Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Evil Within 2

Release date: October 13th, 2017
Developed by: Tango Gameworks
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Reviewed by: TheyKeepOnRising
Estimated play time: 40 hours
Completion: New game plus completed on "Survivor" difficulty

To beat the devil, you better be stronger than hell.

When the original Evil Within was announced in 2013, fans were ecstatic for a spiritual successor to the legendary action-horror game: Resident Evil 4. Gameplay reveals of The Evil Within showed the combat and mechanics of its inspiration lovingly adapted, but without the baggage and often ridiculous nature that comes with the Resident Evil franchise. Even Shinji Mikami, the original director of Resident Evil 4, was once again leading the production, all but confirming this game was going to be the best thing ever. The Evil Within was released in October 2014, and contrary to all the signs of success, the game was met with a reception best described as "luke warm".

Despite having all the ingredients of a great game, The Evil Within failed to meet expectations for most of its fans. I personally loved my time with the game, and made the ridiculous effort to earn the platinum trophy on PlayStation 4, but even to me the flaws were obvious and plentiful. For starters, the game was marketed as a horror game, not an action-horror game, which resulted in many misinformed players being disappointed when the game simply wasn't scary. The story was disjointed and ambiguous, which made the game feel more like a theme park ride than a carefully constructed setting. Finally, the game was riddled with questionable design choices, including a forced resolution with "cinematic" black bars, and making the player rely heavily on a barebones stealth mechanic.

Which brings us now to The Evil Within 2; a sequel I hoped for but honestly never expected. The developer, Tango Gameworks, has made assurances that many of the complaints from the original have been addressed, including a more focused story and removing the "cinematic" black bars. Other significant features have been added as well, such as semi-open world playgrounds to explore, optional side quests to find, and a limited crafting mechanic. With the first game as a solid foundation to build upon, does The Evil Within 2 finally reach a level worthy of the Resident Evil 4 legacy, or will it fall short yet again?

Sebastian feels like an actual person with goals.

In the first game, Sebastian Castellanos was a police detective sent to investigate a disturbance at Beacon Hospital. While at Beacon, he and his two partners, Joseph Oda and Juli Kidman, were trapped inside of the STEM system; a device that connects unconscious minds together to create a nightmare world. Joseph disappears in the nightmare, and Kidman is discovered to be a double agent for Mobius; the shadowy organization that controls STEM. After defeating Ruvick (who is the host of the STEM nightmare), Sebastian is freed and returns to the real world, unable to find Joseph or Kidman. If the first game's story sounds needlessly convoluted, it's because it very much is.

With The Evil Within 2, Sebastian has left the police force and spends his days drinking his guilt away in a bar. He was already struggling with alcoholism in the first game due to the death of his daughter Lily, but now he's hit rock bottom thanks to the horrors he's endured. Kidman approaches Sebastian for the first time since Beacon, and tells him his daughter is alive and has been captive with Mobius in a new STEM system. Something has gone wrong in the new STEM, and Lily is in danger if Sebastian doesn't enter STEM again to save her. Sebastian begrudgingly agrees to help for Lily's sake, and enters STEM once again to face the horrors that await him.

The plot, although fairly simple, does a great job of setting the stakes and giving us a reason to be thrust back into the nightmare world that is STEM. Sebastian, despite being the main protagonist of the series, was practically ignored in the first game, and was mostly a vessel for the player to kill monsters with. Now Sebastian feels like an actual person with goals besides survival, and the occasional flashback even shows us a time when he was clean cut and optimistic. One of the major themes, particularly in the side quests, involves Sebastian coping with the trauma he's endured with both losing Lily and surviving Beacon Hospital.

There will never be enough ammo to shoot your way through.

The core gameplay of The Evil Within 2 is largely unchanged from the original, although the cinematic black bars are now optional, and there is a new control scheme that more closely matches conventional third-person shooting controls. While playing the game, you will be primarily sneaking around, scavenging for loot, and shooting handfuls of aggressive enemies with your dwindling supply of ammo. Sebastian now uses his knife in melee combat, but it still remains a poor choice in a direct fight, even with full upgrades. Thankfully enemies tend to drop axes more often now, which are single use weapons that will instantly kill weaker enemies and deal significant damage to larger ones.

Gunplay remains unchanged from the first game, which means hitting moving targets can be difficult, and hitting targets that are too close is dubious. Since it's easy to miss shots, you may find yourself firing frantically at fast-approaching enemies, and using a sizeable amount of ammo in the process. Although you can now craft ammo using materials found while exploring, there will never be enough ammo to shoot your way through every fight. Upgrading your favorite weapons can improve their damage and therefore reduce ammo spent in fights, but the most effective method of dispacting enemies will be through stealth takedowns.

