Well, this game is VERY EXCELLENT. It improves upon the first, which I enjoyed, in every way. The gameplay is even better and the story is way less convoluted. In fact, you can follow it from the beginning! There are, however, a ton of callbacks to the first game. While you donít need to have played the first game, it would certainly inform your understanding of the characters and the world, so at least read about it. |
In The Evil Within 2, you again play as Sebastian Castellanos and enter another fucked up, disintegrating world in a simulation. This time itís to save your daughter, who was taken by the big evil corporation and is the ďcoreĒ of the program they built, necessary for its functioning. The game takes place in a town called Union, and things are not pretty. The population has started turning into monsters, the corporate special forces have been deployed to try to find out whatís going on and stabilize the place, and it turns out that there are some very bad people who have taken control of the core/your daughter and are growing in power. There is a big psychological horror element, as Sebastian is also battling trauma from what happened to him in the last game, guilt over losing his daughter, and other stuff.
The characters are really well written. I like that Sebastian is focused on his daughter (and to a lesser extent his wife) and doesnít give a shit about the corporation. He is empathetic to the people he meets and genuinely disturbed by what is happening. Youíll meet several other helpful characters with their own backgrounds and motivations (spoiler, most of whom will die). The villains all have clear motivations and are unique. Thereís a psychopathic artist that sets up death scenes to photograph, usually of unfortunate corporate special forces members. Thereís a ďpreacherĒ sort of guy who is a master manipulator. Then thereís your wife, who isnít quite your wife. Plus, some other ďmini-bosses.Ē All these villains have back stories. Union is composed of people who volunteered to come live this idyllic simulated life. The corporation does strict background checks to filter out people with mental illness and other problems. So, this artist was actually an artist in the real world pushing boundaries with his work. He eventually went too far and upset a lot of people, but defended his art. He saw Union as a place where he could pursue his vision. They let him in and, well, I guess they didnít do a good enough psych eval, or his sociopathy allowed him to pass evals. The preacher was a community leader and charismatic figure in the real world who saw an opportunity in Union to take advantage of optimistic, idealistic people. So, these people become like manifestations of their core desires and attributes when they are corrupted by power in Union.
Gameplay is tight. It follows in the vein of third-person psychological horror games like the previous in this series, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and so on. Although you have access to an expanded arsenal, and in this game I had more ammo than in the previous one, the emphasis is on stealth. I leaned into this and used stealth whenever possible. You get ďgreen gelĒ (experience points) when you kill enemies, so you are incentivized to fight. For me, that meant putting points first in the ďstealthĒ skill tree and using my knife and hatchets. I could move faster while crouched, initiate stealth kills from farther away, do stealth kills from around corners, and move much quieter. This is a slower, more methodical approach to exploring Union and navigating combat areas. Other skill trees focus on health, stamina, and combat.
Despite focusing on stealth, I did use guns a lot. Youíll have to for bosses, of course, but more difficult enemies are hard or impossible to stealth attack and, well, you donít want to get close to them anyway. For example, later in the game there are some enemies with flamethrowers. They run from place to place, yell prophetic gibberish (because theyíve been swayed by the preacher), and shoot flames in a 180-degree arc for a few seconds. Then they turn around and run somewhere else. The way to do stealth attacks on them is to stake out where they run to, hide behind an object, then come out behind them as soon as they start spraying fire. If you do it quickly enough, you can get a stab in. If they turn around though, you get fried. Harder enemies have more life and these flamethrower dudes require at least three or four stabs. So, once you stab them, you sprint away and hide. The enemy will look for you briefly, then go back to what it was doing and you can stake it out again. Once I got the sniper rifle, I felt more confident against tougher enemies because I didnít have to get close to them (to stab or shoot with shotguns/pistols).
There are tons of crafting components for ammo lying around (youíll never actually find sniper rifle ammo), so I always had a full clip by just spending nearly all crafting material on sniper rifle ammo. You can craft ammo for other guns too, including the crossbow that returns from the first game (with a bunch of kinds of bolts, which, admittedly, I did not experiment with, but there are some environmental kills available by shooting an electric bolt into water, you can set traps with explosive bolts, and so onÖ). You can also upgrade all your weapons with machine parts that you find lying around everywhere. There are enough components (and enough green gel) to upgrade pretty much whatever you want. You wonít be able to get everything, but if you choose an upgrade path or two, youíll get there. I upgraded the pistol all the way and the other guns (minus crossbow) at least through level 2 (out of 3).
Iíve offered a ton of description! Maybe thatís because The Evil Within 2 sucks you in. Its dark, intense, surreal atmosphere, urgent story, and great exploration and combat are easy to lose yourself in. Like, I felt I was as much a part of the simulation as Sebastian. I could go on and on about the exceptional art and sound design and so many other things. The fracturing city of Union is a sight to behold, just like the crumbling environment in the first game was. I love that they did that again.
