The Evil Within 2 weaves a tangible fear—a tightness in the chest that comes from hearing a piercing scream in the night, not knowing where it’s coming from. Knowing if you don’t find its source in seconds, you’ll likely die at the hands of some sickening monstrosity. Counting the handful of shots you’ve scrounged up, wondering if it will be enough. It’s pure, horrifying delight.
Sebastian, years after the events of the original game at Beacon Hospital, finds himself dragged into a whole new trip into another reality. Now seeking his daughter from a world fabricated within the consciousness, he’ll navigate a winding story that serves as a good enough framework to keep the game moving forward, but is not especially well-written, often plagued with clichés and predictable twists.
Luckily, The Evil Within 2 doesn’t need it, as its ever-shifting fever dream of locales and monstrous stalkers will be enough to keep your attention. Reality is in constant flux here, so players can never be sure what will happen when they turn their back. Opening the front door to a house in town may lead the player down dreary hospital halls as a cloaked figure stalks you, a gently hummed song coming from your PlayStation 4 controller.
“The Evil Within 2 weaves a tangible fear—a tightness in the chest that comes from hearing a piercing scream in the night…”
A corridor in the town hall may open up to a red-tinted room filled with mangled bodies, all reaching for a single door. The world does not follow any rules as to what can happen, changing layouts and showing scary things without warning, making the players not sure what to expect.
These frightening visions are beautifully rendered, sickening as they may be. The Evil Within 2’s visuals show an eye for darkness, light, and colour that can turn a scary moment into a truly hellish nightmare, or load the most innocuous space with menace. The monster designs are also quite strong, with a flair for the outlandish. A hulking figure made of corpses and heads that wields a huge ? It may sound a little ridiculous, but in this particular setting, the over-the-top nature of the monsters makes them feel like a natural fit. The world is changing, and the monsters keep changing with it.
It doesn’t hurt that encountering them is raw tension. The Evil Within 2 isn’t big on giving the player ammo for any of their weapons. You’ll often only have a handful of shots you’ve managed to scrounge up—and that’s assuming you searched hard—which means enough to kill one, maybe two basic enemies, typically. This supply goes up and down in places depending on how many enemies the game is going to throw at the player there. For the most part, players have to use up all of their ammo. Not only this, but it really doesn’t take much to put poor Sebastian in the ground. A handful of hits from the most basic enemies can kill him, meaning any kind of large encounter is instantly a cause for alarm.
“The monster designs are also quite strong, with a flair for the outlandish.”
Not having enough shots sounds like something that would get annoying, but the developers excelled at knowing exactly how much you might conceivably need to get through an area, and giving players the barest minimum. It is doable, but it never feels that way in the moment. Instead, it always feels like your one fight from complete disaster. Checkpoints are, thankfully, very generous, although this does erode some of the tension if players are paying attention.
While it has many excellent, surreal linear locations to fight in, the open world-like areas are still the best part of The Evil Within 2. Their meandering alleys and streets offer tons of places for enemies to hide to surprise players, offering many scares that linear corridors just can’t manage. These moments also create great player-driven moments where their particular choice of route or action leads to some terrifying encounters. That they can do little side quests for extra goodies, get more bits of plot, and basically trigger a terrifying, randomly-appearing haunting, all while feeling like they are about to die. Open world horror is here, and stunningly, it works really well.
Players can avoid some of these dangers by being sneaky, but The Evil Within 2’s stealth just isn’t all that great. Many monsters seem to keep very odd patrols, turning around at unpredictable intervals, and there’s often very poor cover between the player and enemy. Even with some stealthy upgrades, it often didn’t feel viable to try to sneak at all, forcing a straight fight for all but the most patient killers.
A few minor glitches can make this worse. At times, Sebastian would move a few feet forward when he made a attack, or he would move backwards when he tried to jump over something. These appeared infrequently throughout the game, but they were annoying, as they tended to happen when fighting extremely dangerous enemies.
There are tons of items to entice you to make the likely lethal decision to go exploring. All kinds of crafting materials, weapon upgrade parts, and Sebastian-strengthening goo are abundant, which all draw players into making poor decisions about their survival while also giving them that little bit of happiness at picking up in-game goodies.
That said most of the upgrades don’t seem to offer a great deal of improvement. Many of them offer small increases in performance that are hardly noticeable. For example, a gun upgrade will only give you 5% more damage, but a sneaking speed increase will make you move faster. At least crafting gives players ammo and items at a decent rate.
Still, feeling poorly equipped is when The Evil Within 2’s tension is at its best, and when the horror is at its most compelling. It’s when you don’t have enough shots that the fear really takes hold, making players appreciate the threat of that pile of corpses charging at them with a saw. Players may never feel powerful as they play, but the game’s greatest strength is that players are ever afraid that at any moment they can die.