Three years ago Shinji Mikami's The Evil Within became the first big horror title on Xbox One. Now The Evil Within 2 is here, continuing the story of former detective Sebastian Castellanos as he searches for his missing daughter amid a world filled with more horrors than ever before.
Once more into the void
The Evil Within 2 picks up three years after the original game. After a brief playable prologue, we learn that series protagonist Sebastian Castellanos has lost his daughter to a fire. The strain of this loss caused Sebastian to lose his job as a detective, his marriage, and his tenuous hold on sobriety.
While drowning his woes at a bar, Sebastian is contacted by his former partner, Juli Kidman. She still works for Mobius, the nefarious company behind the events of the first game. Mobius has continued its STEM project that will link humanity's minds together, allowing them to rule the world. STEM needs an innocent mind to hold everything together. As it turns out, Sebastian's not-really-deceased daughter is (apparently) that mind.
After discovering his daughter is trapped in the STEM virtual world somehow, our protagonist has no choice but to go in after her. Kidman and her employers have also tasked him with finding a team that was sent in to repair the damaged world.
The Evil Within 2 features two primary antagonists: Stefano Valentini and Father Theodore. Stefano is an artist turned serial killer who delights in creating disgusting pieces from his victims. The equally crazy Father Theodore is a priest gone wrong, now intent on creating a hell on earth.
The story is a lot to take in, especially if you haven't played the first game. But once you enter the other world, things become a lot clearer – and more frightening.
A world gone wrong
Having entered the machine, Sebastian finds himself in the town of Union. Although Union was designed as an idyllic town to help STEM users adjust to their surroundings, things have gone haywire. Much of the civilian population has mutated into zombie-like monsters with red eyes and sores all over their bodies. The ones who haven't turned are either dead or being preyed upon. The surviving Mobius forces won't always be friendly – humans are often the greatest threat to each other, after all. And that's to say nothing of the terrifying bosses that await our hero.
The Evil Within 2 can be genuinely disturbing at times. After walking down a deserted road filled with abandoned cars, Sebastian eventually witnesses a woman rushing into a ruined house. Following her inside, we discover the woman is shoving rotted food into a near-dead teenager's mouth. When he won't eat, she madly smashes his head into the table, leaving him a gorey mess. She then comes at our hero, worm-like tentacles erupting from her mouth. It's like a cross between the Plagas from Resident Evil 4 and the family of killers from Resident Evil 7.
Fight or flight
Enemy encounters in The Evil Within 2 are tense affairs. This being a survival horror game, ammunition and healing supplies are limited (though playing on Casual difficulty reduces that scarcity). Sebastian has numerous options to deal with foes, though: fight, sneak, or set traps. Going in guns blazing is always an option, but the limited ammo means you'll have to pick your battles.
Once our hero finds the crossbow, things really open up. The crossbow can fire several types of bolts, including shock bolts that zap targets with electricity and spear bolts that silently impale assailants. Shock bolts work wonders when fired into water, and they can also be used to trigger broken fuse boxes to open electric doors.
Stealth is often the most effective way to get around the city. When sneaking, enemies won't hear your footsteps. They can still see you, though, as indicated by helpful icons above their heads. Stick to the shadows and you'll generally be able to pass them by without much harm. But you can also perform stealth kills on enemies who haven't detected you, severely damaging or killing them in one hit.
Upgrades and crafting
Downed enemies drop green gel that functions like XP. Sit in a wheelchair and you'll be transported to a room where a nurse offers her services. The Evil Within 2 has five branches of upgrades to unlock, including combat, health, stealth, and more. Choosing upgrades that fit your playstyle will make enemy encounters a lot easier in the long run.
Throughout the city, players will encounter safe houses where they can save the game and perform other tasks. The workbenches there provide access to crafting and weapon upgrades. The simple crafting system lets you make ammunition, healing items, and more. You can craft anywhere in the town, but using workbenches significantly reduces material costs. Sebastian can also spend the resource called weapon parts on gun upgrades, improving damage, carrying capacity, and more.
Quests and resonance
The Evil Within 2's town of Union is mostly presented as an open world that can be explored at your own pace, which is a big change from the first game's cramped corridors and more linear design. You'll still find yourself in confined spaces like houses, shops, and Mobius facilities though, often uncomfortably close to horrendous creatures.
The map helpfully lists important locations and lets you set waypoints to guide you. The game has plenty of side quests and activities to complete as you search for Sebastian's daughter and the reason for the virtual world's unraveling.
Early on, Sebastian learns to use his communicator to scan for resonance – sounds made by other people within the city. You'll basically take the communicator out and use it like a Ghostbusters PKE meter, looking around until you catch a signal. After locking onto a signal, you'll see its source on the map.
Get close enough to the source and you'll witness a time bubble showing the events that happened before you got there. This investigation mechanic plays well into Sebastian's history as a detective, plus it leads you on some intriguing (and sometimes disturbing) quests throughout the town.
Overall impression of the Evil Within 2
The Evil Within 2 is a frightening game, though perhaps not as pants-wettingly scary as the early portions of Resident Evil 7. The game itself is improved nicely over the original, with a great open-world structure and lots of interesting missions to take on. The actual story is extremely compelling as we follow Sebastian's journey towards redemption amid a world filled with both human and inhuman monsters. If you're looking for a lengthy and frightening adventure this Halloween season, look no farther than The Evil Within 2.
- Characters, environments, and gore look fantastic.
- Open-world structure and a strong quest system simultaneously provide freedom and guidance.
- The sci-fi machines and virtual world don't always fully mesh with the monsters and frights within.
- The story can be confusing at times.
The Evil Within 2 sells for $59.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.