Although this affects you many times, there is one part towards the end of the game where this is particularly annoying. You are confined to a small circle and are expected to protect a companion. Powerful enemies charge you at full speed, and if you exit the circle, you take fire damage. Since the movement is so damn clunky and there is no dodge roll, it is hard to evade the attacks of enemies. This is also the case in the fight against Stefano. There is one move he has where he rushes you, grabs you, and then stabs the shit out of you. It drains half of your health and is incredibly difficult to avoid because, for reasons beyond me, there is no roll dodge. Maybe something for Tango Gameworks to consider if they make another installment.
Aside from that, I didn’t have any other problems with The Evil Within 2. It’s a fun survival horror game that experiments with the genre and does it well. I spent $20 on it and don’t regret it one bit. I recommend you do the same if you have the time and money.
Have you played The Evil Within 2? What do you think about it? Do you agree with my assessment, or do you think I’m giving it too much praise? Share your thoughts in the comments!