Survival horror was never a genre that especially appealed to me, way back when I arrived and began playing computer games my natural instinct was to shoot the given monstrosity shambling towards me. The idea of running from or stealth-ing around it never even crossed my mind. On Brian my people are expected to face every foe they encounter with a set jaw and squared shoulders…many of the young get beaten to a pulp trying to stand up to an opponent much bigger and stronger than they are. Still it builds character. Plus sooner or later they learn that whilst they may get knocked down, they get up again, as nothing will ever keep them down.
My point is that breaking the habit of facing an attacking enemy was a difficult one for me; it didn’t seem to be in my nature to run and hide (and before you say it my ship isn’t hidden it is strategically placed for when the invasion begins).
It took a survival horror game based on a film I adore to finally get me to actually take notice of this overlooked genre. That game was Alien Isolation. Since then I have been more open to the idea of a survival horror experience and have taken notice to games claiming to be just that.
The Evil Within was one such game.
So far there are two main games in the franchise with a post-credits scene in the second game leaving the possibility open for a third. There were also three pieces of DLC released that tied in with events taking place at the same time as the first game.
Below you will find:
The Evil Within
The Evil Within: The Story so Far…
The Evil Within 2
Welcome to STEM…
Released in October 2014 for multiple platforms including PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360 The Evil Within is a survival horror game that comes from the mind of Shinji Mikami, the man behind the Resident Evil games. The game focuses around a detective named Sebastian Castellanos as he tries to battle his way through a nightmarish world of monsters and twisted creatures to uncover the truth about what is happening to the world around him.
I had seen a few walkthroughs and reviews of The Evil Within and I was intrigued by some of the ideas, I am not a fan of survival horror as the Resident Evil games slipped past me unnoticed, and yet Alien Isolation was absolutely brilliant. Creeping around levels, hiding and holding my actual breath as the alien thumped around hunting me down made my all three of my hearts pound. Being a big fan of the Alien franchise helped because that game really made you feel like you were part of that retro-1970s era science-fiction. So Isolation opened me up to the idea of survival horror and The Evil Within looked truly grotesque, from the design of the monsters themselves, to the levels. All seemed soaked in blood and now had the graphical capabilities of a PS4 console behind them so I was expecting to be impressed with the game…we will get onto whether I was in a little while…but first let your brains absorb what is going on…
Three detectives and a police officer are on route to a disturbance at the Beacon Metal Hospital in Krimson City, they are Sebastian, Julie Kidman, Joseph Oda, and uniformed Officer Connelly. Once they arrive they find the staff slaughtered, and Sebastian witnesses a hooded man moving inhumanly fast killing three other officers, before he can do anything that same man appears behind Sebastian and next thing we know is that Sebastian has been suspended upside down by a huge figure that is dismembering other bodies hanging up. Sebastian escapes the basement and the man, known as the Sadist, pursues him through the abandoned sub-levels of the hospital with a chainsaw before Sebastian is able to escape in an ambulance with Connelly, Kidman, a doctor named Jimenez and his patient Leslie. Behind them the city is ripped apart by a powerful earthquake as the hooded figure watches from the top of the hospital.
The ambulance ultimately crashes and separated from the others, Sebastian ventures out alone into the world as he tries to understand what has happened to Krimson City. He encounters Connelly, who has transformed into a strange zombie-like creature and is forced to either kill or just flee from him. Soon afterwards Sebastian discovers that the world he is now in is filled with twisted humanoids that want to kill him. Ammunition is low and his weapons limited. Sebastian continues onwards as he tries to reunite with his colleagues, the doctor and uncover what the hooded man wants and what has happened to the city.
First off the game looks sickeningly lovely, from the monster design, to the environments to the design of the characters. The previous Resident Evil games were only capable of having zombie and other bosses that moved or sounded a little weird but as they were on older consoles they were naturally limited by the graphics capability at the time. Here on the PS4 the creatures are twisted monstrosities that have been torn apart by barbed wire, or turned into two headed abominations, there are even enemies that can turn themselves invisible. They react to where they are hit by bullets too, shoot them in the shoulder and that shoulder will be jerked back, so shooting them in the arm won’t necessarily slow them down if they are running at you.
The nature of the world itself is also both interesting and unique…hold on…
...it turns out everyone you encounter is or was linked into a machine called STEM that is connected to the mind of the hooded man, Ruvik, and everything is essentially artificially constructed. The Haunted are other people who have become consumed by the system and Ruvik’s mind, and like the Matrix, if you die within STEM you die in the real world too. Inside the artificial reality Ruvik is able to manipulate the world as he desires so often levels will transition as the world shifts around the player. Sebastian might be dropped down a pit only to land sideways in a corridor as the camera rotates to show him standing up now being the right way up.
The problem with doing this as a level mechanic is that you really have got no idea how much progress you are actually making. The lighthouse on top of the Beacon Hospital keeps popping up but it isn’t until much later in the game that you actually decide to try and get back to the hospital again because it is the only part of the city left relatively intact by the earthquake.
The game calls itself “Survival horror” and yet it doesn’t seem that Shinji Mikami told the designers that, because whilst ammo is pretty scarce, there are very few opportunities to be stealthy. After the prologue level in which you must sneak around the Sadist, who has a chainsaw (that kills you instantly obviously) there is really no other time to stealth it up. After creeping round the alien in Isolation sneaking past the scripted path of the Sadist was child’s play, and for the first level or two, this was the same with the majority of the Haunted. The first few encounters with them are relatively easy because they are far enough apart that you can creep up behind them for a one-shot stealth kill. But after that they are nearly always in groups so it is very difficult to pick them off one by one without the others quickly spotting you. Giving you only small amounts of ammo is one thing but then dumping you in an area where there are a bunch of monsters that you are ill equipped to fight isn’t survival horror it is just annoying.
