Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Genre: Horror, Action
Completion Length: About 16 hours
Tango Gameworks are the masters of horror. I know...saying something like that right away is a bit shocking. But it's true: Shinji Mikami and the nightmare-spinners at Tango Gameworks are the masters of horror as I see it--the kind of horror that gets under your skin, that gets into your mind and stays there like nail, the bizarre, macabre visuals that spellbind and whisk us to another impossible place of horrors and death.
What makes the Evil Within 2 one of the most memorable and enjoyable horror games ever made is its creativity.
The game feels dreamlike, metaphysical, and unreal: and that's because it is. The game takes place in a simulation, a kind of hellscape that is the virtual STEM world. Mobius, this reality's nefarious Bilderberg group, has created a weird Matrix-like virtual reality (I won't tell you why because of big spoilers).
STEM gives Tango Gameworks free reign to make The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2 a playground of horror. The devs can bend space, time, and the laws of physics to not only tell a mind-altering story, but also warp everything that happens into a macabre and bizarre series of events straight out of Hannibal Lecter's psyche.
Now that the developers don't have to adhere to realism, they can have some real fun--the kind of fun that Stephen King has when he crafts his nightmarish stories, or Wes Craven had when making the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The developers can, and do, open the gates to a twisted dark-realm of fire, blood, mayhem, and stylishly weird horror.
Throughout his journey into Union, a metaphysical town in the STEM platform, our hero Sebastian Castellanos is faced with a mind-breaking swarm of horrors. Sebastian swims through oceans of blood, blasts through dozens of impossibly freakish monstrosities made up of walking limbs and heads, watches everyone die in horrible ways, and traverses a hell that not only lives in his own mind, but that's unleashed to burn the virtual town and annihilate its denizens.
The game's atmosphere alone is evidence of Tango's macabre mastery: the game is perfectly aligned with everything creepy and eerie, capturing that age-old visual mystique of spooky films--mist curling on the ground, capturing the glow of a bone-white moon, or haunted crypts lit with candles--while marrying the grisly brutality of, say, a Hellraiser movie. In fact, The Evil Within 2's visuals clearly bring to mind a number of beloved horror films and shows, from The Cell to the incredibly creative Hannibal TV show.
The game takes queues from popular horror while creating something wholly unique and all its own through sheer creativity and intelligent design. Tango digs up the old graves of beloved series and uses their bones to make a stage for its terrifying tale, summoning Lovecraftian ancient ones to break the skies and rain blood on a desecrated world--a world where anything goes, and reality isn't moored but set free to break apart in many pieces.
And in many ways, this is Tango Gameworks' second love letter to the genre of blood, gore, and psychological thrillers. It's a letter penned in blood, fondly reminiscing about old haunts and nightmares like 80s horror flicks from Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Craven.
Every single level of The Evil Within 2 offers something new to marvel at, some new eldritch and bizarre horror to revel in, something strange and terrifying to comprehend and defeat. But despite its challenges--and make no mistake, this game is hard--I kept coming back for more.
I wanted to see more. Like a kid at their first scary movie, I covered my eyes but still peered through because I wanted to see and I wanted to know. Like one of Pinhead's unfortunate victims, I was hooked.
Although it disturbed me and pulled at my heartstrings, I couldn't help myself. There's a thrill that horror fans feel when discovering new and creative stories, and it's something I felt nearly every moment I played this.
I had to witness it to the end and was so utterly captivated and immersed into this weird and forbidden realm of heinous abominations that I had to witness everything it had to offer.
At its heart, The Evil Within 2 is a vicarious thrill that allows gamers to experience a hellscape beyond their wildest imaginations, and drop right into a nightmare made by the masters of horror games. If you can truly enter its world, this experience will stain your mind and stay with you for days as you play it--and don't rush this one, relish in its visceral grostesqueries, revel in the twisted art of Stefano, and explore the town of Union to drink up its dark, dark secrets.
To best enjoy this game, ensure you make it a slow burn. Take your time and explore, seek, find--play it like you would Arkane's excellent Prey game. There's a lot to pull in here, a lot to see and experience. At 17 chapters of content, Tango has really provided a hefty meal here.
The deeper you look, the more effective the game becomes, the more shocking and horrifying it actually is.
Players are constantly shifted into these hallowed realms, transporting to the broken remnants of Sebastian's mind. His heart and mind are broken this time around, and only his stalwart heroism to save his daughter Lily, once believed to be dead, fuels his desperate struggle in this vile corrupted wasteland. Sebastian enters STEM again to find his daughter, and uncovers a conspiracy that rocks him to the core--all while facing his inner demons in physical, corporeal form and taking on his fears in a very metaphysical way.
But make no mistake: this is a game and not a movie. The Evil Within 2 follows familiar game mechanics and wraps them neatly around the story to make a cohesive and diabolical experience.
Survival horror done right: the familiar formula
Fans of Silent Hill and Resident Evil will be most at home with The Evil Within 2, as they were with the first game. Tango Gameworks has tightened everything up--aiming feels great, weapons are satisfying, and the RPG skills are paced very well.
The formula from the first game is present here, and as I mentioned, Silent Hill and Resident Evil fans will be super familiar stepping into this sequel. The Evil Within 2 might be an action game mostly focused on third-person shooter elements, but it's all about survival: you can't go into this game just guns a-blazing (the game gets hard as nails even on the lowest difficulty). Getting farther in this game takes creativity, finesse, experimentation: kick over a can of oil and lay some explosive bolt traps to take out a whole group of swarming zombies, or shoot a shock bolt in their midst and smash their heads one by one.
