You have to feel sorry for Detective Castellanos. This is not his first rodeo and somehow he finds himself being back up shit creek without a paddle. For those of you who are not familiar with the first installment of The Evil Within, Sebastian Castellanos and his two partners find themselves in a fight for their life after arriving at Beacon Mental hospital. The scene of a mass murder, Krimson Citys loony bin houses a mind control machine known as STEM. This machine has the ability to manipulate a group of minds making them think as one, with a host mind in the driving seat controlling the rest. While under the control of STEM, Castellanos, his partners Joseph Oda and Juli Kidman and a couple of survivors from the hospital, are hurled into a surreal world where their darkest fears await them. Castellanos finds a way to escape STEM and unveils that the evil machine was the creation of a group known as Mobius. The Evil Within 2 is set three years after this horrifying encounter and here is where Sebastian Castellanos’ story continues.
A Tough Pill to Swallow
The game begins with Sebastian waking up from a nightmare that reminds him that his daughter Lily was killed in a fire. He is still guilt-ridden by this tragedy and has since left the police force. His marriage had fallen apart. His wife Myra believed there was a conspiracy involving their daughter but Sebastian would not hear any of it. After a while, Myra disappeared leaving no clues for Castellanos to track her down. While looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle, he is visited by an old friend accompanied by Mobius agents and they coax the ex-cop into helping them find his daughter who is alive but trapped inside the STEM machine. With some major doubts after the last venture inside the brain manipulating technology, Sebastian has to go down the rabbit hole once again but at least this time, he knows what to expect…
The Town Called Union
Union is a place created in STEM to provide a happy, peaceful place for its residents who have no idea of the experiment they are part of. Mobius uses a core mind to keep the population of Union in a state of ‘Utopia’. They can influence the core mind which then controls every mind connected to it via the STEM machine. The plan was to use this technology to control the world, for whoever has control of the core mind has the power to enslave the human race. But Union has started to come apart at the seams, as the core mind has gone A.W.O.L. inside, leaving some rather deranged characters unchecked and unopposed inside. This is where Sebastian is needed to re-enter STEM and try to restore order by finding the core mind and re-establishing control over Union. When Sebastian arrives at his destination, he has been given a safe room which looks exactly like his old office from his days in the police force. From here we are able to save our progress, craft ammunition and modify weapons. Then tucked away down the corridor is a rather familiar looking chair…
Back in the Driving Seat
Remember the good old days of visiting a certain nurse, hanging out in a hospital that houses crazies? She used to swan around making comments about Sebastian’s’ psyche and deflecting questions like she was Captain America using his shield, remember her? That’s right the ghost-like hospital nurse Tatiana Gutierrez makes her come back and you would not believe she hasn’t changed a bit. Still speaking in the quiet yet spooky tone to Sebastian, the lady in red and white is once again here to make sure we are ready to face the dangers that await us in the town of Union. There is something shady going on with Tatiana but all is still unclear as to why she has returned to help Sebastian in the STEM machine. Once Sebastian is seated in the modified, terrifying looking dentists chair, we are able to upgrade Sebastian in 5 different areas: Athleticism, Health, Recovery, Combat, and Stealth. Each category has a number of upgrade paths depending on which upgrade you believe is the most valuable to you. Like before the currency for upgrading is a green gel, which is basically the blood of your fallen enemies and boy, they are ugly.
Staring Danger in the Face
If this game had any indication that the threat was any different this time around, it isn’t. There is still some really ghastly looking folk out to halt Sebastian’s efforts in restoring the core mind and bringing about the end of the nightmare that has engulfed Union. Many different and grotesque demons await us around every corner. Even with a healthy arsenal and hard head, some of these abominations are extremely hard to bring down. For the first half of the game, we are stalked by a very familiar foe who I personally, believe to be the most creepy out of all of them. With a steady appearance of this adversary, it manages to keep us on our toes and the only defense against it is to run away.
Mission Nearly Impossible
The game is separated into chapters just like the first installment, each chapter focusing on what we have to do next. Unlike the first game, The Evil Within 2 has added some additional side missions revolving around a missing Mobius tech team sent into STEM to assess the situation but find themselves scattered and stranded in various locations across Union. Luckily for us, their misfortune is our gain, as these locations become or are close to safe houses. These safe havens are our way pathway into the broken mirrors where Sebastian’s office lies. From here we can do all of the crafting and upgrading we need before heading back into the fray. There is a nice touch in each of the Mobius agents safe houses, and that is a coffee machine which refills Sebatians health bar to the max. This saves the much needed medical syringes for out in the field.
There is a certain aspect of free-roam during some of the chapters which are a breath of fresh air compared to the linear path we had to follow in The Evil Within. We are able to run free looking for angel statues (yes, these hard to spot paperweights have made a comeback), new weapons, and a new addition to the collectibles group. These are called residual memories which act as echoes of something that had happened in the machine, allowing Sebastian to see these memories and pick up clues and information regarding his missions. Traveling between different areas of Union is as easy as accessing the right computer terminal, each PC accessing a backdoor into the STEM mainframe. It is also a loading screen for each area. With each stage of the game becoming more intense involving both story and difficulty, there is always a feeling that the odds against the former cop are too much and we can see more than just the town falling apart.
An Improvement All Round
While the first game suffered from poor graphics, a slow starting story and some difficult to use controls, The Evil Within 2 has brushed up all of its shortcomings from the 2014 release. The controls are still pretty much the same but this time it feels more natural. This could be down to the fact that we are not always enclosed in a small space trying to fend for our lives. With a little more space to move around and explore, there is not as much pressure on the player to make rash decisions. That being said, you can still find yourself overwhelmed if you make the wrong choice. Although this game lacks the ability to frighten me personally, one thing that scares me is how awful the voice-over acting is. It was never going to be a blockbuster by any means but with a story that grows ever more interesting, it’s all let down by a lack of real emotion in the voices. Even though in my own mind I was dubbing over the voices with some Oscar-winning performances of my own, I was still hooked to the game, eager to find out what happens to our good old friend, Sebastian.
A Summary of The Madness Within
Even though I had lost faith in the first game, The Evil Within 2 delivers a much more interesting story compared the former. With a greater feel and a touch up on the visuals, I found this a far better experience. The only real way to improve this title would be by making it a true fright fest. And there is only one way that could happen: Developers Bethesda would need to make the whole game a VR horror first-person game and adding a lot more jump scares to beef it up. You never know, look what’s happened to Fallout 4 and Skyrim…
The Evil Within 2 is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
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