You are able to upgrade both yourself and your weapons plus inventory slots using green gel or “brain juice” (as I prefer to call it). This is found in the world in bottles or can be picked up from defeated enemies. The game is not as harsh with brain juice as it is with ammo. I was easily able to upgrade my health and put some juice into weapons upgrades pretty early in the game so your weapons or health doesn’t need to be crap for very long. Naturally depending on your play style will dictate what you sink points into, I favoured health, and focussing on having a decent pistol as it was the weapon I was using the most. The thing is that none of the upgrades, not one, are stealth focussed. You can’t silence your pistol or make your shoes not make noise when you run…so for a game that calls itself survival horror…how come none of the upgrades allow the player to get past enemies without having to kill them?? Yes you can throw bottles to stun enemies but the simple fact is that if you want to beat the game you need to kill every enemy in your way. Sebastian also has a serious case of the shakes so holding a weapon still when trying to aim is something that has to be upgraded otherwise you are effectively trying to aim whilst jumping on a trampoline.
The weapons themselves are also pretty weak when you start off, however, during the game you are able to upgrade the weapons you have to give them a bit more punch. Personally I sank a lot of upgrade points into the pistol, simply because it was the weapon that I was using the most, and the game was giving me the most bullets for. I also upgraded the amount of ammo I could carry for it too. There was nothing more annoying in this game than finding bullets for one of your weapons only for the game to tell you your inventory was full so you couldn’t carry them.
There are traps in the game that you can trigger to help you kill enemies like spikes coming through the floor or bolts dropping from the ceiling but it generally takes a split second for the trap to activate after flipping the switch so enemies might have run past them by the time they go off.
I have to admit though that the “Agony Crossbow” is a decent weapon being the best in the game in my opinion, and here’s why. The game is very mean with ammo for the majority of the weapons, however, you can find parts and more importantly disarm traps which will reward you with parts that can then be used to create bolts for the crossbow. It wasn’t until quite a way into the game that I started throwing upgrade points into the bolts and irritatingly the game doesn’t tell you if there are any additional rewards for upgrading bolts to their highest level. So after throwing a fuck tonne of upgrade points into the harpoon bolts I discovered that at the maximum level they are also equipped with fire damage. Now fire is the weakness of every enemy in the game, you are given matches that can be used to burn bodies, and it is the only way to put the enemies down for good. My tactic was to shoot most enemies in the legs and then when they fell to the floor set them on fire to save ammo, if you get a group of enemies on the floor together one match can burn them all which is great for you and your ammo levels. Crafting harpoon bolts only cost you two trap parts so they will become your go to bolt, once they have fire damage, enemies become a joke. Hitting anything other than mini boss-type characters like the Sadist or the Keeper with a flaming bolt will kill them instantly which gives you a huge advantage. Trust me sinking brain juice points into fully upgrading the harpoon bolts is totally worth it, and best of all, the bolts still only cost you two trap parts to make.
But my biggest question about using this type of weapon is this: why can’t you pick up used bolts??
Some bolts, like explosive or stun, if you miss will embed themselves in the walls and can be picked up again. But the harpoon bolts don’t do that. Strangely you occasionally pick up harpoon bolts stuck in the walls, so why don’t mine do that?? It is beyond frustrating to see one of your bolts go sailing past an enemy knowing it is going to disappear into the ether when you should be able to go and pick it up again. But not only that once the bolt has been used it disappears, you can’t use any of them more than once, if it hits an enemy then it is done. I don’t understand why a metal bolt that has torn through an enemy’s head, killing them, is suddenly lost when that enemy hits the floor.
Take a look at this guy…
I think you’ll agree that is a bolt through his head…so after killing him where does that bolt go?? He falls to the floor dead or stunned and you burn him but either way the bolt simply vanishes. Naturally this was done for game play purposes because if you could just run over and pick up missed harpoons or dig them out of enemies then you’d never run out so there wouldn't be much surival in this horror game. Still if there had been an in game reason for why you can’t reuse these bolts then I would have accepted it, yet there is no explanation, bolts are used and then disappear.
Also bullets themselves do not act like bullets. At one point early in the game I had to take out a sniper (yes the Haunted are able to carry and use weapons) so I snuck into a house nearby and crept up to a window. The sniper was on the neighbouring building and I lined up my shot with his head…but when I fired the window in front of me just shattered. The bullet took out the glass but it did not pass through, this happened again later in the game when a sniper rifle shot was stopped by a shattering window in a subway car. Why will glass stop a bullet?? It is not bullet proof because the glass itself will break so why does my bullet vanish once the glass is broken??
Plus, remember when I said that fire is the weakness of every enemy (and I mean every single enemy) in the earlier levels Sebastian often encounters burning bonfires. Yet he is unable to pick up a burning piece of wood to use on enemies. Some carry flaming torches which you can pick up and use after killing them, but these are one hit kill weapons. Use your torch on one enemy and it is gone. You can’t simply run over to the fire and pick up another one. Yes, this was once again done for game play purposes but it doesn’t make sense because Sebastian doesn’t seem to grasp the advantage of crafting his own torches.
