The Evil Within 2 manages to somehow be equally better and worse than the first game. By that, I mean in extremes, because—hoo boy—some parts of this game will make even the least attentive player roll their eyes in disbelief.
I’m not sure who approved some of the writing in this game, but holy shit, some of it is just so bad. The line delivery from some of the main characters (you know, the people you have to listen to the most) is depressingly bad. Sebastian sounds like he’s actually disappointed to be in another game or something. Everything about him in this game is lackluster. Somehow, his old man waddle and lack of true mobility when getting in encounters is even more noticeable this time around. Before I get into game mechanics, though, let’s talk about the story.
This time around, Sebastian has basically been on a three-year bender, getting shitfaced and mourning his supposedly dead daughter and wife gone missing. He comes to find out that Mobius, the organization heading the new and improved STEM, has his daughter in their possession. His daughter, Lily, has been chosen to be the Core of STEM. She is what keeps it all up and running through her pure heart and mind, or whatever. Point is: she’s now trapped in the machine. Mobius has somehow lost track of her consciousness within STEM and they call upon Sebastian to help, considering his experience with STEM from the first game.
I’m getting sick of saying STEM.
Mobius sends a team in before him but, of course, they lose track of them, which is what prompts them to find and retrieve him. With basically no choice, he abides and hops into a shiny new STEM tub full of…I don’t know, milk? It looks like milk to me, that white stuff that’s all over the promotion for the game.
Sebastian is then brought into the world of Union, which is basically a computer-generated Anytown, USA that’s collapsing due to the absence of the Core. The inhabitants have been transformed into generic zombie-esque creatures with a few special types (but not many that you’ll see often). There’s a fatty that tries to grab you and explode (that you don’t even see until 5/6 of the way through the game). A gangly guy that spits acid. A fast bitch with a knife who, inexplicably, requires more hits to kill. There’s also a few bosses that recur multiple times in the game, which somewhat diminishes their scare factor in subsequent encounters.
**EVER SO SLIGHT SPOILERS IN THE IMMEDIATE NEXT SECTION**
I certainly won’t spoil any big plot points, but one of the things that bother me is that Sebastian responds to every single situation in the same lackluster way. Hell, near the very end of the game, he nearly dies and responds with the least convincing “Oh my god” I’ve ever heard. You’ll know it when you hear it. His wife, Myra, also has plenty of dialogue in the game, and her delivery is…almost always bad. Her speech just doesn’t seem to match up with her god damned face, and it’s the most annoying thing ever to try to watch. When she’s in her “evil” form—her “Lost” form, as some may call it—she’s a little more bearable because her voice is all distorted.
It’s not a good thing when your voice is only tolerable when it is heavily edited.
The story is nothing ground-breaking. It’s stuff that’s been done to death in other games before. You’ve done wrong in your past and you blame yourself for everything, and now you have to face what you’ve done wrong and correct it. You get spooked a bunch of times on your way and eventually have to make some kind of sacrifice (and I won’t deny that I teared up a little once in the end-game chapters). I’ve seen this done so many times though, and with better writing and dialogue delivery. I haven’t even mentioned all of the minor characters because they literally just don’t matter, They’re so one-dimensional and boring. On top of all of that, this game has got plot-holes galore; so much stuff just comes up once or twice and is never visited again.
Atmosphere in The Evil Within 2 is by far the best part of the game. Union is plenty creepy with all of the dark corners, abandoned buildings, and flickering street lights. I think that it’s as creepy as Beacon was in the first game, just in different ways. Beacon was claustrophobic as hell, and every enemy felt like much more of a danger. Union makes you feel really small, though, and opens the ability for you to get ambushed much more often because there are more enemies.
The music is also phenomenal, most noticeably toward the end of the game—it’s so good. I would honestly pay for this soundtrack just to have and listen to. It’s spooky at times, emotional at others, and really drives how you feel during the game. The quiet, calm music that plays while you’re in your room to upgrade your stuff and relax really just adds something to the fact that it’s your safe zone. It’s extremely refined, and I just absolutely love it.
What isn’t refined is the gameplay, which is passable (most of the time). You can either be stealthy or…well, not sneaky in basically every encounter in the game. There are one or two sections in the game where you either can’t attack or your attacks do nothing, so you have to be sneaky. The shooting is alright—it’s basic third-person shooting, but you’ve gotta be careful with ammo. If you play on Nightmare or Classic mode, ammo is pretty damn scarce, so being sneaky becomes a more viable option. With the ability to upgrade your skills in stealth, combat, health, stamina, etc., sneaking and surviving becomes easier. Classic mode, however, takes out all upgrades and gives you limited saves for the ultimate challenge.
So all of that stuff is fine. It’s not great and it’s not bad, it’s just fine. What isn’t fine is the movement of Sebastian. He moves like an old man with pants full of shit, and when enemies get up in your face, this game becomes fucking annoying.
For one, hit detection with melee attacks is all over the place, and even just with regular shooting combat. Trying to take out an enemy with your knife is a sure way to lose a good chunk of health. If you have an axe, you can one-shot any enemy with it, but it somehow breaks as soon as you use it, which is weird. Sebastian can run, but there’s no clear way to dodge-roll out of the way. If you’re close enough for an enemy to take a swing at you, you’re probably going to get hit. I understand that he’s not exactly a Navy SEAL or anything, but I’ve seen what this guy can do. You’re telling me that he can’t roll?
Sebastian just isn’t fun to control in general; although, it is extremely satisfying to make heads go boom in this game. Apparently, every enemy in this game has a head full of Welch’s Grape Jelly and some kind of liquid-wax substance.
Boss fights, when they’re not being recycled, are fairly fun pulse-pounding encounters, and the final boss is very reminiscent of the final boss of Dead Space. In fact, it’s a little bit too similar, being a giant enemy with yellow, glowing pustules, and it grabs you and makes you fire at it before it can kill you. One boss fight, in particular, incorporates stealth as the main mechanic, and it’s pretty fun (and creepy). The designs of most of the bosses are really cool. I like them a lot, especially Obscura—you’ll know her when you see her, I won’t spoil it.
The Evil Within 2 is somewhat of a lateral move from the first game in a lot of ways. The new voice actors and writing are both somewhere between bland and bad, and the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, specifically with close-quarters combat. There are some genuinely tense moments in the game that I really enjoyed, and the atmosphere and music do a fantastic job at setting the right mood.
Also, on PS4, some very creepy noises come out of your controller at certain points, and if you’re like me and weren’t expecting it, it provides a good fuckin scare the first few times.
If you’re a fan of older Resident Evil games, or maybe even the first Dead Space, I think you’ll get a kick out of this game. If you’re playing it because you liked the first game, I don’t know how much you’ll like this. I can see someone thinking that it’s not as good. It’s a decent game to play in a group for Halloween this year, though. I’m sure it’ll provide a few good scares and satisfying moments, particularly in the first half of the game.
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