Press Start: ‘The Evil Within 2’ is horror lite
In my more than 15 hours with "The Evil Within 2," I wasn't scared once. That's not good when playing a survival horror game.
It's not that I'm desensitized to fear, either; the first entry in the series featured plenty of frightening moments.
But despite the lack of spooks, "The Evil Within 2" is a solid adventure from start to finish, even with its bizarre story and sometimes annoying combat.
The sequel to the much scarier 2014 game has player character Sebastian Castellanos once again diving into a shared psychological world riddled with "horror," but this time there's a more personal motivation: Castellanos is trying to rescue his daughter.
The narrative features strange threads that seem to start and end unnaturally. For instance, halfway through the game I fought what I thought was the endgame boss, only for a new character to awkwardly take his place.
Most of the bosses in the game are disappointing. While "The Evil Within" features some truly disturbing bosses (Laura and The Keeper will forever live in my nightmares), the big bads in the sequel are mostly normal humans and leave much to be desired in the horror department.
Perhaps the most frightening enemies in "The Evil Within 2" I found by accident. While roaming the new open-world levels, I stumbled upon a jukebox that summoned a ghostly apparition I couldn't fight and had to sneak around to avoid. It was a nice reward for my curiosity.
The game features several such surprises off the beaten trail. While "The Evil Within" was linear, the sequel has several fun open areas that are a blast to explore. Large levels take away some of the tense claustrophobia of straightforward areas, but I had a lot of fun killing enemies, collecting materials and finding hidden treats in those spaces.
Side missions are another fun addition. While I could have just charged through the main story, I found it worthwhile to run errands for other people trapped in the nightmarish world. I took any excuse I could find to extend my time in the open-world portions of the game because, yes, they're just that enticing.
Part of the game's tension comes from what feels almost like deliberately frustrating combat mechanics. Castellanos is a trained officer, but the game's aiming system is so archaic I often felt like he was shooting a gun for the first time in his life. I eventually turned on aim assist so Castellanos felt at least somewhat competent with a firearm.
When I could, I stuck to stealth, which was surprisingly fun. There are plenty of weapon and skill upgrades that allowed me to play the way I wanted, and it was satisfying exploring different play styles. There's no way to unlock everything in your first playthrough, but the ability to start a new game with what you unlocked from your first time through adds some much-appreciated replay value.
"The Evil Within 2" might not be nearly as scary as the original, which is a disappointment for a horror game, but it's still a solid third-person action adventure. New open areas add a lot of fun spaces to explore, kill and collect in at the cost of reduced tension. The story can be jarring and features some lackluster bosses, but I was too busy sneak-attacking zombies to care too much.
Final score: 7.5/10
"The Evil Within 2" was reviewed on the Xbox One with a review copy provided by the publisher's PR agency, fortyseven communications.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.