The torch isn’t the only single use weapon in the game, as you wander about you stumble across axes or take them from dead enemies that can be used once, they explode the heads of most lesser Haunted in one hit, but they are destroyed in the process. Joseph joins you during the game, his main weapon is an axe that he uses multiple times, so again why do the ones we pick up only get used once?? Sebastian will pick up an axe but turns his nose up at a meat clever or knife because there is no option to pick these up. The most annoying of all of these is the chainsaw. In the prologue, you have to run from the Sadist and his rusty chainsaw, a few chapters later, you encounter him again and must beat him in order to continue. Once he goes down you pick up his chainsaw, a smile snaked across my lips as I thought the game had just thrown a bone my way, BUT Sebastian uses the saw to cut through a chain keeping a gate closed then throws the chainsaw to one side before proceeding…
Sebastian, you had a chainsaw, and yet after using it once, you throw it to the ground. Does the game establish that it is broken?? No. Does the game say that maybe it has run out of fuel?? No. Is there any explanation at all that explains why Sebastian did not take a hugely powerful chainsaw with him on his journey?? NO!!!! There is no explanation about the reason behind why characters do stupid things over and over again. Probably the worst example is a sequence when Joseph triggers a trap destroying a bridge, he is knocked out, and you save him from two Haunted. After he is safe he puts a plank of wood across the gap to enable you to get across, now whilst Joseph opens another gate, a bunch of Haunted attack you. They are on the far side of the bridge and Sebastian engages them without just…you know…kicking away the plank of wood. It is obvious that Sebastian is not that intelligent because he does so many stupid things and the game limits what you can do so kicking away the plank of wood is not an option available to you.
Some of the deaths also feel pretty cheap, there are instant kill traps, and it is pretty annoying playing the same section over and over because a cheap trap instantly killed you. Fortunately these traps are usually simple to avoid and if you trigger one it is probably because you bumbled into one without looking where you were going.
As the main antagonist Ruvik doesn’t seem to have an actual plan. During the game…oh yes…
So, it turn out that Ruvik wants to get to Leslie because Leslie has a unique mind that Ruvik needs…I am not going to tell you why…now as Ruvik has conscious control over the world you are in why does he not simply transport Leslie to where he needs him to be?? As Sebastian you have a number of encounters with Ruvik, and on one occasion he tells you that are going to have to live with what he [Ruvik] is going to make you [Sebastian] do…still everything in the world is trying to kill you. If Ruvik somehow needs Sebastian why is every enemy in the world that Ruvik controls trying to kill him over and over again?? It makes no sense. Plus Ruvik is nothing that we haven’t seen before, an all powerful being that could just kill you but doesn’t, and bizarrely gives you the means to fight and defeat him.
The bosses themselves are not especially original, but probably the most memorable of these for me is the Keeper. This is a bloke that has a safe for a head, now what makes the Keeper memorable for me was the fact that whilst he is relatively easy to kill he will then appear anywhere there is another safe. You get trapped in a bunker with him at one point and must stop poison gas filling the room, the Keeper keeps reappearing after you put him down, so trying to turn the leaver to shut off the gas as he shudders back to life in your peripheral vision does make you shout at the screen for Sebastian to hurry up.
Unfortunately the others are things we've seen before especially if you have played Dead Space and are familiar with the look of human corpses being used to create other larger forms. In fact thinking about it a lot of these creatures look like variations of monsters that we saw in either Dead Space or even a giant Spider alien from early PS3 game Resistance: Fall of Man
In addition it isn’t exactly clear if these bosses are defeated or not. You fight the Sadist at least twice, and then another version of him that has a rocket launcher. I don’t know if he is supposed to be the same Sadist as when you defeat the first one Ruvik absorbs his essence or something, and you witness Ruvik giving life to the Haunted by infusing them with part of himself so perhaps these beings are meant to be the same but maybe they are not. Either way the game does not take the time to explain why you are seeing the same thing again so you don't know if the same enemy reappears or if you a seeing a new version of it
It is also often not made clear whether you are supposed to be fighting a boss.
Some areas are locked off so it is pretty clear that you have to kill the boss before being able to proceed but sometimes you are supposed to ignore them. There is a large dog-like creature that attacks you at one point, Joseph is knocked out (again) and initially I was just dodging around the dog but this did nothing until it eventually knocked me down and killed me. In my next attempt I fired sniper bullets at it, after about three hits, Joseph woke up, and the two of us escaped to a safe zone. Sebastian had to return to the area with the dog to retrieve Joseph’s glasses but again I just ignored the dog, ran over and picked up the glasses, and then returned to the safe zone. The dog was left alive and never appeared in the game again.
There is also a spider-lady that appears for a level, chases you around for a bit and then disappears. She reappears later on and you must battle her. Once she is defeated you get brain juice (enemies that have been put down permanently will generally give you brain juice) so you’d think she is gone for good. But nope, because she attacks you again a few chapters later, only this time you pretty much just avoid her attacks, and just run into a lift to escape from her…after this she doesn’t return.
I think the option to destroy these bosses is up to the player and now that I am on my second play through I will probably see how much time it takes to bring these two bosses in particular down.
Considering how much I have been picking holes in the game you might be thinking that I thought it was shit, and whilst there were elements that didn’t make sense I did enjoy the game. It has one of my favourite features of any game and that is the inclusion of a +game mode so you can start over with all of your weapons and upgrades intact from the previous play through. I spent around twenty hours working on the game and immediately started playing again on a +game. I love being able to slaughter the enemies that gave me so much trouble on my first play through without even breaking a sweat and that has jacked up the fun level for me immensely.
