The original The Evil Within’s setting of the mind of a psychopath; a whole world contained within a mind that others could access through a device, made for some excellent horror, and allowed elements such as pacing, logical world building, and even characterisation to take a back seat. With the sequel, more care has been taken to establish motivation and character personalities, playing more on emotion within the same madness of a mind-made world of horror.
The mind hosting the frights this time around is that of the protagonist’s, Sebastian Castellanos, daughter, who was abducted by the sinister MOBIUS, those behind the Beacon Hospital event from the original. This organisation have, once again, created a world that others can inhabit, something has gone wrong and now they rely on you to figure out what and save their operatives as well as your daughter.
Indeed, The Evil Within 2’s stronger focus on character gives it a Silent Hill 2 feel initially, this is further explored by a shift from linear environments to several open ones. However, while the psychology of Sebastian is mostly well played on in dialogue, boss encounters and general enemies fail to represent the trauma and fear of the protagonist in any meaningful way. In fact they’re a little disappointing in general, lacking the same originality and over-the-top gruesomeness as in the first title. Considering the visual are leagues ahead in detail and lighting, as well as featuring a far more varied colour palette, this is surprising and a bit of a let-down.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of frightening encounters and environments to get your blood pumping. Despite spending a fair amount of time in the three open areas, there’s still plenty of corridors and more linear areas that allow for some creepy and tense exploration, playing on audio and the ‘close the shoulder’ camera to really play on the fear of the unknown. The open areas, meanwhile, are a little more action orientated but still do a good job getting the scares in with enough corners hiding terrors and copious amounts of items and side missions to encourage you to explore every nook and cranny. Moreover, the new ability to craft items means less collecting specific ammo types and more collecting material to craft what you want. This brilliantly allows you to create ammo for your preferred weapon rather than forcing you to use them all.
Additionally, the crafting mechanic creates a clever risk verses reward situation where crafting items in the field costs significantly more than returning to a safe house and crafting there. It forces you to frequently decide between trekking through enemy infested areas to get somewhere safe or taking the hit to materials and crafting where you are allowing you to continue. This is especially effective in the first few hours where a couple of hits is enough to put you down and your ammo count is pathetically small.
Even when ammo is more abundant, you’re never fully prepared for the enemy encounters. Stealth is the best way to proceed, avoiding combat as much as possible, and when it does kick-off, the open areas allow you to retreat, which is often a smart choice. Additionally, a more nuanced tree of abilities, both passive and active, can be unlocked with green goo as with the original title, and these help you shape Sebastian into the character you want for the play style you’ve chosen. Still, it’s a difficult game where a lapse in focus can easily result in your demise.
The Evil Within 2 is a great horror game that improves upon the original in movement, characterisation and inventory management brilliantly, but drops the ball a little when it comes to enemy originality and scares. This is partially due to the open areas offering a different experience but more so it’s a simple lack of creativity on the developer’s side. Still, it’s an attractive looking title with an intriguing setting and enough frightening encounters to put you on edge, less original but more refined.
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