2017 has not only been a good year for platformers but a good year for the survival horror genre. At one point I thought it would fade into obscurity as many of today’s titles attempt to fall trap to jump scares and walking simulators to serve as fodder to the YouTube lets players. Thankfully Resident Evil 7 and now The Evil Within 2 have come back to remind us what makes the genre so great.
The Evil Within 2 takes place a few years after the first one, our detective Sebastian is haunted by the sudden death of his family and the events at Beacon Hospital have only helped to further his decent into depression. Enter Kidman, his ex-partner who turned out to be working for a company called Mobius who helped develop the STEM machine capable of entering one’s mind. This was the very same machine that gave our main antagonist in the first game a means of bringing his nightmares to life. Of course this is all happening virtually within a dream so think of it as the machine from Inception.
Sebastian has been told that his daughter Lilly is still live and is being used as host for a new and improved STEM machine due to her compatibility. As expected things went wrong and a team sent in to investigate has not reported back. You being the father decide to go in and find a way to bring your daughter back to reality.
The plot sounds all well and good with some pretty interesting twists but I can’t help but feel the writing could have used a bit more work. It is border line campy and while I’m used to this in the PS2 era survival horror scene, in today’s gaming world it doesn’t cut it. Even Resident Evil 7 (a franchise known for its silly writing) had better dialogue.
Since the game take’s place in someone’s nightmares, the developers have been given the chance to be creative. Even though most of it feels grounded and real a lot of moments come out of left field making each tense experience unexpected and frightning. One moment you could be walking around a street, the next thing you know you enter a house that turns into a hallway of nightmares. This shift is more or less the core of what makes The Evil Within 2 standout amongst other survival horrors. It’s like they took the action horror elements of Resident Evil and blended it with the psychological horror of the Silent Hill series.
The Evil Within 2 does a lot to break itself apart from its predecessor. For one areas can be explored. The opening section allows Sebastian to traverse a neighborhood with side missions and rewards. It’s by no means an open world horror game but this freedom helps make the game feel less linear. This also adds some unexpected events, for instance I accidentally walked into a garage to find scrap and loot only to have the door close behind me and fight a monster up close and personal.
The monsters themselves are also quite menacing this time around. Rather than being your typical bullet sponges that run right towards you, here the enemies react to your shots and surround you. I died a lot in the early sections of the game which never happened as often in the first one.
From a presentation point of view The Evil Within looks amazing. Running on the STEM engine (which is derived from the ID tech engine) it ran smoothly on my 980ti. In contrast, The Evil Within 1 launched with annoying black borders and a 30 FPS cap which was thankfully later patched out but still had some stuttering issues. I will have to say that some textures look a bit low res even on high settings. The sound design is excellent as well so I definitely recommend checking this out in surround sound for the best horror experience.
As far as survival horror games go, The Evil Within 2 is a must. This and Resident Evil 7 have truly reminded me what makes the genre so great and I can only hope the trend continues. By not falling trap to so many survival horror walking simulators, we instead see a game that manages to put us in tense moments with the option to fight and understand your enemies rather than simply running away and hiding. I only hope that it manages to do well in what is already a bloated month of heavy hitter games.