Oh yes, I will also give you a top tip for fighting the invisible enemies, use the agony crossbow, because when aiming the bow you are given a trajectory to show you where the bolt will land. If one of the invisible enemies is in front of you the trajectory will just stop in mid-air so you know if they are in front of you or not.
All in all The Evil Within is ultimately fun, yes there are some niggles, but I enjoyed the twenty hours I spent with it and immediately headed into a +game so that I could take advantage of the unlocks and upgrade the weapons I hadn’t been able to focus on during my first play through.
The game is worth your time and is worthy of a Thumbs Up, previously my only real experience of survival horror was Alien Isolation which was always going to be a tough act to follow. However, I have to say that Evil Within has made me more open to playing more survival horror games in the future, so I'd call it a success
7/10 – The set up of the game is interesting and The Evil Within is grotesquely beautiful. A lot of the characters are pretty forgettable and yet it is worth a play if you are a fan of the early Resident Evil games and/or survival horror.
I have recently started playing The Evil Within 2 and thought I would take a moment to catch everyone up to date on what exactly was going on in that game’s world. I reviewed the first game but did not play either of the canon DLCs that followed afterwards. So there are gaps in the story. Depending on when you, my loyal fan, are reading this, will dictate if the review for the second game is below this article or I am still working on it.
I might as well say right up front that this whole article is going to basically be one long spoiler as I am going to be talking about the first game as well as key elements from two pieces of DLC that came out shortly after The Evil Within. There was a third DLC called The Executioner in with you play as the Keeper (the guy with the safe on his head), however, I am pretty sure that is a non-canon game that was just released so the player could have some fun smashing enemies into mush with a big fuck-off hammer.
In the main game you play as Sebastian a detective who is suddenly thrown into a nightmare world of twisted monstrosities and horrifying creatures all of which want to rip him limb from limb. He is trapped in this world with his partner Joseph Oda and Julie Kidman. The three of them struggled to escape with their sanity whilst a hooded man named Ruvik stalks them through abandoned cities, catacombs, tunnels and naturally with this being a horror game, sewers. The player is as much in the dark about what is happening as Sebastian is, and no one around him seems to know what is going on either. Through the game we learn that Ruvik was working on a device called STEM that linked the consciousnesses of various people together. Ruvik was sold out by his former friend Doctor Jimenez, and was used as the test subject for the new prototype STEM system.
By the time Sebastian escapes from STEM he has learned that Kidman was not who she said she was, and it seems Ruvik might have been successful in his quest to take over Leslie’s mind to escape the artificial world of STEM.
Numerous questions were left unanswered.
We didn’t know who Kidman was working for, nor exactly who is was that sliced Ruvik’s living brain from his body to use as the basis for the STEM system.
There were obviously other things happening away from the events of the main game that Sebastian was unaware of, which revolved around what was actually going on.
Two DLCs were released The Assignment and The Consequence, which filled in those gaps and both featured the player taking control of Kidman. In all honesty I have not played either of these two games because for what they were I felt they were not worth the purchase price so did not bother getting them. However, thanks to Outside Xbox who have played the games I was able to find out what was happening (plus I looked on the Evil Within Wiki).
Essentially Kidman worked for a company called MOBIUS that has the ethics of Weiland-Yutani from Aliens or Umbrella from Resident Evil or Wolfram & Hart from Angel or Lexcorp from Superman or…well, you get the idea. They give her the task of entering the world of STEM to find Leslie before Ruvik can get to him.
In The Assignment Kidman is rendered defenceless and must sneak her way past numerous enemies. She is successful in tracking down Leslie and takes him into a church (an event that was witnessed by Joseph and Sebastian in the main game). In the church Ruvik takes control of Leslie and disappears as Kidman was poised to kill the boy.
Kidman’s boss the sinister Administrator asks Kidman what she is doing as they need Leslie alive. Kidman tells him that it not possible and Ruvik is too dangerous. The Administrator chases her for questioning his orders but Kidman is able to escape which is where The Assignment ends.
Next is The Consequence in which Kidman awakens in the Safe Haven before ending up in MOBIUS headquarters. She decides to travel down to the bottom floor to find a STEM terminal because she thinks that is where Leslie will go.
Along the way she learns more about Ruvik’s relationship with MOBIUS and how they treated him. Kidman eventually ends up back in Krimson City and after travelling through the Police Department seeing echoes of Sebastian and Joseph.
After managing to catch up with Sebastian and shoots Ruvik as he tries to transform Sebastian into a Haunted. She is forced to once again flee from the Administrator until she reunites with Sebastian and Joseph on a School bus.
After once again being separated from the other two Kidman sets off after Leslie again. Ruvik is trying to take control of him but with encouragement from Kidman, Leslie manages to fight off Ruvik’s control. As Kidman takes Leslie into a playground the boy flickers between being himself and being under the control of Ruvik, Kidman is posed to kill him but is stopped by the intervention of Sebastian and the Administrator. Kidman tries to inform the Administrator that Ruvik wants Leslie and will become him in order to escape. She is told that MOBIUS know exactly what Leslie will become and that Ruvik is a corpse. Kidman tries to shoot Leslie but fails and is taken back to MOBIUS HQ.
Okay, I’m going to stop here because I am pretty much copying what is on the Evil Within Wiki page...basically Kidman learns through all this that MOBIUS consider her to be an expendable asset. She fights against a manifestation of the Administrator, defeating him and awakening outside of STEM.
