Game Review: Evil Within 2 A Well Oiled Nightmare Machine

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Spoilers for Evil Within (2014) follow:

Tango Gameworks’ Evil Within released in 2014 to mixed reception. Uneven framerate, a strangely disjointed story, and unyielding difficulty overshadowed a gritty, nightmarish game that is, I think, worthy of cult status. Unfortunately, deep discounts within months of its release and bad word-of-mouth has kept Evil Within from widespread popularity. Evil Within 2 goes out of its way to undo some of the transgressions of its predecessor and it turns out to be a solid survival horror game.

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Immediately apparent is Evil Within 2’s smooth, even framerate and much improved controls. There are vast improvements in almost every aspect. The skill point system is much more streamlined, as is weapon upgrades. The story is also an improvement over its predecessor. Evil Within reveled in placing you in nightmare world situations with little connection to each other. Evil Within 2 has a much more cohesive story and setting. Protagonist Detective Sebastian Castellanos has been troubled for the three years following his ordeal in the alternate reality simulation called STEM. The nightmare of the first game was just a simulation – but with deadly real-world consequences.

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

The evil Mobius corporation has set up another artificial reality STEM system and things have gone wrong again. Sebastian’s former partner and Mobius sleeper agent Juli Kidman convinces Sebastian that he must reenter STEM to save his daughter, who he previously thought perished in a fire. It turns out she was actually kidnapped by Mobius and is the core of their newest STEM system. Sebastian is sent in after other attempts fail, and inside he finds another hellish nightmare, now centered on a town called Union.  The story itself is improbable and, frankly, insane, but it has its charm and it is more self-aware than the original even managing to inject some humor into the whole ordeal.

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

There are good chunks of Evil Within 2 that are set in large open environments that allow you to explore at will. There are secrets to be found, along with side quests and valuable healing items and ammo.  While not quite as ammo restrictive as Evil Within, you must still conserve munitions if you want to survive. Stealth and avoidance are sometimes the best options, but the ability to craft ammunition for all weapons makes the guns-blazing approach viable for those who find the ammo to do it. The open world nature of the town of Union allows Sebastian to completely avoid some conflict by finding alternate paths.  There are safe houses and NPCs scattered around the world that not only progress the story, but add incentive to look around this hostile environment.

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Evil Within 2 is a polished game, but it just doesn’t seem as scary as its predecessor. Evil Within reveled in low ammunition and helplessness, and while Evil Within 2 makes attempts at it, it never quite captures the grindhouse horror feel of the original. There are difficulty settings that allow the experience to more mirror the original as the default setting feels softball in comparison – but that isn’t to say it’s still a walk in the park.  Even with the ability to craft ammo, it is still scarce and there are many interesting and grotesque new horrors to be found. Ironically, I found Evil Within 2 the scariest when it called back to the original. Also missing were the difficult and intense boss fights of the original. There were some great set-piece bosses in Evil Within 2, but I just wanted more of them.

Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Evil Within 2 offers massive quality of life improvements, but it loses a tiny bit of its charm and grittiness in the transition. A great survival horror game with a compelling but banana-pants insane story that manages to make its predecessor better in the process, Evil Within 2 is full of genuinely good horror game moments even if it isn’t always that scary. If you want a horror game this Halloween, this is one to pick up. Evil Within 2 is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.

Antal Bokor
Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian.
He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.

One comment

  1. Some of the enemies in this game are so cool and interesting and yet badly designed mechanically that it feels like they were just shoehorned in at the last second. Also the general hitbox of enemies is way wonkier than the first game.

    Like in the case of the gas-mask enemies with flamethrowers, it has actually become a source of comedy for me how lame fighting them is, but that doesn’t make it okay.

    First of all you can’t sneak attack them unless you have the smoke bolt, and it has to be upgraded. If this is for balance reasons then fair enough, but it contributes to stealth feeling more like a “gamble” than a mechanic that rewards skill. This is made worse by enemies that turn around suddenly just when you’re about to sneak up on them. But worst of all, sometimes a sneak attack won’t even trigger when the button prompt is on the screen and I’m clearly pressing X at the right time. BTW the Predator perk they showcased before launching the game is a terrible perk and I regret picking it. This type of design is completely unnacceptable in 2017 from a AAA publisher.

    Furthermore, in regards to the gas mask enemies, it’s like somebody was on some serious drugs when they designed their hitboxes and hyperarmor. All gun ranged attacks seem to connect properly, but as usual in horror games there is little enemy feedback (which makes sense if they’re monstrous, but too much of this results in unsatisfying combat, and in that regard this game suffers tremendously)

    ALSO when I fire Crossbow bolts sometimes they go STRAIGHT THROUGH the gas mask enemy’s torso at MEDIUM RANGE. It’s not like I tried to snipe him with a harpoon or he was right in front of my gun and it went through… Nope, just him standing in place within average range for the crossbow, and the obvious hit didn’t connect.

    Also, I upgraded melee attacks all the way because I like to intersperse stealth and gun fire with knife hit-and-run tactics, and it’s like they didn’t didn’t even program the gasmask guys to take damage from the knife, which is ridiculous because they can soak up a TON of ammo and damage if you fight them head-on. I have several videos of my using a smoke, cryo, or electricity bolt to disable these things and then running up and attempting to get knife swipes in when I’m out of bullets (I upgrade/use the crossbow almost exclusively, only bolstering combat with firearms, not depending on it)

    No joke, nearly every time I tried to get knife swipes in, like 3 out of five swipes while they were disabled would just “clip through” the gas mask enemies, without any blood, sound, or any other sign that I was damaging them at all. Around 50% of the knife attacks are not even going to count against them. That is horrible design if ever there were any.

    When I finally upgraded my smoke bolt and discovered it allows you to sneak attack those gas mask guys, I killed it with three consecutive sneak attacks. I killed it with all-out combat prior, but ended it with a smoke bolt sneak kill. That led me to reload a save and retry when I discovered smoke bolts did that. But both times defeating it I didn’t feel like I had overcome some seemingly insurmountable obstacle like when I killed Laura in Evil Within 1. I felt like I had removed a really lame and stupid immersion-breaking glitch from the game, and was just glad it was over.

    (I doubt the game developers ever even considered this, but I had the two perks that increased knife/hatchet damage, so if that contributed to killing it in three stealth attacks I don’t know, but I doubt it if they can’t even program the thing to recieve knife attacks properly.)

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