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The Evil Within 2 Review – Not quite the survival horror saviour we wanted

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was surprised when Bethesda announced a sequel to the so-so Evil Within. But announce they did and here we have The Evil Within 2. Can it fix the flaws of the first? […]

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was surprised when Bethesda announced a sequel to the so-so Evil Within. But announce they did and here we have The Evil Within 2. Can it fix the flaws of the first? The FingerGuns review;

The Evil Within 2 comes with a heavy burden resting on its shoulders. Since the first game, we have been spoilt with genuinely scary psychological horror games. P.T sent shivers down my spine, and to this day I’m still reluctant to complete the game fully. And then there is Resident Evil 7, which in VR is hand on heart the scariest game of all time. So not only does it have to live up to my high expectations of what horror games need to be, but I believe that it holds the fate of Survival Horror games, which are a dying breed, in its hands.

So now we have The Evil Within 2 a second attempt from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami to reignite the survival horror spark. I had hoped this game would be something of a milestone, a new chapter to define survival horror, something that the genre could bounce off and move forward with. In some part, The Evil Within 2 has achieved that.  Gone are the claustrophobic hallways and enclosed mansions that have been done to death (although they are still present here). We now have small open-world settings which encourage exploration and rewards you generously if you do. This is perhaps the biggest departure from previous Survival Horror games. Amazingly Tango Gameworks has managed to keep the tension in these large open spaces, with plenty to do without cluttering the landscape with treasures.

To the story then, and this is the part where most horror games and films win or lose. The Evil Within 2 is a hard one to pin down and is definitely divisive. For me, it was a little contrived and full of cliched attempts to deliver horror. The whole mega corp sci-fi tech combined with horror and gore has been done to death with Resident Evil and offers literally nothing new. It goes a little something like this. You play ex-police detective Sebastian Castellanos who gets approached by a sinister corporation called Mobius (sound familiar Resident Evil fans?). Mobius need your help with their latest but corrupted experiment to create some kind of psychic VR machine. In return beat down cop, Sebastian can be reunited with his daughter who he thought had died a few years previous. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong just as expected. As a character Sebastian is bland and no more loveable then he was in the first game which makes pushing the story forward a little painful at times as he does seem unbelievably stupid, his one line of “What the Hell?” grates after the first five minutes.

Thankfully the gameplay mostly makes up for the shortcomings of the story. It’s still a third person shooter, giving you limited ammo and supplies in a bid to get you to scavenge so you can upgrade your weapons and powers to make killing the grotesque monsters easier. This is done via workbenches (or in the field), all the junk you find in the open worlds can be worked on to create better weapons, better medikits that sort of thing. (sound familiar The Last of Us fans?) that’s because it is. In fact, the whole game has more in common with TLOU than it probably wants to admit. With the large expansive spaces, stealth and various horrors, It does feel like Naughty Dog’s Magnum Opus, hell, even some of the creatures you meet make a similar noise to the dreaded clickers.

The Slow Mo Killer’s hypnotic artwork

But the beauty of the small compact open worlds the game delivers is that they are ripe for exploring, and encourages you in many different ways. One of which is locating faint radio signals. Tune your bulky radio to the right frequency and you’ll be pointed in the right direction for a side quest or to find some available goodies from fallen Mobius agents. These are all optional of course but I encourage you to explore them all. One of the scariest moments in the game comes from a side quest. Without spoiling too much, Tango Games have used the DualShock 4’s speaker to terrifying effect. In fact, as you traverse the hub worlds it becomes clear that there are narrative strands of the story all over the place. Urging you to explore deeper, even if your senses are telling you, ‘perhaps I won’t go into that dilapidated dark spooky house’ But thanks to the structure of the game, the risk/reward payoff generally makes you face your fears and do it anyway. It’s a nice subtle development of the game and story.

The shooting, however, feels weak, inaccurate and a bit hit and miss, yet at the same time, the creatures satisfyingly explode in a shower of gore when you get that headshot so it can be enjoyable in that sense so leveling up your shooting skill tree is a must. Once despatched they leave collectibles bubbling away into a puddle of goo, (sound familiar Resident Evil 4 fans?) but it’s the stealth that really lets the side down. It’s awkward and clumsy which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to sneak through a crowd of monsters or escape a hideous saw wielding muli-limbed banshee.  The cover button has a mind of its own, sometimes you’ll snap to cover, sometimes you won’t. The camera is positioned way too close to Sebastion, which makes the controls more cumbersome than they need to be. Worse still, when hidden in bushes, you can’t see anything but leaves, you literally can’t see any of your surroundings. When you are called into action, using your knife for a silent takedown is almost pointless. The collision detection is way off, with point-blank hits failing to register or provide any feedback leaving the camera swinging all over the place, while your face gets eaten. Same when you run out of ammo, any more than one creature coming at you and you’ll end up flailing wildly in the hope of getting a connection but inevitably end up dying. But given the survival aspect of this game, the more time you choose to invest exploring and leveling up then the better time you’ll have later on, with further abilities, like kills from behind, quieter footsteps and so on can also be upgraded by way of skill tree. But these extra additions won’t hide the fundamental flaws that are buried within the game.

Literally, can’t see a thing when hidden in bushes

The Evil Within is a mish-mash of different ideas from different games all of which have been done better. That’s not to say there isn’t a solid game here because there is. The world of Union is your typical 1980’s small town, which has been corrupted under the weight of the evil within and is, for the most part, a joy to explore. Which is perhaps a sign of a bigger problem with the game. It’s just not that scary.

I should be scared of turning down that road or entering that building or investigating that noise. Instead, I just want to get to point B from point A quickly, not because of the fear, but because it’s all so cliched that you can predict what to expect before it’s happened. Sure there are a few jump scares, a few creatures that make you wonder what the hell is going on in the mind of those who created them, but despite the well-worked tension in the open world, there is no real sense of dread. The structure of the game should be commended though. Jumping Sebastian from Union to ‘The Marrow’ underground tunnel network, to mental Hospital to the frankly awesome mansion of a ‘slow mo’ killer keeps you on your toes. The Evil Within 2 doesn’t push any boundaries, and it won’t make you reach for new pants while playing. It’s like Resident Evil 4 meets The Last of Us and early Silent Hill games and gets sexual with that Black Mirror episode called PlayTest. If that doesn’t peak your interest, not much will. While it does bring some new elements to the survival horror genre. The open world maps, and some fun environmental takedowns, there isn’t enough to pull the genre from the inevitable grave it seems to be heading towards. There is nothing particularly wrong with The Evil Within 2, just like the first game you kind of wish you were playing something else, mainly the games it tries to emulate. You will be entertained just don’t expect anything particularly scary or remarkable.


The Evil Within 2 is available now on PC, PS4 (review version) and Xbox One

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a code for the game from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.

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