The DLC ends with the Administrator alive and well informing Kidman that she failed to neutralize Ruvik due to Sebastian’s interference. Kidman tells MOBIUS operatives to leave Jimenez, Connolly and Sebastian (the former two being dead) in the STEM baths as “they are not going anywhere” and the Administrator adds “No one is”
So there you go…the gist is that MOBIUS is a powerful organisation that is plugged into every aspect of the world. Myra (Sebastian’s wife) works for them. Individuals are considered expendable and the Administrator is prepared to do anything and everything necessary to accomplish MOBIUS’ goals.
That is where I currently am in terms of the history of what was happening in The Evil Within’s universe and whilst I made a point of finding out what happened in those DLCs I am not sure how necessary they are if you are planning to play The Evil Within 2.
I think as long as you get that MOBIUS are evil then I think you’re okay going into the sequel.
As of writing this I have only just started playing the second game and have already been chased down a corridor by a giant multiple-headed lady with a large smile and an equally large circular saw instead of a right hand…so I think the game starts as it means to go on.
If it is anything like its predecessor I will look forward to upgrading my weapons and facing that same monster again later on when I get to paint the walls with her, rather than the other way around.
The sequel to 2014’s The Evil Within sees former Detective Sebastian Castellanos returning to another STEM world. Unlike the original game which was directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami this game was directed by John Johanas, with Mikami onboard as producer and helping in general development. Neither Anson Mount nor Jennifer Carpenter returned to reprise the roles of Sebastian and Juli Kidman respectively from the first game, both of which are replaced with new voice actors.
Unlike the first game in this series I tried to stay as far away from The Evil Within 2 as possible because I quite often put on walkthroughs or Let’s Plays... of games to play in the background whilst I am doing other things thus ruining the game when I come to play it myself. I did this with the first game and with Resident Evil VII. I wanted to come into The Evil Within 2 with no prior knowledge of the game in order to play it as it was intended.
The events of the game take place three years after the Ruvik incident of the first game; Sebastian (now voiced by Marqus Bobesich) has left the Krimson City Police Department as he is still traumatised by the events that happened at Beacon Hospital. Naturally no one believed his account of what happened, and his former partners Joseph Oda and Juli Kidman have both vanished without a trace. Sebastian is still haunted by memories of his daughter Lilly being killed in a house fire years before, and his wife Myra, unable to accept their daughter’s death, left him convinced that she was still alive somewhere. Whilst trying to drown his sorrows in a bar, Sebastian is approached by Juli Kidman (now voice Meg Saricks), who tells him that Lilly is indeed still alive, the organisation that Kidman works for MOBIUS, is using her as the Core in their new STEM system. Unfortunately the system has developed some problems, contact has been lost with those inside and MOBIUS want Sebastian to go in to find his daughter.
Sebastian agrees and enters a new world of STEM. However, unlike Ruvik’s system, MOBIUS has created a small town called Union, which has a population of several hundred, as well as numerous operatives that work for MOBIUS. A team was sent in a week ago to retrieve Lilly but as all contact with Union has been lost since they entered no one on the outside is aware of exactly what is happening.
The former detective immediately encounters signs that things are very wrong in MOBIUS’ STEM after witnessing a man being murdered by a crazed photographer. He reaches Union only to discover that twisted monstrosities known as The Lost (that have a lot in common with Haunted from the first game) prowl the streets attacking and killing on sight anyone they come across. Union is also unstable and starts to literally break apart preventing Sebastian from travelling through the town.
Contacting Kidman, Sebastian advises her that things are a lot like Beacon, and he is forced to face The Lost, a sadistic photographer, and a crazed priest if he wants to find his daughter, and escape Union alive...
So straight off the bat one of the massive changes between The Evil Within and the sequel is that the game is now a kind-of sandbox. I say kind-of because whilst the first game was separated into different levels, and was a very linear experience. Here Sebastian has access to sections of the town of Union; he can go where he wants, and when he wants (where it doesn’t interfere with the story). Numerous buildings can be explored which lead to side mission activities, collectables, fallen MOBIUS agents as well as residual memories that Sebastian can view with his communicator (basically a walkie-talkie he uses to contact Kidman and others within Union). Similarly to games like the early 3D Grand Theft Auto series, Sebastian is limited to a certain area of the town and yes he can explore those areas freely but cannot travel anywhere he wants. The different sections of the town are connected by backdoor passageways called The Marrow, which reminded me a lot of the ones seen in The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions; these allow travel between the broken pieces of the town. Travelling through these passageways is not a cake-walk as The Lost have managed to get into them as well so even in The Marrow, Sebastian is not safe. As the game progresses different sections of The Marrow begin to collapse preventing travel back to previous areas, so whilst Sebastian can sometimes go back to previous parts of the town, there isn’t really much point to do so once an area has been left behind.
The sand-box town reminded me of Silent Hill with its twisted monsters wandering the streets that will attack on sight. I did enjoy sneaking around, killing the enemies, and clearing out the bit of the town I was in so I could explore freely. Naturally though as the story progresses, enemies are often respawned during cut scenes, so if you are exploring then killing everything you can find before continuing the story does make getting about a bit easier.
