The Evil Within 2 is quite possibly 2017’s best horror action/stealth title, especially in the AAA segment. It’s out now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One – we played the PS4 version for this review after playing a pre-release version on Xbox One earlier.
Although it didn’t get the same amount of attention as Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WW2 or FIFA 18, one of the titles we were eager to see behind closed doors during Gamescom was The Evil Within 2 – and it didn’t disappoint. Although it got a mixed reception, I was a fan of the first game – although I didn’t play it until all the DLC content had been released and the post-release patches had been applied. I now realize I made two wise choices – playing the game a little later made for a more diverse and balanced experience, and seeing The Evil Within 2 during Gamescom was an hour well spent.
Of course, the first game wasn’t perfect either. Its storyline was “out there”, and some interesting gameplay styles weren’t properly introduced until the (lengthy and totally worthwhile) DLC addons. The Evil Within 2 improves the formula by building on that greater diversity in gameplay while providing a more streamlined narrative experience at the game time. It still has plenty of “what on earth?!?”-moments, but it’s easier to connect with your protagonist and stay connected this time around. That protagonist is still detective Castellanos from the first game, who is haunted not only by the horrific creatures that attack him but also by personal trauma, mixed with hope for a brighter future.
The hour long portion of gameplay I played through during Gamescom was a great sampler for the full game in that it provided a good sense of a game split into two halves. The first is a more linear experience, not too unlike the experience that the first game provided. The other half of the game is much more of an open world approach – which is a risky change by developer Tango Gameworks but one that pays off. The game loses some of its cinematic flair, but more freedom of choice and less predictable routes increase the suspense.
Speaking of suspense, the game also places a much higher emphasis on stealth-based gameplay than the first game did – which was more combat-heavy in its approach. It’s a welcome change, especially since combat it still there, as it adds diversity to the lengthy campaign mode. This is one of the ways in which the post-release DLC for the first game provided a look ahead at the more diverse experience that is The Evil Within 2. More stealth also means that a smart use of resources has become more important – burst into combat and you’ll quickly run out of the ammo you will need later. As such, The Evil Within 2 shifts from action horror to survival horror.
Visually, the game is dark, but it’s gorgeous to look at. With its cinematic presentation, it’s even fun for horror fans to watch others play the game – though less so for the open world sections. It’s been almost a year since I played Resident Evil 7, and I don’t think I’ve played something quite as cinematic as The Evil Within 2 since then. Its audiovisual flavor borders on the grotesque at times, but as the nights start to grow longer again this is a great title to play with the lights turned down and the volume turned up.