Review by Leigh
Is this one of the best horror titles of 2017?
The Evil Within was a tough, horrifying romp of terror that featured many horror clichès and also some spectacular moments in gaming. After playing through the original Evil Within and all its Downloadable Content I decided to try the sequel, The Evil Within 2 … on Nightmare difficulty. Hey, I passed the first one. How hard could it be?
Tango Gameworks have contributed another gruelling title filled to the brim with horror, gore, action and stealth. With Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Dino Crisis) at the helm you shouldn’t expect anything less.
So what’s it all about? Sebastian Castellanos has been dragged into STEM yet again, only this time the stakes are raised as his daughter, Lilly, is the acting core, her power being corrupted by someone within STEM itself. Sebastian must retrieve Lilly from the clutches of a madman within STEM then escape MOBIUS with their lives intact. Confused? That’s okay. While doing a little research on this title one of the top results on Google bore “What is The Evil Within about?” Let me try to make sense of what I have just written.
STEM is a project run by the secret organization, MOBIUS. Think of STEM as the machine what enslaved humanity in The Matrix, but it was being run by people instead of machines. Individuals have plugged into this ‘Matrix’ through a bathtub (or some other means that is never elaborated) and the user is then projected into a realistic simulated environment, usually a scenic country town called Union, controlled by MOBIUS.
This machine works by utilising a central ‘core’ which, in the previous game, was a psychotic madman hell bent on destruction. In The Evil Within 2 MOBIUS has used Sebastian’s daughter as the core. The innocent child as the acting core is an easier method of controlling and manipulating the machine by the organisation, plus her ‘test results’ proved her to be the perfect match for the role in the project.
Unfortunately for MOBIUS, the core is too easy to control and now someone is corrupting the simulated town, Union, and all of its inhabitants beyond MOBIUS’a purpose. When the core is stable MOBIUS hopes that everyone around the globe will subscribe to this wonderful, stable service (presumably against their will) and thus control the world.
The story is poorly conveyed and I have more open questions yet to be answered from the original content and its DLC than when I started the game. Putting that aside, there will still be some moments that will tug at a few heart strings … or just tug your heart violently from your chest. It’s a horror game after all.
I was idiotic enough to jump straight into the fray on the hardest difficulty available on the first play through (there’s heaps of unlockable content once you get through the game). This was a bad decision. I was so accustomed to the gun-toting original I was unaware of the incredible lack of resources at the beginning and the emphasis on the stealth mechanics (a basic version of this mechanics featured in the original DLC of The Evil Within, “The Assignment”).
The game has (what an Electronic Boutique salesman once coined to me) as a ‘reverse learning curve.’ I probably died more times than I cared to count when I first entered the town of Union than the rest of the game combined, perhaps the result of trying this on the hardest difficulty. Stealth was my only real means of combating the legions of schizoid zombies lurking around Union although, once you have enough ammunition, one to one combat is brutally satisfying.
The game has some large set pieces in which you can now explore as opposed to the original’s mainly linear hallways. That said, there are plenty of linear levels in the game. A hand held radio helps you lock onto signals allowing the player to explore and find new weapons, items, collectibles and resources or you can just stick to your main objective. After doing everything I could possibly find in the game including a shooting range mini-game (I better get back to that ‘finding my daughter’ thing) I clocked in at just over 30 hours, I did miss a few secrets and ONE DAMNED PROJECTOR SLIDE! Breathe in … and let go of the rage… breathe out … The time spent playing could have been dramatically reduced had I just followed the main objectives, but on Nightmare difficulty I unfortunately didn’t have that luxury as I needed every item I could find along the way. During play you can level up personal attribute skills, upgrade your weapons as well as craft ammunition and health items.
The game shines on the (STEM) Id Tech engine. It’s a lovely looking game and will hold up for years to come. The character models and texturing are extremely well done, but can fall a bit flat here and there when you’re poking around every nook and cranny of the level.
Sound design is marvellous. The first guttural growl from a possessed Union citizen will make you jump from your seat. Voice acting is on par with the original. The environments and action will spring to life with the fully orchestrated soundtrack and the subtle environmental ambience.
I nearly stopped playing this game out of sheer frustration several times, although I’m glad I didn’t as I feel the game was overall enjoyable. Why did I nearly stop? I found a couple of irritating glitches when I searched a bin from a crouched position and then fell through the bottom of the level where I ended up running around game design limbo; a few PC graphics driver compatibility issues had the game crash several times; and the characters’ personalities were two dimensional and the story is a dog’s breakfast (if your dog has a fondness for eating runny shit every morning). Through all of the many story problems and lack of character personality, it still had some touching moments that nearly brought a tear to my eye. Perhaps I’m a touch sentimental, as I too have a daughter.
Does it live up to being one of the best horror titles of 2017? It’s definitely in the top ten. Those who want a coherent narrative or something with more substance may be better off playing Resident Evil 7. Those who are here to drive a knife through the face of a zombie and pop a couple of heads with a shotgun, ala Resident Evil 4 style, you can’t do any better than this.
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