There are three main enemies in the game; to discuss the third would lead to a spoiler so I won’t disclose who the last boss is. However, what I find strange about the set-up is that everyone in Union is in a STEM bath in the real world. The room Sebastian is seen in at the beginning of the game contains maybe a couple dozen baths, so presumably there are other baths in other massive rooms somewhere within the MOBIUS complex. Kidman tells Sebastian that they have lost contact with Union and the personnel inside. Sebastian’s radio allows him to communicate with Kidman whenever he chooses, and he tells her what is happening. Two of the enemies, the photographer, Stefano and the priest, Theodore are trying to get hold of Lilly as she is MOBIUS’ STEM core. If they can absorb her power then they will be able to bend Union to their will, in much the same way that as the core of the original STEM, Ruvik was able to change whatever he wanted in the environment around him. What I found puzzling was that Sebastian had to deal with both threats within the STEM world where both were very powerful, yet logically their bodies should be somewhere in the real world, and MOBIUS should know where. So the people that are a direct threat to Lilly and Union, why can’t their minds be disconnected from the system by unplugging their bodies in the real world?? There are two points in the game when Kidman sends information on Stefano and Theodore to Sebastian, which clearly means that MOBIUS know exactly who these two people are, yet they don’t just disconnect them. If it was established that killing their bodies in the real world wouldn’t make any difference as their minds had been completely downloaded into STEM then fine, but no explanation is given as to why MOBIUS can’t disconnect them. Killing is not something that MOBIUS has any problem with so an explanation like the one I mentioned above would have been sufficient to explain away this rather glaring plot hole. In fact once Sebastian confirms that Union is pretty much going to Hell why don’t MOBIUS disconnect everyone apart from their own operatives from the system, therefore there are no murderous Lost wandering around, and only their own personnel are going to be left alive to bring Union back under control??
There are a couple of moments in the game that made me go...
See, it turns out that there are two kinds of personalities that will give someone massive power within the STEM world, one is that of a child, and the other is that of a psychopath. So, yeah, if someone is a total psycho then they will, for some reason, have almost god-like abilities if they are put into STEM. People go through a series of tests and physiological exams before being put into Union, but those tests missed both Stefano and Theodore...again like not disconnecting either lunatic in the real world, psychopaths having more power within the world is really just an throw away explanation for how Stefano and Theodore are so powerful.
Theodore has the ability to corrupt the world to a greater extent than Stefano, and is able to twist creatures and characters to his will. I wondered if perhaps MOBIUS knew more than they let on and one of the reasons they tracked down Sebastian to go in was because he had survived being linked to Ruvik’s mind. Ruvik attempted to turn Sebastian into a Haunted on at least one occasion so perhaps this gave him a greater ability to resist the influence of Theodore than others. I thought that maybe Sebastian would have some powers of his own within STEM as he maybe has an essence or echo of Ruvik within his mind that again give him an edge that the other MOBIUS operatives, sadly it seems that Sebastian’s experience in the first STEM has nothing to do with what is happening now. This could have been a whole new game because whilst the original is heavily referenced I don’t think that if someone hadn’t played it, they wouldn’t be able to follow what is happening now.
Kidman is able to send in images but for some reason she is unable to load in anything physical, as a result any weapons within the game need to be found. The agony crossbow (now called the Warden crossbow) is found very early on in Chapter Three, and similarly to its counterpart in the first game different bolts can be crafted. Now in the previous game, with the exception of bosses, every enemy was weak to fire, and I assumed that would be the same here. As a result I spent a lot of resources upgrading my harpoon bolts, now whilst they can be made very powerful, even after upgrading them with fire damage they are not necessarily a one-shot kill weapon. If an enemy is hit in the head it will probably kill them, but if they are hit in the body, whilst they will be set on fire they might continue to attack if they are a tougher enemy type.
More of an effort has been made into making the bolts for the crossbow a bit more balanced, and it is worth upgrading all of the bolts. I found that upgrading the Smoke Bolts was a good idea because at around their third upgrade Sebastian gains the ability to do a stealth kill on anything caught in the smoke’s radius. This becomes very useful later on when enemies are more numerous, and potentially in groups. Bolts like explosive and freeze can also be upgraded to improve their effective range as well as damage inflicted.
The upgrading system has also been changed rather radically, the green gel or “brain juice” is still here and Sebastian can upgrade his abilities when sitting in a wheel chair. However this time around, only Sebastian’s physical attributes can be improved using brain juice. Again things like health, combat ability, and stealth skills can all be improved upon. I was particularly happy with the option to make Sebastian more stealthy as in the previous game nothing was stealth focussed, and whilst the hiding mechanics from the first game have been completely removed, Sebastian can unlock abilities to ambush enemies or his foot steps make less noise, he can creep faster allowing him to close the distance between enemies for stealth kills. I liked this system because it never really made sense to me that in The Evil Within Sebastian could inject juice into his brain and suddenly his gun would become more powerful or something.
Weapons can still be upgraded using weapon parts that are scattered around Union and the Marrow. Damage, reload speed, clip size and rate of fire are the usual ones. There are also weapons kits that allow higher tier upgrades to be unlocked; most weapons will need at least a couple of these kits to unlock their full potential. An added bonus of this system is that if you upgrade one type of handgun, those upgrades will be carried over to any other weapons of the same kind. For example, there are four different pistols in the game, the standard, a silenced one, one with a laser sight and finally Sebastian’s revolver from the first game. Each has its pros and cons but thankfully if you spent upgrade points on the standard pistol, you don’t then need to do the same for the silenced.
Ammunition and bolts can be crafted from benches in the Safe Houses, in Sebastian’s Room or at different locations around the map, using parts found as you explore. A metal pipe can be made into a harpoon bolt, nails and gunpowder will make an explosive bolt. Crafting can also be done on the fly but it will cost you more resources to craft stuff in the field than it does if you use a bench. Standard ammo can be found as you explore and a couple of weapons only become available to you if you craft or fix them. In the Residential Area of the map (your starting location) a sniper rifle with a broken barrel can be found on a rooftop, with a replacement barrel found at another location in that section. Therefore you are encouraged to explore the environments to find all the weapons and resources they contain.
