The Evil Within 2 – The Art of a Good Sequel

It’s been 3 years since the incident at Beacon Mental Hospital. Coincidentally, there’s also a 3 year gap between the release of The Evil Within 1 and 2. Is this real life? That’s a question Sebastian asks himself again too. Free from the evils of the STEM mindscape, he’s found himself in a brand new horrific situation. With questions unanswered and a shattered sense of self dwindling into alcoholic indulgence, a new adventure might be exactly what he needs.

The Evil Within 2 has a new artistic aesthetic from the outset. The gameplay and movement are the same, but you can really feel the graphical upgrade and polish. This is such a beautiful looking game. The first game had its stunning moments visually, but the difference in the sequel is the clarity and image quality. It’s a big step up. Even a blank wall looks amazing in this game. The grass is thicker. You can count the facial hairs on Sebastian’s chin. More importantly, this game showcases a whole new artistic direction with more vibrant use of colours.

This new style ties into the villain of this game, a new kind of psycho. In contrast to the unstable individuals of the first game, this killer has his shit together. A very calculated, menacing artist who is bitter at the world for not appreciating his work. He is now crafting this dreamworld to his liking and you’re caught up in his genius. This creates some amazing set-pieces with Evil Within’s signature style of “shifting the world” that was already present in the first game, but now with more visual flair. It feels like a different “flavour” of horror with the same high intensity, and opens the door to brand new designs. This is what all good sequels do in my opinion, take the established mechanics and create a brand new world with new emotions (Metroid Prime 2, Majora’s Mask for example).

Hmmm, what’s happening in this town?

Suddenly you’re feeling exposed in a brand new type of gameplay area. The small town of Union is where a decent amount of this game takes place, and it’s very open. Monsters roam about making grunting and thrusting sounds, while occasionally tearing up flesh. Just your regular Saturday night drunks really. The first game had large village areas with strategically positioned enemies, but this game’s openness extends out across an entire town, through multiple streets and houses. With monsters on every street and limited ammo, you have to be careful running out into the open. This town had me sneaking through people’s backyards, quietly entering buildings, nervously opening doors, exploring basements, and climbing rooftops to get a better view and assess the situation. All these elements make this game a lot of fun to play, while keeping the tension high with a constant evil presence. Not everything is as it seems in this small town.

The open-world feeling extends to the mission structure, with side missions that can be done or discovered out of order. This is one of those rare games where I felt like everything was worth doing. You really get rewarded for exploring, with upgrades, documents and side-stories all waiting to be discovered. The story is so interesting I was always seeking out more lore. It brings out a natural curiosity instead of a checklist of things to do. Another reason to explore is the new crafting system.

Crafting, you say?

Whoa, put the weapon down! I can already hear the complaints coming from several of your heads. This really is a cliche open world survival game now, isn’t it? Nah, it doesn’t really change much. Crafting is just another way to get health and ammo, really. It kinda just expands on the green gel from the first game that upgraded your abilities. If there’s one negative it’s that it makes the game a little bit easier, with more flexible ways to manage ammo. You can make stuff out in the field at a high cost, or go back to a safehouse and craft things efficiently with a nice coffee to restore your health. The perfect drink to take you on a rollercoaster ride through both extremes of calmness and anxiety.

Much like the first game I found the pacing to be fantastic. Tango Gameworks have really nailed down what makes a single player game engaging. This game doesn’t really drown you in too much exploration or action at once, but offers a nice mix. You can pretty much pick your own battles when you see a horde of monsters in the street. Do you have enough ammo to fight them? If not you can try some strategic stealth kills to take them out one by one, or just try to run past without bothering them. The combat is a little bit better than the first game I think, with a few more options for stealth kills and new weapons.

The storytelling of this game came as a big surprise to me and deserves big props. Like the first game it has some scenes that require abstract thinking with abrupt transitions, but it does a much better job of expanding what’s going on in detail. A lot of conversations happen while you’re playing without really stopping the action much, and you get a much bigger scope of what’s going on. It’s really hard to say why it’s so good without spoiling too much, but I just loved the way it developed. Story wasn’t really a strength of the first game in my opinion, it was solid but came second to the gameplay for me. The Evil Within 2 elevates the story to a whole new level and tells it masterfully.

The Evil Within 2 is a wonderful game in its own right and a brilliant sequel to The Evil Within. After having somewhat lukewarm feelings about the DLC of the first game, I had my doubts they could continue the form of the first game, but they blew away my expectations. I’m still in awe at how good both of these games are, and how little press and hype they seemed to get. I think it’s an unfortunate consequence of Bethesda blacklisting a couple of outlets, even though all they do is publish this game. The graphics and game engine are very polished and high-budget, with top-tier gameplay design, structure and story to top it all off. If I had to pinpoint the difference between both games, it’s that 2 is a bit less scary but has more story and gameplay depth, while 1 is more gruesome and has tighter scenario design with a more hands-on approach by Mikami. Both games are absolute masterpieces and highly recommended for anyone looking for some extra anxiety with their coffee. Now I’m off to have some breakfast in the middle of the night… this place looks open!

 

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