Friday October 13th, 2017: The timing for the release of a horror video game could hardly have been more suitable. And the release party at “The Cage” in Cologne must have been sheer horror - after all, guests like Lena Meyer-Landrut or Gronkh were invited. The first part of the series split the opinions of players at the time. While some The Evil Within described as a masterpiece, others could not do anything with the horror game from Tango Gameworks. The developers have come up with a new formula for success for the successor and rely on mass suitability and the mixture of open world and linear narrative threads.

You can find out whether the concept works in our game test for the horror survival game The Evil Within 2 by Tango Gameworks and Bethesda


(He) horror with style

Shinji Mikami, founder of Tango Gameworks, is considered a master of his craft. In retrospect, he was involved in the development of various successful horror video games, including especially classics such as resident evil. That one expected great things from such an experienced producer than in 2014 The Evil Witappeared, hardly surprised. The video game received mixed to good ratings from the trade press - not least due to technical problems. While gunplay and horror effects were able to convince the majority of the players, it was above all the background story that met with much criticism. The successor The Evil Within 2 should do everything better and at least the basic idea of ​​the story sounds promising. The focus of the action is the STEM thought machine, with which test subjects enter the world of other people's thoughts. That is vaguely reminiscent of the film The Cell. But instead of Jennifer Lopez, it is the detective Sebastian Castellanos who explores the terrifying cognitions of his daughter, who was believed to be dead. Gullible as children are, their thoughts can be manipulated so easily that there is an atmospheric horror backdrop for the main character as the setting for the video game.

Another advantage of the setting is the fact that an almost infinite number of background stories can be knitted from it and changes in the game environment can always be (relatively) logically justified. 

The Evil Within 2 works with a closed plot, so it is understandable even if you are completely ignorant of the predecessor. In order to immerse yourself in the story, you as a player need nothing more than the information from the intro. because The Evil Within 2 however, if the material that the predecessor created works, it is advantageous to know the content of the first part. Especially in order to be able to enjoy the great end of the game to the fullest, you should recognize the connection to part 1.    

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You can tell from the first minute of the game that the developers understand their tools. The level and sound designers work with all known tricks of the horror genre. Borrowings from horror classics are not purely coincidental. Elements such as diffusely lit rooms, demonic giggles, suddenly closing doors or switched on televisions in otherwise ailing houses regularly give the players goose bumps.

While the main character plunges deeper and deeper into the mental abyss of sick psychopaths, the moments of shock accumulate in The Evil Within 2. Jump scares are not used sparingly, but are one of the most effective means in the sequel to frighten players - and to encourage caution. It is not uncommon to catch yourself tensing the trigger finger while slowly sneaking around the corner of a house. The graphics and sound create an atmospheric backdrop that is worthy of a good horror survival game - even if the graphic quality is not that of Capcoms Resident Evil 7 reaches.

Gestures, facial expressions, language: all facets fit together perfectly and turn Detective Castellanos into a human figure that a player is all too happy to follow. What drives and moves him can be seen at all times, so that it is easy to identify with the character of the game. 

With a horror video game, it comes as no surprise that cryptically absurd nightmare situations are not neglected with the perceptible humanity. Above all, the antagonist Stefano Valentini is superbly staged. The former war photographer and now an artist of horror is able to manipulate the STEM's world of thought according to his ideas. In this way he lures his victims in, brutally slaughters himself and films the death scenes in order to create nightmarish art. It is not uncommon for a player to stand in front of one of the works of art, disgusted and fascinated at the same time. Over and over again in the course of the game you meet Valentini, who on the one hand looks on, but on the other hand would like to miss a load of shot. These very emotional moments are one of the great strengths of The Evil Within 2.

Sebastian Castellanos: The John Rambo of Horror

The developers were allowed to get really creative when creating the creatures. Especially the big boss monsters leave players amazed. A highlight is certainly Obscura, an insect-like camera creature created by the villain Stefano Valentini. As soon as the horror creature “Blitzdingst” the player, the time in front of the PC literally stops. It's amazing how haunted and intense such moments of play feel. More like cannon fodder, on the other hand, are the standard opponents, which are reminiscent of typical zombies. Slowly shuffling and eating guts, the “Haunted” stay close to their food just to wait for us players to finish off.

By the way, how you behave in such situations depends very much on the level of difficulty you have set. While you simply shoot your way through the hordes of opponents on the easiest level, tactical approaches become more important with increasing difficulty. With ammunition and equipment always scarce, it makes more sense to sneak around monster spots. As a player, you get annoyed about every badly placed shot, knowing that one minute later you will probably need the cartridge urgently. 