As before there are also the angel statues that hold keys to lockers in Sebastian’s Room if they are smashed open. There are 32 of these throughout the game. Some of which are pretty easy to find and others I only discovered during my second playthrough when using a guide as they are pretty well hidden.
In a move stripped straight from Resident Evil herbs are found that can be used to craft health kits or syringes.
I am generally very sandbox happy and will spend hours exploring a map searching every nook and cranny for collectables. In my experience doing side missions in sandboxes will heed rewards like health, ammo and better weapons. Evil Within 2 was no exception. The amount of ammo Sebastian can carry depends on the pouches that he has discovered, most weapons have at least three or four upgrades allowing you to carry more ammunition.
Collectively I liked all of the upgrade mechanics, as all are an improvement on the original game. Yes herbs to make health is ripped off from Resident Evil but encouraging the player to switch from one weapon to another depending on the situation and enemy felt more organic than it did in the original. There are also eight mysterious objects scattered around the game that are references to other games made by Bethesda which include Doom, Fallout, and The Evil Within. None of these objects serve a purpose they are just fun little collectables to pick up and end up on a shelf in Sebastian’s Room.
Sebastian’s Room serves as his own sanctuary that he is safe inside; he can view slides and information that Kidman has sent him. He can upgrade his abilities, and weapons. There is also a shooting gallery that can be used to unlock rewards. My advice about the shooting gallery is to have a crack at them, and any you struggle with just wait until you have unlocked the final combat upgrade which allows Sebastian to slow down time whilst he is shooting. This can be used during the shooting challenges and even the one listed as “Very Hard” can be very easily completed if you take advantage of this tactic. There is another shooting challenge, however, as of time of writing I haven’t yet managed to get the required 10,000 points to complete it fully.
Generally everything that I have talked about up to this point are positive points in the game’s favour (and I’ll talk about the MASSIVE point in its favour in a minute). Unfortunately like the plot hole discussed above regarding just disconnecting people from the system, the game does have other issues that need to be addressed.
Personally I don’t like it when actors are replaced for sequels and I could not find any explanation as to exactly why Sebastian and Kidman’s actors were replaced, especially when they reprised their roles for the DLCs. Now whilst Kidman looks pretty similar to the version of her in The Evil Within, Sebastian looks very different, seriously, this is him in the Evil Within and The Evil Within 2...
Obviously Sebastian on the right looks older and more haggard in the sequel, but his new design doesn’t look enough like he did in the first game. He looks like a different person. I don’t know if perhaps the voice actor who voiced him in the original also lent his likeness to the character so they had to change him for that reason, still it is quite jarring. The two look like they could be brothers but not the same person. There are event flashbacks to the original in which we see Sebastian as he used to be which just serves to highlight how different the two look. The facial animations are top notch with the wrinkles on Sebastian’s face reflecting the three years he has spent plunging deeper into depression and his alcoholism. The animations on all of the characters are very impressive, which just makes it more of a shame that Sebastian doesn’t look like his previous game version.
There are other MOBIUS operatives that he encounters who can give him side quests and access Safe Houses, sadly there is no real connection between characters. You encounter O’Neil early in the game, Hoffman later on, but you can’t return to O’Neil to inform him you’ve found Hoffman and you’ll escort him to her. Each operative has their own little section that doesn’t really link to the others, but probably the most pointless of these is a soldier called Torres. Sebastian encounters her in the latter part of the game and together they fight off some enemies, walk through a wilderness area, deal with some more enemies then return to her Safe House. That is basically it. This area could have been really interesting and could have allowed camouflaged enemies that hide in the trees to be introduced, or variations on animals that lived to come into play. There could have been abandoned homes to be explored...sadly there isn’t. You walk through the zone getting some information about what is happening, and then Torres isn’t seen again except in a couple of cut scenes. She is pretty pointless really and is rather underused. I mean you have this badass soldier character that just sits on her arse and does nothing whilst Sebastian goes back out into the increasingly dangerous parts of Union.
This time around Sebastian’s character is a bit all over the place as well, in the original game he kept himself relatively in check despite not knowing what the hell was going on. Naturally the intervening three years have taken their toll on him, but he has bizarre mood swings that take place in minutes of one another. There is a whole thing about Theodore using Sebastian’s guilt over Lilly’s disappearance and not believing his wife when she insisted their daughter was alive against him. During the game there is a sequence in which Sebastian comes to realise that what has happened to Lilly was not his fault. MOBIUS took her and used the fire to fake her death whilst covering that they kidnapped her. Sebastian wasn’t wrong to try and move on with his life after believing his daughter died. He is finally able to let go of his guilt, then about two minutes later, something bad happens and Sebastian has his head in his hands moaning about how it is all his fault.
Bad things happen and there is nothing that can be done about them, that doesn’t stop Sebastian accepting the guilt and blame for them time after time. Plus he doesn’t stop him realising that he shouldn’t feel guilty time after time. It is as though he only has one mood, feeling guilty, so the game keeps having to work out new ways of making him feel guilty. In the moment he realises that things aren’t his fault I was glad that he is going to go a kick Theodore’s ass, and he does, still he probably ends up feeling guilty about killing the deranged priest too.
