The first Evil Within barreled into our hearts in 2014 with the promise of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami's cerebral take on horror. And it was … fine. High hopes still percolating from 2005's Resident Evil 4 may have had something to do with the fanfare spoiling the final reception, but among myriad issues and a bafflingly obtuse story laid a clever and intriguing horror experience.
Fast forward to now, and detective Sebastian Castellanos once again heads into STEM (we won't spoil exactly what that is in case you haven't played yet), only this time he's in search of his daughter, whom he believed was dead. Castellanos has been looking for answers in the bottom of a bottle, too sad to live but too drunk to die. So when Kidman (y'know, from the first game) re-appears with an enticing trail toward his daughter (who may actually be alive), he's all about getting answers.
If nothing else, Evil Within 2 has absolutely embraced the series' quirks and foibles, leaning more toward its own particular brand of melodrama and mind-bending alternate reality world-building. The small town of Union feels less stifling than the corridors, insane asylums and crypts of the first game (though there's some of that, too) and more like its own place. Still, there is that inescapable gamey feeling in everything one does, from the upgrade system and enemy-free safe houses right on down to the physical prop for saving your game. All the same, so long as you're exploring, spooky things are happening. Mikami and company do lose a slight edge since we have a clearer idea of what's happening and why since the first time around, but enemies like the gruesome guardian (you may have seen her in a trailer) and the relentless frozen ghost born of Asian horror tropes—whom you cannot kill right away—keep players on their toes and even sometimes ruin your night when you thought you'd finally get some good sleep.
In the end, it comes down to the type of player you are. Do you enjoy the experience no matter how bonkers nonsensical it gets? Will you relish in the jump-scares? If so, this title is a great addition to your library. If you're looking for nonstop action or a more grounded experience, it's only a few more days till Wolfenstein. You can make it.
+Embraces itself as independent (and weird) IP
-Often clings to video game identity
The Evil Within 2
Rated M (So much stabbing)
Developed by Tango Gameworks
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on Xbox One
Available also on PS4 and PC