Shinji Mikami is among the most popular video game developers and designers. With titles like the first “Resident Evil” and the first “Dino Crisis” under his belt, he cemented his name among the legends and became a master of the survival horror genre. His magnum opus, however, has to be “Resident Evil 4,” the game that turned the series into a third-person shooter and is considered the best game among the series, loved by fans and critics alike. A few more projects later, he departed Capcom and later formed his own studio, Tango Gameworks, under Bethesda and Zenimax. The first game that Tango Gameworks worked on was titled “The Evil Within,” which took heavy inspiration from the “Resident Evil” series and delivered another tremendous third-person survival horror experience. The game gave you control of detective Sebastian Castellanos, a veteran in the Krimson City police department sent on a mission to investigate a distress call coming from the Beacon mental hospital. Joined by junior detectives Joseph and Kidman, they arrive at Beacon and walk into a massacre with countless dead bodies and blood everywhere and soon find out things aren’t the way they are supposed to be.
There’s a lot that happens that you and Sebastian will discover over the course of the game, but the long and short of it is that they get pulled into a system called STEM, which is powered by the mind of a madman, a real psycho named Ruvik, and they see some of the worst horrors of their lives while in there. The game was a good experience but came packed with a bunch of problems. It always had letterboxes on the top and bottom, which gave it a cinematic feel but restricted your view. The gameplay itself was very tense, but bugs and other problems made it messy to play. The enemy’s design was grotesque and very unique, but their frantic nature and movements made them difficult to deal with, and not in a good way. Overall, the first “Evil Within” was a solid entry into the survival horror genre, and though it came with some problems of its own, it quickly cemented its name among the greats. We are not here to talk about the first game; we are here to talk about “The Evil Within 2.” Where “The Evil Within” took heavy inspiration from “Resident Evil,” “The Evil Within 2” took that one step further and took heavy inspiration from “Silent Hill” and put you in a giant open town called Union. We’ll get to the plot and gameplay in a second but know this before we do: “The Evil Within 2” was a massive upgrade over the first game in just about every department. The graphics got a major facelift, the gameplay got smoother and less sluggish, and the story was much easier to follow and very interesting. With all that preamble out of the way, let’s see what makes “The Evil Within 2” worth playing.
‘The Evil Within 2’ Premise
The game opens after the events of the first game, with Sebastian haunted by the nightmares he faced while inside STEM, along with a more personal issue. We see Sebastian arriving at his house, which is aflame, as he frantically searches for his daughter Lilly inside. He runs through the burning building and finds his daughter inside her room, calling her dad for help. He embraces her as she slowly starts turning into a burned deformity and blames him for not being able to save her, saying that he was responsible for her fate. Sebastian wakes up from his nightmare, and we see him in a bar, drinking his sorrows away. He is greeted by none other than Kidman, who is sitting in front of him. He blames her for everything that happened inside STEM, as she was a secret agent working for Mobius all along, and points his gun at her. He tells her in a fit of rage that he’s been looking for her ever since the incident at Beacon and how he lost his daughter and his wife left him all because of Mobius. Sebastian has had it rough. Kidman informs him that Lilly is alive and that she is part of the new and better STEM system they built after the failure of the one they used in Beacon.
In a fit of rage, Sebastian tries to attack Kidman, and a couple of Mobius agents try to stop him. He knocks them down quickly and finds Kidman injecting him with a serum that leaves him unconscious on the ground. He wakes up tied to a wheelchair inside Mobius HQ, and Kidman drops some exposition for him and for the player. Sebastian learns that Lilly never died in the fire, but Mobius framed the entire thing so that he’d think his daughter died. They need Lilly because her aptitude is higher than anyone her age, and they need a young and innocent brain to make the new STEM. She also informs him that the only reason he wasn’t able to track Mobius down all these years is that they didn’t want him to and that they are everywhere, and the only way someone can get to them is if they want that person to. Sebastian enters a room where he sees the STEM system in action, with Mobius agents lying unconscious in bathtubs and the core of the system labelled “Lilly Castellanos.” He tries to break free of his restraints and is greeted by The Administrator, who tells him that they need him to enter STEM once again and find the “core,” aka his daughter, and bring her back as she is running loose inside and the system is falling apart because of that. Sebastian asks him what will happen if he doesn’t cooperate, to which the Administrator tells him that they’ll kill him and find another way. With no other options, Sebastian enters STEM once again in hopes of getting reunited with his daughter, whom he thought was dead. Before he plunges into STEM, Kidman assures him that she has a plan and that he’ll find someone inside that’ll help him. With all that out of the way, Sebastian enters STEM once again and, this time finds himself in a series of corridors filled with weird “art” comprised of human body parts and blood. He pushes forward and finds the artist, a guy in a blue suit with a camera. He sneaks across and later finds himself being chased by a giant freaky lady made completely out of limbs with a hacksaw attached to her arm. After he escapes that nightmare, he finds himself in a town called Union.
His mission inside is to find the extraction team they sent in to retrieve Lilly, save them if he can, and find Lilly and extract her. Union looks like a normal town, and Sebastian even remarks that it looks like “every town USA,” but it is anything but ordinary. The town is full of those zombie creatures called “Lost” and is breaking apart at the seams. He has to fight his way across a few of the lost and finds himself in front of one of the team members he was sent in there to help. That’s where the game truly begins. You’ll spend your time in Union trying to find Lilly and fighting horrendous monstrosities. The story here is very interesting, and while it may not win any awards, it’s worth seeing through to the end.