Stealth was barebones in the first game, but thankfully the mechanic has received some much needed love in the sequel with it's own upgrade tree. You can now improve Sebastian's stealth abilities, such as increasing his movement speed, reducing noise made from movement, and even unlocking a short-range silent sprint for quick takedowns. Bottles can be tactically thrown to create distractions, allowing you to thin out enemies that stray from the group. This mechanic also meshes surprisingly well with the new semi-open world areas, allowing you to maneuver around enemies and choose when to approach.

Surprises can be found, some more dangerous than others.

Your resources will be constantly dwindling in The Evil Within 2, but thorough exploration can help alleviate this issue. New weapons, ammo, health, and crafting components can be found hidden in every nook and cranny, and locker keys can be found by observant players. Green gel also returns as a resource to improve Sebastian's stats, and can be found from exploring areas or defeating enemies. Resonances, which are like lingering snapshots from the past, can be found to learn more about what happened, and can sometimes lead into side quests. There are other surprises that can be found in your search for resources, and some are more dangerous than others.

As I said before, The Evil Within was not intended to be a straight up horror game, but more of an action-horror game, and the same can be said about its sequel. With that in mind, I was surprised to find a handful of moments in The Evil Within 2 that I felt were genuinely nerve-racking. While the standard enemies are pretty straight-forward without too many surprises, there's a selectively-used enemy type introduced early on that I found both challenging and frightening. There are also a couple of scripted moments I really enjoyed, some of which only triggered after returning to areas I had previously explored.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes from the first game is the setting, which differs drastically from the original game. Technically, both games take place in the STEM nightmare world, but the change is in the way the world manifests from within STEM. In the first Evil Within, you traversed through an insane asylum, a small village in the woods, a spooky mansion, and a few other disconnected horror settings. The majority of The Evil Within 2 takes place in a suburban town called Union, and while Union is fantastic on its own, the game lacks the variety of environments found in the first game as a result.

Every enemy can be shot repeatedly until it dies.

While The Evil Within 2 directly addressed a lot of the common complaints from the first game, there are still a couple of improvements I feel could positively impact the overall experience. All of these suggestions I have originate from previously successful games from the genre, including games from the Resident Evil franchise. Most (if not all) of these changes could be incorporated into The Evil Within 3; provided there is a third game in development. None of these items hurt my overall enjoyment while playing the game, so consider this more of a wish list for the future, and not as a specific commentary on the game.

The first suggestion, and perhaps the most important for gameplay longevity, is to increase the total number of weapon upgrades, and add ultimate upgrades for all weapons. Resident Evil 4 had a rewarding weapon upgrade system, where you could buy attachments for some weapons, and unlock a powerful bonus after maximizing all stats. Although some of the crossbow bolts in The Evil Within 2 have a benefit similar to an ultimate upgrade, there is no equivalent for any of the other guns. What I wanted was piercing damage for the pistol, a knockdown effect for the sniper rifle, or other significant rewards for my investment in a weapon.

The other addition I would like to see is much more enemy variety, with different strategies required to counter some enemies. There are only a handful of different enemy types in The Evil Within 2, and most of them only appear a couple times throughout the entire game. STEM is a literal nightmare world, which begs for an assortment of creatively-designed monsters to infest it. Unfortunately, the game relies far too much on the basic Haunted enemy type, and every enemy can be shot or stabbed repeatedly until it dies. Compared to the Resident Evil games for example, there are Lickers that can crawl on the ceiling, bugs that can fly, or enemies that can turn invisible.

Conclusion: Is The Evil Within 2 worth the price of admission?

Without going into spoilers, I found the story of The Evil Within 2 to be a vast improvement over its predecessor. Even so, I did miss the mystery aspect of the first game, and having a villain as threatening as Ruvick to focus on. Sebastian himself feels relatable due to the trauma he suffers from, and I appreciated how the game shows that the first game left a significant impression on him. I found the ending satisfying and thought it did a great job of neatly resolving many loose ends, while leaving a couple of unanswered questions for a DLC or third installment. There is also a sequence towards the end of the game that I won't spoil but I thoroughly enjoyed, you'll know it when you see it.

In my opinion, The Evil Within 2 is in many ways a natural progression from the first game, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Regardless, I still really enjoyed exploring Union, carefully thinning out enemy groups with stealth, and fighting off hordes with my limited resources. I had a great time with my multiple playthroughs and am still playing it today attempting to complete the game on the challenging "Classic" difficulty. If you had significant issues with the first game, then I can't recommend you run out and buy its sequel, but if you played the first game and enjoyed it, then I can confidently recommend buying The Evil Within 2.

  • Challenging gameplay
  • Improved mechanics
  • Fun exploration and resource management
  • Improved plot cohesion
  • Sebastian much more developed
  • Satisfying ending

  • Melee combat still lackluster
  • Repetitve enemies
  • Lack of ultimate upgrades
  • Lack of variety in environment

Verdict: Buy with Caution

No comments:

Post a Comment