Play test: The Evil Within 2 from Bethesda
Detective Castellanos hits it well: It's because of his skills ... and the laser pointer.

Ultimately, shooting your way through standard opponents like John Rambo doesn't do justice to the game design. You quickly notice that it is more entertaining and more exciting to take down opponents quietly and undetected - and many times more bloody. That Tango Gameworks at The Evil Within 2 relies on rather trivial standard monsters at all, almost a bit astonished at the creativity that was put into the boss opponents. 

The combination of the open world and linear narrative moments, however, works extremely well. The basic structure of The Evil Within 2 has noticeably developed further. As players, we explore large parts of the game world completely autonomously. How fast we progress through the story is partly up to us. All too often you drive to the nearest garage with Detective Castellanos to collect equipment and ammunition before following the main signals of the communicator. The main scene of the event is a small town called Union, the state of which is linked to the thoughts of Castellano's daughter. There is always a hint of danger hanging over the action - and the game world is literally upside down.

In the streets, thanks to the manageable sections, you can easily orientate yourself on prominent objects. Many hiding spots such as dumpsters or cars can be searched for useful small items. As a player, you get enough to do outside of the linear game sections. Knowledge objects encourage the player's urge to discover and elicit some entertaining background information from the horror game. Additional narrative moments are created by looking for marked hotpots, which, in conjunction with the communicator, reveal story details. The screen remains pleasantly clean and clear while playing. Necessary HUD information is hidden if it is not needed. The Evil Within 2 almost feels like a real horror movie.

As the game progresses, it becomes clear how the worlds are interconnected. The so-called “Mark” is a kind of tunnel system that connects the individual city segments. In purely playful terms, the marrow feels more straightforward and hose-like - but the moments of shock are all the more intense.

As an open world game, it must The Evil Within 2 Make some compromises when it comes to technology. The graphic framework is tidy, the designed surroundings are coherent; Nevertheless, a certain amount of recycling can be seen - also with the sound effects. Overall, this is a shame, but it hardly affects the gaming experience negatively, because otherwise the developers get (almost) everything right.  

The character development opportunities, on the other hand, are diverse. Not all bonuses can be unlocked in a single playthrough, so you have to decide on the skill distribution. 

Suitable for the masses instead of hardcore horror

In contrast to the first part is The Evil Within 2 significantly more suitable for the masses. This can already be seen in the clearer elaboration of the game characters. If the characters were difficult to grasp in the predecessor, the individual traits of the main and secondary characters are shown clearly and always comprehensibly. In the end, all players benefit from this, because the entire story looks tidier and the personality, especially of Sebastian Castellanos, can be incorporated into the story structure much more easily. In any case, the developers of the character design paid great attention to detail to the main character. 

Media for The Evil Within 2

Infobox

Number of players: 1 players
Age: 18
Playing time: 4 to 5 hours
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: medium

Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Year of publication: 2017 
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Language: German
Cost: 54,99 Euro

To the conclusion

The game has potential and will hopefully be fed with some story missions. It is very different from other shooters and is still in its infancy. The developers say they want to expand the game together with the community and that's a good step in the right direction.

Yes, The Evil Within 2 is a sequel - but one that has it all. The developers did a great job of combining an open-world scenario with a dramaturgically dense story. The narrative works so well that you sometimes forget that it's an open world game. Bravo Tango Gameworks!

Elements of psychological horror are cleverly combined with tough jumpscares and some splatter insoles. Despite all the cruelty, you can always feel an emotional undertone that makes the story and its characters deeply human - and thus beyond the supernatural content - credible.

The Evil Within 2 appeals to fans of subtle horror as well as lovers of classic mainstream horror. How scary the horror survival game really is is highly subjective. When corpses are swinging from the ceiling, the room is bathed in diffuse light and at the end a door is waiting to be opened, good conditions for spooky moments are at least temporarily created. 

It must be noted that the success of The Evil Within 2 is also measured in terms of sales. The larger the target group, the more successful the game from publisher Bethesa will be in the retail market. For such a costly project feels like The Evil Within 2 therefore gratefully independent.

There are some game scenes that can be described as pure mindfuck. Such moments stay in the players' minds and make part of the appeal of The Evil Within 2 out. If you are into psychological trips, obvious horror and action, you should definitely not miss the survival horror game.

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