‘The Evil Within 2’ Gameplay
Just like the first game, “The Evil Within 2” is a survival horror game, but it is bigger and more expanded in every way. Instead of going through linear levels, you are free to explore the town of Union, find its secrets, and contend with the monsters roaming about the way you see fit. The gameplay here is very tense and heart-pounding, and you have access to multiple pistols, shotguns, a sniper rifle, a crossbow that can fire different kinds of bolts, and later, an assault rifle and a flamethrower. While your arsenal is vast, don’t even think for a second that you can charge in guns blazing in the middle of a pack of lost. They will rip you to shreds in no time, as you don’t get enough ammo and have to scavenge every nook and cranny to find resources. Make every bullet you fire count and try not to miss or waste even a single shot; you may regret it later. Your best bet would be to rely on stealth and sneak behind enemies and stab them using your knife to thin the herd, at the very least. Patience will take you a long way here.
The game also features a crafting system where you can use the resources you gather along your journey and turn them into ammo, medicine, or more. You get these resources pretty generously, and you can gather even more of them if you thoroughly search every area. However, the cost to craft things is a little high, so the balance here is almost perfect. You may be in dire need of a medkit, and you may have just enough herbs in your inventory to be able to craft one and only one. It works because the survival horror genre as a whole tries to deliver tense gameplay experiences by limiting you in a lot of ways and asking you to make the best out of the situation. If you are bad at resource management or have bad aim, then you’ll struggle here, that’s for sure.
Another couple of resources that you need and will find a lot of across your journey are green gel and weapon parts. Green gel is dropped by enemies once you kill them, and Sebastian sucks it up from the ground using a needle. It’s weirdly satisfying to collect green gel, and it awakens a kleptomaniac that was hidden inside you all along. You give the green gel to the nurse named Tatiana who returns from the first game and can be found in the safe space you are allotted, call your room, and use it to upgrade Sebastian. There are a lot of upgrades available for you to buy that give you increased stamina, more health, make you quieter, and so on. Every upgrade here is worth it and improves Sebastian in one way or another, and you can invest your green gel in the way you want Sebastian to be—stealthier, faster, able to take more hits, and so on. There’s plenty of green gel you’ll get throughout the game, but not enough to buy every single upgrade, so invest wisely to make the most of it. There is also a red gel that you can find; it’s very rare, and it unlocks more upgrades that you can buy using green gel, so it’s essential in its own way as well.
Weapon parts, on the other hand, work in a similar way and let you upgrade your weapons, and just like green gel, you’ll find plenty of weapon parts but not enough to upgrade every gun to the max. The upgrades here are no joke, either letting you do more damage or having more bullets in your magazine, and so on. When a gun is upgraded enough, it really hurts, and if you are wise with your ammo, then you can pretty much become unstoppable. Similar to red gel, you’ll come across high-grade weapon parts that’ll allow you to unlock more upgrades for your guns, so always be looking for them.
You can also find statutes across Union that, when broken, grant you a key that you can use to unlock lockers that can give you random rewards. From more ammo to more green gel or weapon parts, there are 32 of these lockers, and the items in each one of them can help you along your journey. You will also come across weapon pouches inside Union that’ll allow you to carry more ammo for your weapons, so keep looking for them as well as you go along. Union is also full of collectables that you can find, and a lot of them are packed with lore that’ll help you understand better what’s happening here.
Finally, a quick note on difficulty. No matter which difficulty you play, the game will give you a solid and well-rounded experience. Despite that, I’d recommend you play this on Nightmare difficulty; it’ll make your experience even tenser, and in my opinion, that’s the way this game should be played. You’ll unlock things like infinite ammo and additional, more powerful weapons based on the difficulty you beat the game on, and these items can be used in your subsequent playthroughs. If you manage to beat the game on Nightmare difficulty, you’ll unlock Classic difficulty, which will challenge your skills. No upgrades, no auto-saves, seven manual saves, and higher difficulty across the board with fewer resources scattered all around. It’s no easy task to beat a game like this, but it’s something every survival horror fan should try at least once.
These have been the basics of “The Evil Within 2” when it comes to its gameplay. A third-person survival horror experience that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s a lot more here that you can find out on your own, and I haven’t even mentioned the intense boss battles this game throws at you! A special mention should be made of the enemy design here; it’s not as impressive as the first game, but it still retains the gross nature of the enemies from the first game. Be careful and manage your resources well when in Union, and you’ll make it out alive.
The Technical Stuff
This game, despite its age, is beautiful, especially on the Xbox Series X., Running at 60fps and 1080p resolution. The STEM Engine they used to make this game was proprietary tech harnessed from IDTech, and while I am not a developer, the engine worked wonderfully for a game like this. Everything looks good here, from the textures to the characters to the environments, and the sound design is very good too. The voice acting also deserves praise, despite some things not making sense plot-wise; the line delivery is great for both the main and side characters. The enemy AI could have used a little bit more, as they do some of the most random things out of nowhere, but then again, it could’ve been a design choice. The game can also be played in first-person, which makes it all the more spooky. My experience with this game was solid across the board, and I’d say when it comes to the technical side of things, this game is very sound and well-designed.
The first “Evil Within” was a good game and a solid beginning to a new IP; though problematic, the game captured the essence of the genre perfectly. “The Evil Within 2” is better in every way and, in my opinion, one of the best survival horror games ever made. For a lot of people, this game is “The Dark Souls” of the survival horror genre, and while I do see where they are coming from, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s not perfect, but what it does, it does with nigh perfection. All the improvements made here and a genuinely interesting story kept me hooked across my multiple playthroughs on various difficulties. Whether you are a fan of this genre or not, “The Evil Within 2” is one game from this genre as a whole that I’d recommend almost everybody to check out. I liked the game a lot, and I believe it is really well made. I recommend it.