2014's The Evil Within was a game stuck between two generations. Created with both seventh and eighth generation consoles in mind, the game didn't quite take advantage of the added horsepower of the PS4 and Xbox One. With The Evil Within 2, Tango Gameworks was able to focus solely on newer consoles and PC, resulting in a much more impressive experience that should greatly please fans of the survival-horror genre.
The Evil Within 2 is a significant improvement over the original game in every single category. It still plays like a Resident Evil 4-style survival-horror game, but with tighter controls and the addition of large open world areas that players can explore freely as returning protagonist Sebastian Castellanos. These open world areas really help The Evil Within 2 stand apart from other survival-horror titles, which tend to be more linear experiences.
The Evil Within 2's open world is much smaller than open worlds in other games, but that is to its benefit. Players can easily reach objectives without a lot of traveling, and it's exactly as dense as players want it to be. Those that would rather play it like a more traditional survival-horror game are free to do so, ignoring the open world elements and just running from one story beat to the next. Others will be rewarded for taking the time to explore each area thoroughly, often coming across helpful supplies, crafting materials, and weapons they otherwise would have missed out on.
Besides the open world sections, The Evil Within 2 has plenty of the linear, haunted house-like hallways that were a staple in the first game. Players are ushered through these areas, bombarded with disturbing visuals, jump scares, and nightmarish creatures that can kill Sebastian in just a few hits.
While The Evil Within 2 has dangerous enemies that can kill players without much effort, it's worth noting that the game is much easier than the first. While some fans may find this to be disappointing, it ultimately makes The Evil Within 2 a more accessible experience, and higher difficulty levels are still there for those looking for a more hardcore challenge.
That being said, the game is still no walk in the park, even on the lower difficulties. The Evil Within 2 demands that players manage their inventory and conserve ammo for its more dangerous threats. One boss in particular provides a rather stiff challenge, so those worried that the game has completely lost its fangs should rest assured that there are still moments that will push players to their limits.
With a decent challenge, engaging new open world areas, and classic survival-horror gameplay, The Evil Within 2 is a treat to play, especially for fans of the genre. However, it's not without its issues, and while its flaws are few and far between, they're still worth pointing out.
For one, the game is not as stable as one would hope. There are texture pop-in issues and weird graphical effects throughout, plus some issues with Sebastian occasionally getting stuck on objects. Not only that, but the game crashed once during our time with it. Luckily, the game's generous autosave functionality alleviates any possible frustrations in that regard.
While it's true that The Evil Within 2 has some technical issues, it's overall a more polished game than the original. Not only does it run smoother, without any of the framerate issues that plagued the first, but it also looks much better. With the game built from the ground-up for eighth generation consoles, The Evil Within 2 is much more impressive from a graphical standpoint. Characters are more detailed, monsters are more animated, and the game world is livelier.
Another area where The Evil Within 2 surpasses the original game is with its narrative. Tango Gameworks wasn't kidding when it said there would be a bigger focus on narrative this time around, and that's evident right from the get-go, with Sebastian having much clearer goals. In this game, Sebastian has to travel to a twisted town called Union in order to save his daughter Lily - who he previously believed to be dead.
Along the way, Sebastian bumps into a number of side characters that he can talk to, learning more about them and even helping them out in side quests if players wish to do so. The result is a fully developed supporting cast that players will actually care about, making it much easier to become emotionally invested in the story.
The Evil Within 2 is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to storytelling for the franchise, but it's also not without some missteps. Series creator Shinji Mikami may not be directing this time around, but his distinct style of cheesy horror is still felt in the game's plot and dialogue. This approach will appeal to some, but will turn off others that are looking for a more serious survival-horror story.
That's not to say that the game's plot isn't supposed to be serious, but it's all so absurd that it comes across as comical at times. Part of that has to do with the way Sebastian reacts to the events and characters around him. For example, he doesn't seem too shocked to learn that his daughter is alive, even though he thought she was dead for years. To that end, his relationship with Kidman is outright confusing, though Tango Gameworks attempts to explain things a bit better late in the game.
Sebastian isn't the only strange character in The Evil Within 2. Players also come across a Mobius operative (Mobius is the name of the Umbrella-like antagonistic corporation in the game) named Yukiko Hoffman, who serves as the team's psychologist. Hoffman talks like a living thesaurus, saying as many big words as possible, even when they feel out of place or forced. Hoffman's dialogue also contains a silly amount of adverbs, making early conversations with her unintentionally hilarious.
The Evil Within 2's goofy characters and cheesiness won't be for everyone, but longtime fans of the genre will likely appreciate it. They will also appreciate its classic survival-horror gameplay that's blended expertly with more modern features like open world settings, its improved graphics, and tighter narrative. By succeeding in all these areas, The Evil Within 2 is easily one of the best survival-horror games in recent memory, and is a significant step forward from its predecessor.
The Evil Within 2 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for this review.