In 2014, Bethesda and Tango Gameworks released an unexpected smash-hit in The Evil Within. Playing as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, you ventured through Beacon Mental Hospital investigating the scene of a mass murder. During your investigation, Castellanos, along with his partners Joseph Oda and Juli Kidman, confront a mysterious man known as Ruvik. Throughout the course of the game, Castellanos pieces together what happened at Beacon through Ruvik’s memories, and later, discovers that he was actually inside of Ruvik’s mind the entire time through a system called “STEM”.
As convoluted as that summary of the first game sounds, playing through the actual game might be more confusing. The sequel does an excellent job conveying a more structured plot, where not only did I know exactly what was happening, but I also cared about the characters. Castellanos returns in the second installment as a beaten down, depressed alcoholic who’s lost everything since the end of the first game. His daughter, Lily, was killed in a fire and Castellanos blames himself for not being able to save her. His wife, Myra, tried to convince the former detective that their daughter was still alive, being held captive by a mysterious agency known as Mobius. Obviously, Castellanos doesn’t believe her and Myra goes off on her own to search for Lily.
The Evil Within 2 picks up with Castellanos looking down at the end of a bottle. He’s approached by his former partner Kidman, and she tells Castellanos that Lily is still alive and she needs him to help rescue her. It’s revealed that Lily is being used by Mobius (Myra was right!) as some sort of Core for their STEM project and she’s essentially gone missing. So, just like in the first game, Castellanos heads back into the STEM virtually reality world, but this time, it’s personal.
With most horror-genre games, it’s a bit difficult to effectively please everyone. The first entry presented terrifying creatures, bone-chilling bosses, and a setting in Beacon that made me have nightmares. The only thing that it was missing was a coherent story. In its successor, Bethesda was able to improve the story and nail down the exposition, but completely scaled back on the overall horror that made the first one so good. Unlike the first entry, there weren’t any notable boss fights. Ironically, the most notable boss fight comes during the second half of the game against three enemies that will look frighteningly familiar to past players.
Although Bethesda and Tango Gameworks do a better job creating a story with more depth and character development, there still remains one huge question mark for me: what exactly is STEM? I understand that it’s some sort of artificial, virtual reality built in someone’s head it seems like, but why is it so important to Mobius? It’s said throughout the game how whoever controls the Core (Lily) would have immense power at their fingertips. Hopefully the presumed third entry will dive more into the creation of STEM and why exactly it’s such a hot commodity.
The Evil Within 2 switches up the setting from the tightly-confined, disturbingly scary mental hospital to a more open, somewhat quaint town in Union. Exploration becomes an important tool here, as there are many areas to search around Union. Playing on easy let me freely roam the town without a huge fear of dying, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The common enemies resembled zombies, while certain advanced baddies could shoot acid bombs at you. There was a good enough variety of enemies throughout the course of the game that let you be a bit creative in how to kill them, but the standard “aim and fire” tactic is still the most effective.
A major difference from the first game is the inclusion of side missions. Like I stated before, exploration is just as important in this game as staying alive. Scattered across the map are Resonance Points, which are small fragments of memories that fill in small plot holes. Discovering the points will reward Castellanos with anything from ammo to Green Gel (used to apply upgrades). Other times, you might not be so lucky as some of the points would alert enemies to that location. Much of the game will have you running through the streets of Union, so if you miss any of the points you’re more than likely able to still find them. There’s plenty of running back and forth from areas you’ve visited before, so don’t feel too upset if you initially miss something.
The upgrade system from the first entry returns with nurse Tatiana guiding you. Green Gel is the currency for upgrades, with Red Gel being the item used to bypass certain locks for other enhancements later on in the game. Castellanos can upgrade things such as health and stamina, being more quiet while crouching, and increasing your ability to dodge deadly attacks. Other than those upgrades, you can also increase your weapons individually at work tables. I focused on upgrading the handgun and shotgun, as you could go through the entire game not increasing a single attribute for any other gun and still survive. Besides the handgun and shotgun, everything else is used more situational.
The Evil Within 2 is a quality sequel to a surprisingly, yet exceedingly terrifying adventure. Although it takes a step-back in the scare department, the second installment does a phenomenal job in portraying a coherent story where you care about the characters well-being. The development of the characters, especially Castellanos, was one of the major elements and themes in the game’s plot; a much-needed relief compared to constant terror. The enemies and boss fights were overall forgettable, and don’t match up with the horrors of its predecessor. Castellanos’s second adventure into STEM concluded on a somewhat happy note, but left the door open for what should be a third, and final, installment.
Final Score: 8.25/10