There is also no explanation of what happened to Joseph after The Evil Within. He isn’t in this new STEM and the slides that Sebastian can collect lead to discussions with Kidman about their subject matter. One of them specifically is about Joseph. Sebastian is under the impression that Joseph is dead, only for Kidman to confirm that he is alive; no further information is given beyond that. I didn’t mark that as a spoiler because Joseph has no part in this game, he isn’t a final boss that has gone insane after spending three years trapped within MOBIUS’ new STEM, or someone that harbours hatred towards Sebastian for leaving him the hands of MOBIUS. There is also no indication that Sebastian is going to go after his former friend by the time the credits roll, it is just Kidman telling him Joseph is alive, and that is pretty much it.
As Union was designed to be a small American town, there are numerous vehicles, some of which can be blown up to kill enemies. Bizarrely though, not one of them can be driven, and again there is no explanation in game or otherwise as to why. Sebastian runs around the different areas apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that a car could be used as a battering ram against the numerous Lost roaming the streets. If Union’s instability had caused an electro-magnetic pulse or something that killed all of the engines then fine, it is some explanation. MOBIUS have armoured vehicles dotted around which probably weigh a tonne or more, which would be more than capable of crushing enemies under it, no reason is given why Sebastian doesn’t jump behind the wheel of one to get around the streets more safely than being on foot. Having no explanation at all just makes me think that Sebastian must just want to get his cardio or something.
When I started the game I decided to do it on Casual difficulty as it had been a while since I played the first game, I also decided to turn off the aim assist as I thought I might want to play the game on other difficulties later on so didn’t want to get too used to things that wouldn’t be available on higher difficulties. I played the game on my own and then went through it with a walkthrough on my second playthrough to find any collectables that I missed the first time. In Casual mode there is an eye that appears in the top middle of the screen in which the pupil moves slowly back and forth when an enemy is actively looking for Sebastian, and becomes wide and staring when he is in their sights. It is a useful tool as it lets you know how alerted the enemies are to your presence. In my second playthrough I also switched on aim assist which auto-locked on to enemy’s heads making killing them ridiculously easy. I pretty much abandoned stealth as I could run into a crowd and a few shots later every Lost was lying twitching at my feet without a head.
The game does have a +game mode...
In my second playthrough I had a blast using my upgraded weapons to slaughter anything that looked at me funny. Plus I was able to fully upgrade everything that I hadn’t been able to get to when I played the first time. I was heavily trophy hunting and used a couple of walkthroughs to find all the files, any residual memories, slides and statues that I had missed originally. Sadly whilst I love having the +game mode it is a shame that you cannot change difficulties when loading up a previous game. The Evil Within did the same and I remember jumping straight back into BioShock on a harder difficulty as the stuff that I had collected the first time carried over. My two playthroughs of the game must have clocked in at around twenty-hours the first time and around twelve on my second. So thirty-odd hours of playtime would need to be repeated if I decided to attempt the game on Nightmare. If the game is completed in this mode (which part of me wishes I’d attempted first before spending hours playing on Casual) then Sebastian unlocks the knuckle dusters which can kill most enemies in a single punch. The knuckle dusters are required to unlock a trophy called Powerhouse (I think that is what it is called) in which Sebastian has unlocked all standard weapons.
As far as trophies go the majority are ones that you get for finding all the files, and collectables. A couple are for taking down bosses in different ways. Basically there is nothing there that is a deal breaker, with the exception of one trophy, which you get for beating the game on the so called “Classic Mode”
Dead Space 3 had a classic mode and it involved Isaac only being able to craft weapons from previous games, so he could make a plasma cutter or pulse rifle but couldn’t build whatever he wanted. The difficulty was also locked into Hard. I played through this mode and whilst it was challenging it was not impossible, and the reward at the end of it was the Hand Cannon which was great fun to play around with. Classic Mode in Evil Within 2 instead locks off auto-saves and checkpoints, not only that it only allows the player to save the game a total of seven times during their playthrough. Personally I know that I will never be able to do this mode so am not even going to bother to try, which means there is always going to be a trophy that I cannot unlock. So I will never get 100% trophies. The effect of this makes me wonder what the point of trying to play the game on Nightmare difficulty would be; I have already played it through twice, and am fully upgraded so why would I bother to push myself through a harder difficulty whilst having to track down all of the collectables over again???
I was also a little disappointed that when the game ends Sebastian doesn’t have access to the entire sandbox of Union allowing him to go back and find anything you missed. Most sandboxes like GTA and Assassin’s Creed give you the freedom to return to a map and it was a bit of a shame Evil Within 2 didn’t. There is also no Chapter select option so if you are only hunting for collectables you do need to play through the game from scratch, miss one on a chapter and chances are that there is no way to go back later and get it. Admittedly The Evil Within didn’t have that feature either but it would have been nice to include it in this game.
In all honesty my complaints with the game are pretty minor and none of them took away from my enjoyment of playing it. Like I said I have probably spent 30-odd hours with it recently which I would not have done if I wasn’t enjoying it. The ending does leave the game open for sequels which I would welcome. Regrettably the game can sometimes lack the feel and even the urgency of the original. Sebastian is in there looking for his daughter but that doesn’t mean he can’t spend a few hours finding Bethesda bobble-heads, or doing various side quests around Union. The game is not getting anything less than a Thumbs Up and I have to admit that the idea of replaying it on Nightmare difficulty does appeal to me so I may return to it at a later date.
8/10 – The game has some issues now that it has gone more sandbox and some of the ideas seem to have been ripped from games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and even Grand Theft Auto. I don’t like the fact that Sebastian doesn’t look like the same man from the first game or the fact that playing The Evil Within isn’t strictly necessary to know what is happening in this one. Like I said my complaints are relatively minor and this is a great game that can appeal to fans of the original and people who like roaming a big haunted town killing various monsters along the way.