Way back in 2014, “Resident Evil” director Shinji Mikami and his Tango Gameworks studio set the bar for modern survival-horror games with “The Evil Within.” Now three years later, Tango has delivered a sequel that maintains the creepy vibe of Mikami’s vision while offering more of what made the original game such an unforgettable experience.
For “The Evil Within 2,” Mikami (who remained involved in an executive producer role) has passed the torch to the next generation of developers, but his influence — and the shadow of the first game in the series — looms large. From the grotesque monsters you’ll encounter and the shifting reality of the game world around you to the constant feeling of dread that comes as you cautiously explore dimly lit hallways and use your flashlight to burn away shadows in order to differentiate between threats real and imagined, there’s no mistaking this game’s lineage.
“The Evil Within 2” picks up after the events of its predecessor. Players again assume the role of Sebastian Castellanos, a now-former detective who’s spending his days searching for answers at the bottom of a bottle following the traumatic events of the first game and the death of his daughter, Lily, in a house fire. But when Sebastian learns that his daughter may, in fact, still be alive, he agrees to work with Mobius, the shady organization responsible for the catastrophic events of the original game, and re-enter STEM — “The Evil Within’s” alternate reality generated by the mind of a human host — in order to save her.
One of the big departures from the original game is its setting. “The Evil Within 2” features a much more open world to explore within the confines of Union, a warped, twisted version of a stereotypical all-America town that exists within STEM. “The Evil Within 2” still maintains the linear progression of its predecessor, but I appreciated the variety of the environments and the strategic possibilities that came along with having more room to operate — in other words, I found it much easier to turn and run away from the nightmarish creatures that populate the town.
Indeed, discretion was often the better part of valor while playing “The Evil Within 2.” Sure, there were times when I encountered multiple enemies and went in with guns (or crossbow) blazing, and the third-person shooting mechanics of “The Evil Within 2” held up well in those instances. But far more often I found myself low on ammo or health (or both) and armed only with the knowledge that I would be torn to shreds were I to be detected. Thankfully the stealth approach proved to be a totally viable option in many instances, though I never felt completely comfortable for very long, regardless of the situation.
No matter how you approach combat, the tension remains palpable throughout the 18 to 20 hours it’s likely to take you to reach the end credits — it took me over 20 hours to finish the story, though admittedly I like to take my time with games such as this (and I scare easily).
“The Evil Within 2” is survival horror in the truest sense of the term — threats are abundant and enemies are relentless, making the mere act of staying alive a small victory in itself. As your palms sweat and your heart races, you’ll welcome the brief moments of respite, knowing full well that death could be waiting around the next corner or lurking in the shadows behind you.
Bigger and better in every way, “The Evil Within 2” is a fantastic follow-up to Mikami’s original masterpiece and one of this generation’s best survival-horror experiences.
“The Evil Within 2”
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One ($59.99)
Rating: M for mature