Sebastian Castellanos was passed out drunk at a bar when agents of the shadowy Mobius organization told him he'd have to jack into the matrix—er, I mean STEM system—to save the daughter he thought was dead. After a struggle and a kidnapping, the hard-drinking former detective found himself in the Mobius lab, strapped in and ready to plunge into the rabbit hole.
Minutes after jacking in, Castellanos was wandering the horrifying halls of a nightmare. Shrouded corpses dangled from the ceiling. Blood congealed in hallways that seemed to twist in on themselves. He pushed through a room that looked like the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, scuttled through ductwork while dodging the buzzsaw of a monster that looked like a pile of women's corpses sewn together, and dodged the advances of a knife-wielding serial killer who likes to watch.
This is The Evil Within 2, a new survival horror game from developer Tango Gameworks. It's scary, weird, and dumb all at the same time. If Michael Bay made a Silent Hill video game, this is what it would look like. That's not a bad thing.
The Evil Within 2 picks up a few years after the last game left off. (In the first, detective Castellanos investigated strange goings on at the Beacon Mental Hospital. Long story short, the Mobius corporation was using the mental hospital to test out new technology that links human minds in a virtual world. It got out of hand.)
In the new game, Castellanos' wife and daughter are dead after a house fire and the detective is now an alcoholic nobody. Then Mobius shows up to tell him his daughter in fact isn't dead, but that she'd been kidnapped by the corporation to be used as the controlling brain of its fancy new virtual reality machine.
Mobius used his daughter because she's "pure," but—wouldn't you know it—everything's gone to hell and the corporation thinks Castellanos is the only man who can help them. So the former detective, on the promise of saving his kid, jacks into the corporate matrix to save her and find out what went wrong.
If the plot sounds bad, the dialogue is even worse. It takes roughly 30 minutes of exposition and explanation before the player starts exploring The Evil Within 2 in any real way. When players finally do get control, they spend the next half-hour forced down tunnels that look as if they were designed by someone who watched a bunch of horror films but didn't understand them.
There's the lovingly staged corpses of Hannibal, the mutant aberrations of Silent Hill, the creepy dark haired women of The Ring, plus a thousand other Japanese horror films. It's as if Tango Works took all these influences, chewed them up, spat them out, and shaped their leavings into one long action movie set piece as directed by Michael Bay.
And you know what? It works. It's fun.
The game opens up after an hour and Castellanos begins exploring the haunted town of Union, an Anywhere, USA-type place that's been infected by monsters. It's Silent Hill minus the fog. The gameplay is tight and the game encourages you to explore Union while throwing jump scares, creepy creatures, and unsettling ambiance at you the whole time.
At one point, on my way to a quest objective, I heard a scream from a house I'd never explored. Now, I could have gone in there. There was probably a bunch of health packs, weapon upgrades, and ammo inside. But if I went in I would've had to deal with whatever caused the scream, and because The Evil Within 2 is so tonally inconsistent there's no telling what would happen. It could've been a zombie. It could've been a ghost. It could've been the flaming avatar of a child.
Like Bay's movies, this is a game that is all style over substance. In addition to the weak dialogue, the characters are paper thin. Almost everyone you meet inside Union is a Mobius employee decked out in mercenary garb for seemingly no other reason than it looks cool. The Evil Within 2 is the kind of game written by people who thought sending a team of soldiers into the mind of a little girl to turn off a virtual reality machine was a good plot point. Yet the design, gameplay, and outstanding visuals make it a blast to play. It's a great way to spend some of your spooky October.
Just don't think about it too hard.
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