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The Evil Within 2 – Review

The Evil Within 2 (TEW2), the 2nd release in The Evil Within franchise from genre staple Shinji Mikami.  Here he hands over the reigns to John Johanas, the person behind the two Kidman centric, DLC expansions of the first game, whilst Mikami is still involved executive producing.

To prepare myself for the sequel, I decided to go back to the original.  I have a confession to make, I didn’t pass the first section, until last week.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good survival horror, but I really have to be in the right frame of mind to play so I can dedicate the time etc. So as a recap, Evil Within was a solid horror survival game, jump scares were in force (not always successful to me), tone, story, and art direction all suitably suspenseful and chilling.  Solid 3 out of 5(remember an average game is 2.5 out of 5, so it’s above average!)
Here We Go Again – Into The Looking Glass
We are back with the games lead character, Sebastian Castellanos, three years after the events of the original.  Now I’m not going to tell you what the game is about or what happens next, as that’s for you to experience, I’m here to tell you how well they did or didn’t do it
So starting TEW2, I was expecting more of the same. Initially, I felt extremely annoyed, due to a saving glitch that wasted nearly 40 mins of the intro and needed to replay.  However, on reflection, I have been impressively surprised.

“You know, this is – excuse me – a damn fine cup of coffee”

Graphics, as you would expect, have been updated and they look pristine for this type of game.  For fans of Twin Peaks, you will notice massive influences within the first hour in with little nods throughout. Overall, I felt it was leaning heavily into Alan Wake territory when relying on Twin Peaks for some of the scenes, but I’m a fan of both so can’t really complain.
Obviously the world is not gigantic and open, but still, some of the level design and the textures have far surpassed the original. The physical presence of the world is sometimes disappointing as enemies will fall through walls upon death leading to lost resources, as well as getting caught on a lamppost whilst trying to chase you.
Video cut scenes have been implemented in a very supportive way to the pacing and narrative of the game.  The true artist of these will always be Kojima (no matter how extreme they became in the later MGS series), but here, they are the perfect length to expand on the story and still be chilling and suspenseful.
The controls seem to be more responsive, but if you aren’t familiar with the franchise, there is an alternate scheme for the controls that does seem more for action based gameplay. Being a sequel of a survival horror, the gameplay, and level design was bound to be similar, but I was not expecting a near shot for shot remake of a competitor franchise involving a force-feeding scene.  It may have been an homage, but it was definitely not expected! At times I felt that it was leading into a Last Of Us direction, where it balanced a stealth gamer with enough action, or vice versa, as you are given enough resource and health to take on each set piece with a different tactical decision.
The improvement on the crafting and leveling up, is somewhat more nuanced, making your choices feel like they matter.  Resources have changed, and you are now collecting more types of items to improve yourself, and your equipment, in different and important ways. As you have more types of resources to gather, you have more optional gameplay directions to follow, which will make the end game a little less challenging, the more you explore.
The change of location and lighting, for me, definitely felt like it was much more aimed at the action gamer, but it gave enough options to be played slowly and stealthily. It still remains to be seen if this was a good idea, as inevitably, the game is a linear story driven survival game. It still had chilling and horror filled levels and set pieces, yet it didn’t seem to have the same atmospheric spooky and horrifying effect that the first did.
Having a semi-open world, was an enjoyable addition, as exploring a chilling and dangerous environment is something I will do more than finish objectives. However, I found some areas that looked to be easily accessible, yet due to a story based reason, you could not go further.  This is completely acceptable, but designing a locked door or blocked entryway that looked impossible, seems to have been a little too much hard work.
Its very noticeable that there have been discussions from up high regarding the accessibility of the first game, and how balanced the gameplay was, or wasn’t depending on the type of gamer.  They have made some very interesting changes and improvements, for me it makes for an enjoyable action survival experience, for others, it may initially not be a big enough challenge, and for those, I encourage to play it on the most extreme settings.
The Evil Within 2 – Review
Would I Play This Again?
Reader Rating2 Votes2.5
Excellent pacing throughout
Graphics look amazing even on a standard 1080p HD TV
Sound Design sets a chilling atmosphere
Art Design and location design suits a more action based gameplay, but stealth is still king
Less spooky than the first
Those new to franchise may feel lost
Voice acting again, over the top (not always bad) - related: lipsync was atrocious on Xbox One S
Save points and auto saving didn't seem entirely thought through
A solid survival horror, with a change of location that is more action orientated, leading to a greater gamer accessibility. It still sits in the survival horror shadow of its predecessor but may have improved enough to bring even more fans to the franchise.