REVIEW: The Evil Within 2

The Evil Within 2 (2017) is the sequel to, unsurprisingly, The Evil Within (2014) and a game I picked up immediately after finishing the first game. I probably should have played the DLC for the first game before I played this but I’m not a big fan of stealth in video games and those are the primary mechanic of the original expansion. So, what did I think of The Evil Within 2? A game that was following up to a game with a lot of ups and downs? Well, it is a lot more consistent experience but not really a better one.

Cover for The Evil Within 2The premise is Sebastian Castellanos, protagonist of the first game, has been fired from the Krimson City police department after explaining the events of the first game. Which were, if you didn’t play the game, a psychopathic Freddy Krueger wannabe named Ruvik using a wireless Matrix to plunge dozens of people into a hellish nightmare world called STEM. Sebastian has very little to live for as he also lost his little girl to a fire and his wife to what seemed like a paranoid conspiracy theory about a group called Mobius.

Well, it turns out Mobius is real and recruit Sebastian by force to go into their new version of the Matrix, err, I mean STEM. Sebastian has a reason to cooperate, though, in that his daughter is alive and the “core” of the new machine. Mobius has created a replica of a small American town in their virtual world but, unfortunately, it has started turning into the same sort of hellscape that the Beacon Mental Hospital from the first game became. Which in gamer terms, means the townsfolk are all becoming zombies or worse.

The biggest pros of The Evil Within 2 are that it is a much-much better designed experience in terms of gameplay. The stealth mechanics are much better, the skill system has been pruned down to a more manageable level, a crafting system has been created that functions well (especially when you’re in need of ammo), and a bunch of other things that make the experience more streamlined. The combat is also a good deal easier, which isn’t necessarily saying its better but it’s no longer frustratingly difficult either.

The story is also a great deal simpler and easier to understand but, unfortunately, derivative. Sebastian wants to save his daughter, and this is something that it is about as common as “save the Princess” these days. Sebastian even looks like Joel from The Last of Us now. Given I’d only recently played Resident Evil: Village, I can’t say that there weren’t a lot of similarities there too. On the other hand, it’s a decent motive and it isn’t a mistake after the overly convoluted weirdness of The Evil Within.

I also give credit for the games’ two bosses with Stefano and Father Theodore. While it seems a bit silly that two more serial killers are put into STEM after Ruvik, they were both exceptionally realized baddies. Stefano more than Theodore, who is just your standard “burn the witch” evil priest, which is strange since he doesn’t appear to actually be religious. Stefano, by contrast, is an evil photographer who likes creating murder art. There’s some genuinely creepy monsters that accompany him like the Obscura and I got scared a few times during his segments.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the game is that aside from Stefano’s sections and the optional Anima sidequests, the game just isn’t nearly as creepy or frightening as the original. Beacon Hospital was more gory than scary, but it was a visual treat even when it wasn’t terrifying. Union just feels like a somewhat bland middle American town with monsters and is far inferior to Beacon Mental Hospital as a setting. While a couple of the bosses are frightening, none of them match up to the original games’ baddies. There’s even a section of the game where you fight the bosses of the first game, and they sort of blow the rest of it away.

The lack of Ruvik is also a big problem with the game. This is a game that doesn’t necessarily need Ruvik and I liked the psychopaths here, but they could have made much better use of him. We also never actually get a reason why the town of Union becomes the hellish nightmare-scape it does. Is it because your daughter is dead, is it because Ruvik “infected” STEM permanently, or is it because of all the other psychopaths present? The Administrator just isn’t intimidating enough to be the main baddie and I feel like they could have done more or had a big Ganon-esque reveal ay the end that Ruvik was possessing your daughter or something.

The game also half-measures its supposed wide-open sandbox. Despite the fact the town of Union is supposedly open for exploration, it’s actually cordoned off into tiny little areas that you can only progress through using “The Marrows” which amount to the backstage of the Matrix. I feel the game should have committed to either a wide-open sandbox for Sebastian to explore or just kept with the linearity of the original game, which was fine. It doesn’t help you can also meet with multiple NPCs, but they keep dying before they can add much to the worldbuilding. I feel like the Kidman/Sebastian relationship was also underdeveloped when I was actually invested in it. Given Sebastian’s (ex)wife plays a big role in the game, perhaps that is for the best.

In conclusion, I rate The Evil Within 2 as “fine.” The gameplay is much better and the story slightly stronger but it’s significantly less weird and that is a flaw when doing a survival horror game. The monsters are less horrible and unnerving than the original game too. It also feels less like a grand guignol of blood pools, viscera, and other Silent Hill-esque horror. Blood and gore do not a good story, but they are fine party decorations for a Mature-rated game. This just feels like a tamer inferior sequel but not that inferior. I still recommend playing it. Just, you know, not if you have any other games you want to play instead.

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CT Phipps

CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.