The Evil Within 2 takes lessons from its predecessor and builds on those with a distinctly different direction, but survival-horror enthusiasts will rejoice in the revolting scenes that are shoved into their faces amid a more emotional and exploration-infused story.
From the get-go, Tango Gameworks and Bethesda Softworks remind you exactly what kind of game you've gotten yourself into, but it's exactly the kind of gameplay that returning players from The Evil Within crave. It's gross, unsettling, and it'll make you want to look away at times – especially the opening segments that contain a pitiful, stomach-flipping, force-feeding scene that wasn't even shown in the red band trailer. Uncomfortable and on edge after being chased by a reoccurring and repulsive entity built of dismembered body parts, you know from the beginning that you're in The Evil Within 2.
After the cutscenes and opening segments conclude, the most noticeable change from the first game quickly becomes apparent: The mostly open-world environment that allows for and encourages exploration. Dropped in a new STEM world that feels frighteningly new but still uncomfortably familiar to the guilt-ridden protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, The Evil Within 2 lets out the leash a little when it comes to exploring. A main path and an invaluable map guide you through the collapsing, horror-filled world called Union, but wandering off the main path leads to some of the game's most exciting moments. Whether your motivation is to find some extremely scarce ammo or to give yourself a quick scare, you'll inevitably find both of those behind the closed doors of Union.
But the open-world freedom comes at a price, and in The Evil Within 2, the trade-off is the scare factor. Compared to the first game that prodded players through tight hallways and urged them to look around corners and investigate ominous noises, the mostly open world that Sebastian traverses offers more wiggle room and preparation when taking on enemies. The Lost, the common enemies that succeed The Haunted from The Evil Within, are largely unintelligent and easily outmaneuvered, even more so when you have open streets and buildings to escape to. Being able to size up The Lost and their upgraded counterparts from a distance waters down the frights slightly, but should they swarm and get too close, you'll find yourself reverting to hasty escapes and frenzied shooting all the same.
No matter how comfortable you end up feeling while traversing Union with an impressive arsenal, Obscura, the dark culmination of The Evil Within 2's twisted creations, will undo whatever composure you've accumulated. The prize pet of the charismatic villain Stefano, Obscura is an art project gone wrong that's built from a disfigured woman and a camera. It creaks through tight spaces and produces unnatural moans that sound sexual and terrifyingly out of place, and its stomps will send you running the opposite direction. If you're looking to relive the terror of the first game, look no further than your encounter with Obscura.
When it comes to progressing Sebastian's skills and stats, The Evil Within 2 makes improvements from the initial game, but it still doesn't feel particularly remarkable. There aren't many hard decisions that you'll face when choosing your upgrades. Improvements to the handgun are a no-brainer, and the Stealth tree of Sebastian's skills seems forced given the game's heavy emphasis on dipping in and out of combat and the use of sneak attacks. Similarly, some abilities feel like must-haves, and you'll eventually find yourself with everything you need while remaining skills are purchased simply because you have excess currency.
Once you reach the end and can compare The Evil Within and its deserving, exiting sequel, you'll likely find yourself mulling over the sharp turns that this game took from the first. The reoccurring New Game + of the genre returns and is definitely worth investing time in, and you'll likely find yourself eager to fight your favorite enemies again in search of the spine-tingling sensation they delivered in the first playthrough. Through this option or through future content that could potentially come later on, Union is definitely a city worth returning to, though it's also a satisfying and rewarding conclusion to the story if that's the case.
WWG's Score: 4/5