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A very good game; but should have been better still

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    The Evil Within 2

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    A very good game; but should have been better still

    I was torn on the original The Evil Within; I enjoyed the first half of it ¨C while the tension was high, resources low, and the atmosphere chilling ¨C but I felt it quickly descended into generic third-person shooter territory.

    It turns out my experience with the sequel was very similar. The former half of the game (in terms of hours played, not chapters) was very enjoyable, but in the latter half it seemed to ignore the areas that were most improved and once again try its hand at being a linear, third-person shooter.

    After an opening that lacks the suspense and horror of its predecessor’s, The Evil Within 2 opens up into a town called Union, that you are free to explore and uncover its secrets. It’s this that sets TEW2 apart. Enemies roam the world, but your need to visit that abandoned little cottage will be too much. A horrifying ghostly presence roams around at random, and can spring on you at any time. Going off the beaten track will reward you, but only if you can survive that long.

    As far as open worlds go, the map is tiny. However, I enjoyed exploring it as much as any open world I can think of recently. A large amount of the buildings can be entered, and inside each will hold its own secrets. A side-quest, the story of a fallen soldier or a murdered citizen, a new weapon, a key, or a mysterious item. Barely an inch of the map is under-utilised. I spent maybe five or six hours making sure I had explored every nook and cranny.

    As you’d expect, progressing the story does take you away to other locations, but I was disappointed that this open area didn’t proceed to become the hub of the game. I thought that locked doors would suddenly be opened, new enemies would spawn, and in between each chapter I would return to Union to discover something new.

    Instead, the game whisks you off along the linear path of the story, stopping only at one other, much smaller, open area, but mainly just dragging you from place to place once you’re done exploring. Whereas a game like Resident Evil gave you the mansion, and then gradually expanded it and opened up new rooms/areas as the story progressed but all the while maintaining the mansion as the ¡®base of operations’, The Evil Within 2 seems all too keen to move on from the main Union area as soon as you imply you’re done there by advancing the story.

    Which, on a smaller scale, is a fault that plagues TEW2 right the way through. One of my gaming pet peeves is when you reach a crossroads and have to choose Path A or Path B, but then one of them continues the story and cuts off the other path for good. The Evil Within 2 has quite a few moments like this, and it can get very frustrating. Not to mention that I had a couple of crashes that also cost me about half an hour’s playtime.

    For a horror game, it lacks a lot of the tropes to make it feel so. The foundation of the story isn’t really built to support horror. By that I mean that, in placing you in STEM (in essence, a virtual world) nothing out of the ordinary can be related to or viewed as scary. The protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, has a habit of saying, ¡®What the¡­?’ more than I care to remember. But I can’t say I shared his confusion. We immediately know we aren’t in the real world, and therefore we (especially as gamers) know to expect the unexpected. No matter how huge the monsters become or what powers they have, nothing is a question that is generating intrigue, suspense, atmosphere, or tension, because we just accept straight away that the real-world rules aren’t applying.

    One exception to this is the aforementioned ghost ¨C a wailing lady who haunts STEM. She can in no way be damaged, and doesn’t have a direct connection to the main story. What made her stand out above the rest of the enemies/bosses was the fact that I simply stumbled upon her whilst exploring Union. There was very little acknowledgement of her, but every now and then I would walk into a building, and then suddenly see Sebastian’s breath as the temperature dropped, and hear the ghost’s wailing voice singing away through my controller’s microphone, and know she was about to make another appearance.

    Though TEW2 never quite becomes the all-out shooter that the original did, it did seem to run out of ideas towards the end. The stealth, which was fairly clunky anyway, became increasingly difficult to achieve as new enemies were introduced that just weren’t suited to being sneaked up on, and the abundance of crafting items and ammo I had stored up were quickly put to use. And apart from one nice little callback to some of the most memorable enemies of the first game, I found the bosses to be a bit dull too, as they simply got larger in size rather than become a bigger threat through creative development.

    When The Evil Within 2 is good, it is very good. Unfortunately, there was a constant feeling of what could have been. It could have secured itself as probably the best survival horror game of this generation, but (as with a lot of horror games) it is too eager to take you by the hand and force the scares upon you rather than letting you go off and discover them for yourself. That being said, it’s still a very enjoyable game to play and it developed the series well. If a third were to be made, I’d be confident that it would continue this upward trajectory.

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