The original The Evil Within was supposed to be Shinji Mikami’s triumphant return to survival horror. While it turned out to be a pretty decent action title, it had its fair share of issues. It just wasn’t the “next Resident Evil 4” many horror fans were hoping for.

The Evil Within 2, on the other hand, blends jump-scares, gore, psychological horror and visceral action into a great survival horror experience that surpasses the original in every way. This is especially true when it comes to the story.

After the events of The Evil Within, Sebastian Cantellanos is a broken man. Nobody believes his story about Ruvik, Mobius and STEM, and be is left with nothing – no job, no friends and no family. But then his former partner, Juli Kidman informs him his daughter is still alive, and being used by Mobius for some sinister ends. Literally 2 minutes later, Sebastian dives into a new version of STEM to find and save his child.

The Evil Within 2 review Guardian

The beginning of The Evil Within 2 is a little rushed, but that’s only so we can get to the good stuff faster. Once we get to the town of Union, the construct at the heart of this new STEM, we learn exactly what’s going on. Sebastian’s daughter, Lily, is the one powering Union, but things have gone wrong as they so often do. Some dangerous and deranged individuals within this subconscious world are trying to use Lily’s powers to take control of the system, and shape it according to their twisted vision.

If the first game’s story was unclear and frankly a bit boring, the sequel presents a more personal story for Sebastian, one that the player can relate to. You face many horrors as you make your way through Union, and since your daughter is in there somewhere, experiencing the same horrors, it makes sense to keep pushing past them. Not a lot of horror games manage to justify the protagonist’s decision to keep going, but this one does. Add to the mix really interesting villains and level design, and the 15-20 hours it takes you to finish The Evil Within 2 simply fly by.

The villains are indeed interesting, but it’s mainly from a design point of view. Taking a page from the Silent Hill series, the monsters and the world itself change to fit the villain we currently face. This means that the game’s environments change drastically as you progress through it. While some are truly unique and disturbing, a lot of them are too generic. A large portion of the game has you walking up and down indistinguishable corridors, while another has you jumping between platforms to avoid the gaze of a giant eye. It’s really all over the place.

The Evil Within 2 review giant eye

The same can be said about the monsters. Most of them are these generic zombies with a few variants. But the bosses (and mini-bosses) sport a more intimidating design that’s clearly inspired by the villain it relates to. It’s kind of sad to see the game’s interesting concepts being swallowed by the mediocre, generic ones.

An interesting concept that does stand out, at least to me, was the open levels. Some of the areas in the game are these mini-open worlds that let you explore and even discover side-missions. I particularly like those areas, as they show you can have a more open horror game and still maintain a strong atmosphere. The streets are crawling with monsters, and while you could try and take them all out, you can be quickly overwhelmed. So while you explore, scavenge for resources and follow the disembodied voices on your communicator, you never feel truly safe. It’s great.

At other times, the game can’t help itself and falls back to the same tricks we saw in the previous games – narrow, claustrophobic corridors with plenty of great scripted moments. The combination of the two types of gameplay create a constantly changing horror experience, which knows when to ramp up the pace, and when to let you take things more slowly. The pacing, in general, is masterfully controlled throughout the entire game by alternating between these two types of environments, and the different challenges they present.

The Evil Within 2 review camera monster

The Evil Within 2 has many of the characteristics of a survival horror title. Taking enemies head on isn’t usually your best option, and you can use stealth to either sneak past, or silently take them down one by one. You also have to manage resources like ammo, health and crafting material if you want to stay alive. There’s a new crafting system that lets you craft ammo, medkits and even a couple of new weapons. It’s a rather rudimentary system, but since enemies only drop crafting materials, you’ll be using it frequently.

The game also tries to cripple you in a few ways, as horror games often do. The camera is once again stuck very close to Sebastian’s shoulders and limits your field of view. It works when you’re in a narrow corridor, but can be a bit annoying in the open areas. Sebastian also moves slowly and can be clumsy when trying to strafe around enemies or make a quick turn. You can tell these are conscious decisions by the developers, and they help to make you more vulnerable when fighting. However, they makes the game’s action bits more difficult than they should be.

And there are plenty of action bits. There are times when you have to kill every enemy in the area in order to progress, and most of the bosses can only be killed with lots of bullets. I actually liked the action, and I wasn’t afraid to rely on my shotgun when things got dicey. Apart from the shotgun, you have a selection of handguns, a sniper rifle, and even a flamethrower. The Agony Crossbow (here called the Warden Crossbow) makes a return, and can be very useful in and outside of combat. For example, you can use a bolt to freeze an enemy in place for a few seconds, and use that time to either deal more damage, run away or open the door it was guarding without wasting more ammo.

The Evil Within 2 review Warden Crossbow

Each weapon fun is effective and fun to use, thanks to a good sound design and how enemies burst with red mist when a slug splits their head in half. The short bursts of combat are always intense, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the change of pace.

The Evil Within 2 is a good example of an action, survival horror hybrid. It doesn’t rely only on cheap jump-scares and gore (though they are still plenty of those), but indulges in a little psychological horror as well. It’s most evident in the story, which is far more engaging and interesting this time around. The more interesting ideas do struggle to shine through, and the voice acting can be a lot better, though I suspect this has more to do with the script than the performance. But overall, the game is a vast improvement over its predecessor, and a great alternative to the wave of first-person, run-and-hide horror games that’s flooding the genre.

Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.