And if you want to survive very long in Union and Sebastian's fractured mind, you'll have to play it safe by sneaking around. Cover will be your best friend in this game, not only because it lets you sneak up on a foe and kill them instantly, but because it allows you a significant advantage.
The Evil Within 2's difficulty comes with a strong feeling of being hunted. You feel outnumbered at every turn, hunted by impossible terrors that chase you through the shadows. If you make a mistake, you're punished for it--more often than not burned or eaten alive, or your brains are splattered on the virtual streets of Union.
Tango executes this feeling expertly well, honing their understanding of survival horror games to a fine sharp point. Gamers are simply shed of the power fantasies that are found in so many games today, reduced to a hardened detective who uses his wits, brawn, and wide array of guns to solve problems.
Sometimes these problems are horrible shambling zombies, other times they're walking monsters made out of severed heads and limbs. And sometimes you enter the psyche of a twisted serial killer and fight a camera with sewn-on legs and arms.
Players are given just enough for them to get by, and right away they must adapt to a cruel world. You can't roll out of danger in The Evil Within 2, and you can't jump: your actions are locked to contextual abilities that pop up when you're near cover, a door, or a ledge to hop up on. Taking power away from the player works amazingly well here because it's done so well, and replaced with extremely satisfying mechanics that can be found in most games of the genre.
In a very real way, this game's tactical strategy starts messing with your head, putting even more psychological weight on you as you play.
Players have to carefully manage materials like weapon parts, gunpowder, and green herbs to make supplies like bullets and healing syringes. When I saw this formula I was admittedly worried: I thought "oh here we go again, another collect-a-thon."
But Tango Gameworks proved me oh-so-wrong: this game is paced extremely well so that you're so happy to see materials because they up your chances of survival. And surviving means you get to see more of that diabolical weirdness that taints the game like a disease--you want to turn it off, but you can't look away, you keep dying, but you want to see what else the developers will show you.
To survive, you have to be smart, use your resources properly, but more importantly, experiment. And that's where The Evil Within 2 really punishes players--the problem is you need to experiment to see what works, but that uses up your mats and resources. So it's a real chick and egg problem unless you have a nearby save point and reload after trying things out.
Also, every mistake is super stressful.
Aiming in this game can be wonky, and Sebastian is by no means an expert marksman--he's really just a gumshoe who's been psychologically tortured by tragedy. So every time you miss a shot you really feel it...every mistake you make has significant weight. That adds to the sense of being hunted and puts strain on the player, especially late in the game where things get to the point where you need to evade nearly everything and really pick and choose your battles.
As you kill enemies, you'll collect their, uh, green spirit goo to spend on passive abilities that boost Sebastian's abilities. So there's a push to kill as much as possible so you can become stronger, but you don't always have enough ammo to blast everyone away. This is where you need to get creative and tackl
All of these points are hallmarks to any effective survival horror game and are exceedingly well done here.
Union: one of the best open worlds in gaming
The Evil Within 2 has an open world, but it's a fractured world that's perfectly paced that constantly engages players, not a big beautiful--but empty--slog like Dragon Age: Inquisition. In this way I'd say that Union is more like Hyrule in Breath of the Wild: most buildings have something to see, something to uncover and explore and find.
Sometimes you'll find a few ammo pouches or a dead Mobius agent with an ammo pouch. Other times you'll trigger a mini-event that exposes more about Sebastian's tortured psyche and evade a ghost in a supremely creative way. Other events include navigating a window to the past, exploring Beacon Asylum, and uncovering small pieces of Union's history that add even more grisly weight to Mobius' cruelty.
But the real point that makes Union such a great place is that it constantly engages players. There are things to uncover, such as files about Sebastian or ammo/materials, and a ton of enemies that are great for accruing green slime to boost your abilities.
It's not too big, not too small, but just right, and is jam-packed with things to do. All of them are creepy, and the ghost town that is Union really pulls you in and feels like an arena to discover weird and bizarre terrors while battling monsters. And there are materials peppered about to grab. As someone who's played lots of open world games, I'm surprised Tango Gameworks has concentrated the perfect amount of content in their singleplayer-only survival horror space.
Conclusion: Horror mastery
The Evil Within 2 is a harrowing experience that I recommend to all horror fanatics. Tango Gameworks has made a dazzlingly creative, macabre game that speaks to the hearts and minds of its players while taking them on an impossible journey through a lunatic's imagination of mayhem and gore.
The visuals create something that transcends traditional gaming experiences, tapping an inner subconscious medium that allows players to jaunt through some of the most striking and unique environments available today. It's visceral, bloody, and grisly, but all of it serves a very real purpose and tells a tidy, well-thought-out story arc.
In short, this is a game that's absolutely perfect for Halloween and should be played alone at the dead of night with a headset on. The real magic happens when you're absorbed in any game, and The Evil Within 2 is no different.
+ Terrifying and haunting visuals
+ Great story arc that wraps the games together
+ Horrifying elements tie perfectly with survival mechanics
+ Bristling with content with 17 chapters--you'll get your money's worth
+ Union is open-world gaming done right
+ Bosses are creative and unique
- Camera can be finicky at times
- Can be brutally tough
Product Summary Breakdown
|Creativity and Visuals||95%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||96%|
The Bottom Line: The Evil Within 2 is a horror fan's dream game, spinning thrills and nightmares while staying true to a proven formula. It's the perfect game for Halloween. Tango Gameworks are the masters of horror.
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