What happened to the dark atmosphere?
The Evil Within 2 is the sequel to the 2014 surprise horror hit from Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil fame. Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, the game continues the tragic story of detective Sebastian Castellanos trying to save his daughter. Released on October 13th 2017 (which was also a Friday the 13th), Evil Within 2 promises to take players through horrifying domains with terrifying enemies while trying to tell a sci-fi horror story worthy of paying attention to. Does it have what it takes to compete with the heavy hitters of the new era?
At first glance The Evil Within 2 looks absolutely amazing, however after playing for a few hours the beauty begins to fade away. On numerous occasions the game was plagued by frame rate drops and inconsistent textures. The transition between cutscene and gameplay is extremely fluid but cutscenes and gameplay are hardly anything to be blown away by at all. A lot of the environments are bland and uninteresting which really damage the game’s ability to be scary. The enemy character models look fairly menacing but the constant reliance on jump scares make the designs so much less interesting. Overall the game doesn’t look bad but it sure doesn’t hold its own against some of the other heavy hitters from this year.
The story of detective Sebastian Castellanos is as tragic as tragic stories can possibly get. Quite literally every turn of this man’s life is a wobbly staircase ready to collapse beneath him whether he’s climbing up or down. The big problem is with so many constant failures happening throughout the plot it gets really hard to connect with the lead character and ever really feel bad for him. It’s even harder to connect with Sebastian for anyone who may have skipped the first entry in this potentially growing series. On top of a lack of a true connection with the protagonist, the story itself becomes very convoluted very quickly. The development team seems to have been conflicted on how linear they wanted the game to be vs how much open world freedom they wanted to allow the players. It was really hard to not only get interested in the plot but also figure it out in the beginning of the game. As the story progresses, if you can get hooked into the plot, the twist become quite interesting and entertaining. It’s tough to say, but you really have dive deep into the story to enjoy it, (because you can say that about any story ever) but that is really the case, otherwise the content is just ridiculous. The world may never know if The Evil Within 2 has a poorly written story or a poorly presented story. Just kidding, of course it will.
This was probably the most disappointing part of the entire game. The Audio was bad. The game lacked a major sense of horror which can easily be tied in part to the lack of ambient horror. When playing in surround sound the sound effects are unable to convert a home into the environment on screen. The only prominent sounds are footsteps and the awful gurgling of the enemy creatures. Speaking the script and voice acting really dropped the ball. It’s so bad it’s hard to know for sure which to blame. The players character seems to have fallen in love with asking the questions “What is going on?” and “Who/what was that?” It felt like every single time a change of environment occurred he needed to spit out one of those lines. And the lines are delivered poorly. So poorly. And the dialogue between characters is even worst. The only times it was noticeably decent were during text guided conversation trees that revealed more information. That’s right. Bad Audio.
Ever play Resident Evil 4? Nothing more needs be said. Seriously, the gameplay mechanics are incredible. If any player who plays first person shooters with tactical control mapping, it’ll feel right at home. Those who don’t will need to do a little adjusting but it will make sense once committed to muscle memory. The targeting system is extremely fluid. The aim assist felt amazing and was nearly impossible to not want to use and just enjoy the game. Playing with it turned off (AKA correctly) still felt incredibly responsive, when frames weren’t dropping of course. Character weight and movement felt good. None of his pacing felt too fast or too lost despite how silly his light job animation looks. Navigating the menu options makes a ton of sense and opening any menu slows the time in the game to a near stop. The development team definitely locked the doors right when it came to how this game plays.
It’s important to note that Shinji Mikami did not direct this sequel. As a horror game the goal is to provide an adrenaline rush created from the constant rush of fear. The Evil Within 2 did not deliver on that promise. It did however provide a very good action sci-fi adventure with a few jump scares and grotesque images. In respect to the game it was very fun to play when time allowed for a good committed hunkering down. It was hard to ever feel a true rush of excitement getting ready to plug back in. That however didn’t take away from the fact that once plugged in there were few things that sounded more fun then sneaking up for a face stab or blasting the heads off of the oncoming deformed threat. The pacing is rather slow and the enemies are absolutely some of the toughest but once things fall under control (or as close to it as possible) fun flies directly into the brain and lights a fire. One major element that felt like it was missing or not included enough was explosions. Things blowing up in video games always a plus.
The recent resurgence of the Horror genre in media and pop culture has led to some lackluster products and content. The Evil Within 2 doesn’t fall directly into that category but it definitely falls close. The audio is definitely the largest component of any horror product so to allow that to fail is to allow the product to fail. Mix an extremely complex plot with poor voicing and prepare to catch the aftermath. The good news is, as with most Bethesda games, the game did what it was supposed to do as a game. It provided options, fun, and great game mechanics. The Evil Within 2 could have been a lot more but in a world with so much who takes the blame for the bad mixing.