There are just a few drawbacks. One is minor, but persistently annoying. Sebastian often pauses before or after performing an action. For example, when you open the map, you press the button and wait for him to pull out his little communicator device. That 2 second gap between pressing the button and seeing the map, especially when he doesnít move immediately after you push the button, is irritating. I often pushed the map button again thinking that it didnít register, which resulted in him pulling out and then putting away the map. Similarly, Sebastian waits too long after smashing a crate to pick up items that drop from it. Smash. Wait two seconds. Then pick up things. Sure, in less realistic games you can open menus and loot at will, but quality of life! Like, they could have halved the pause time and still gotten across the effect of him looking at a communicator or switching actions. Another thing I remember being bad was one design decision in Chapter 3. In that chapter you get to explore the largest area in the game, and there is this place in a warehouse that you canít get to, but it is obvious that youíre supposed to get there. There is a conspicuous piece of wood blocking your path, but you canít chop it, shoot it, kick it, and Sebastian wonít comment on it. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to get by, then finally looked it up. Itís part of a damn side quest that triggers the path. They should have blocked the entrance to that part of the warehouse with a refrigerator or something that didnít look like you should be able to break. Finally, I mentioned the importance of stealth. Enemies in this game are pretty stupid. Most of them patrol a set path between two points. They walk to point A, look around, walk to point B, look around, walk back to point A. So, stealth killing can become formulaic, repetitive. I wish there was more randomness or more complex paths that they took to make me think harder. Itís still stressful, but itís not hard. Sometimes I felt I didnít have to be much smarter than the monsters to do well. Bosses and harder enemies excepting, of course. But still, as long as you run away and hide, most enemies will forget about you after a short time, and this includes harder enemies that you have actively stabbed! ďThat guy stabbed me! I will chase him. Roar! Hmm, he seems to have disappeared behind that car. I will stand here and look at the car for 10 seconds. Hmm, he must not be there. I will return to facing the other direction. Roar!Ē
Minor shortcomings aside, I highly recommend this if you like the genre. I loved it, fantastic, want to play a third installment.
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Like Observation, the game No Code made after Stories Untold, I was a bit disappointed with this! I thought Stories Untold was a horror anthology. It's less horror and more a Stranger Things 80s vibe, and while it is an anthology, the gameplay was basically just manipulating tactile interfaces to solve puzzles (not nearly as fun or interesting to play with as GNOG). Each of the four episodes is different, but they are tied together, which you discover in the last one. In episode one, you basically play a text adventure game; in episode two, you follow instructions to operate machines to perform experiments; and in episode three, you follow instructions to decode messages. |
I had no idea what was going on after episode one, even less after episode two, and in episode three you get some clues that you are playing one character in all the episodes, though it isn't clear how they tie together yet. I think what I was most disappointed with was how easy/boring the gameplay was. Yeah, the "what's next" of the story was cool, and it fit the gameplay, but the gameplay didn't carry the experience like I hoped. So in episode three, for example, you are in some remote station in the middle of nowhere and you have to decode messages. To do this, you look at microfilm for instructions. Scanning the microfilm is slow, and the text is not in sharp focus. So when you have to find and copy text to decipher codes, you will often be wrong because you had trouble reading the text instead of for any dullness on your part. So I eventually was just looking up the answers to move the story along. I am sure other people played Stories Untold by, at some point, just looking stuff up. It's not that rewarding figuring out the puzzles.
So yeah, this was fine, not as special as I thought it would be. Similar disappointed feeling as Observation. They have some great ideas, some really cool elements, but the execution is flawed.
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Demolition Derby on PS1 was one of my favorite games. I've always wanted another demolition derby game. The Burnout series had elements of it, but it was great for other reasons too. But pure demolition derby is something I'd never seen again. So I was intrigued by Wreckfest, which promised lots of crashing and destruction. |
The short of it is that while Wreckfest does have some demolition derby, wrecking actually isn't the game's focus. You'll spend far more time (in the career mode at least) racing. The good news is that the racing is consistently entertaining, but the bad news is that it gets extremely repetitive. In career mode, you earn points by completing events, and use those points to purchase and upgrade your cars. As you increase the class of cars and reach milestones of points, you move to the next league, where you just do the same thing to get to the next league. Do this through five leagues, each of which takes longer to beat than the previous one.
In the leagues, there are different types of events. The best, obviously, are the destruction derby ones or any other one-off weird event like trying to outrun a bunch of lunatic school buses with a three-wheeled van (and you win a school bus if you beat them...which I never managed!). Let's say that you need 2500 points to complete the league. The most fun events are always 100 or 200 points. You don't get points for repeating events either, so you've got to do most of the ones available. Want to get up to 600 or 800 points in an event? Well, you'll have to race. While destruction derbies are one heat, the race events are often somewhat grueling series of like 6 or 8 races, sometimes with 6 laps per race. And like I said, these just get longer the higher the league. So, you will spent FAR more time racing than running into people. Sure, you can wreck other cars during races, but the goal is to come in first. And some race tracks are really geared toward destruction--those are the best--but most are just races around tracks.
All this is to say that the game's emphasis on paper is spot on, but in practice, it's off. I made it through four of the five leagues, and you can see just what I mean about the career mode getting repetitive. On Game Pass, only 2.05% of players finished the fourth league and 3.66% finished the third league. The vast majority bailed after a short time in career mode. They probably went online, like I eventually did, to crash into real people. Online has some wild tracks! Why aren't these in the career mode?! I've spent a couple fun evenings with it, but just as often there is practically no one online to play with, which is really disappointing! I'm probably a bit late to the party as this came out a few years ago. But, I enjoyed my time with Wreckfest, both online and off. It kind of scratched the demolition derby itch, but I'd rather play Burnout. It did get me looking at other racing games and I discovered Forza Horizon, which sounds up my alley. Maybe I'll try that soon!
This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jul 18th, 2021 at 08:50:34.
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