Released just under three years ago, The Evil Within, developed by Tango Gameworks, was a blood-soaked bombastic romp through the twisted mind of a psychopath with serious family issues. While the game’s initial reception was lukewarm at best by many, it has since garnered quite the acclaim in, and around horror fanbases. Because of this belated success, The Evil Within 2 is coming to every platform on the market on the scariest day of the year: Friday the 13th.
For any title, getting a sequel is a chance for the development team to look at the original, work out the flaws, and then iron them out in a fresh product that shines above the first. The team at Tango Gameworks has likely had their hands full then over the past few years, because while The Evil Within was a thrilling ride overall, it wasn’t anywhere near perfect. As games released under Bethesda go, this isn’t the paragon of bugs, nor it is unplayable because of its flaws.
But it’d be fantastic to see the team make tweaks to something so close to being brilliant, just to push it up to that threshold. These recommended fixes range from minor gripes, all the way up to actual problems, so bare in mind the severity that comes with the number on this list.
5) No Letterboxing
The 16:9 aspect ratio looks great on any game, so to make everything that much more cinematic the Tango Gameworks team decided it would be a world-class idea to add massive black voids of nothing on the top and bottom of the screen. ‘Letterboxing’ is common in cinema because the screen is so vast, and the picture doesn’t always fill the whole screen without being distorted.
But in video games, you don’t have this problem because the game you’re playing naturally takes up the screen regardless. The addition of this letterbox is less cinematic than it is plain annoying, as it further limits what the player can see on the screen.
When an army of brainless drones wielding machetes, knives, and other murder tools are coming toward you, limiting your own vision is not what you need. This remains low on the list because of the in-game option to turn the letterbox ‘off’, but the fact that it was there to begin with should be the issue here.
4) Smoother Animation and Control
The Evil Within suffers from fairly clunky character movements, there’s just no other way of saying it. Pressing the movement thumbstick or key in any direction even slightly will cause Sebastian to jolt round like a bloodhound, no matter the tap. But when our grumpy protagonist isn’t simply darting in circles, or taking a walk through treacle, he’s using his arthritic knees to move at the speed of passing icebergs around enemies.
Every movement Sebastian makes just feels too heavy on screen, and seems to work against you trying to survive inside this nightmarish world. Strange ice physics seem to have infected Sebastian too, because he’ll continue moving for a fraction of a second even after stopping input, making it seem like he floats off down a corridor or straight into a trap. An issue like this isn’t pressing, but when confronted with enemies it can possibly make the difference between life and death.
3) Narrative Coherence
A game, or most games, need a coherent story. A plot to follow; an arc to progress through. This allows players to grow with the characters, and actually invest themselves in the world that the developers are aiming to bring to life. Not The Evil Within. While dysfunction and disorientation are key elements to the central themes of the title, it’s incredibly demanding of new players to try and follow this maddening story.
Even for returning players it’s not exactly easy to follow. The game’s story, along with its locales and logic, are warped to a degree that simply makes you say “no more, I’m just going to play”. It becomes less of a problem once you’ve beaten it a couple of times, but that shouldn’t be a requirement to understand why the main character just got thrown into a hole that became a corridor full of barred doors.
The fact that The Evil Within seemingly abandons the rulebook when writing itself is jarring, because we, as people, enjoy a logical premise. Suspending disbelief is all well and good, for a time. Eventually, though, you (the writer) need to turn around and explain everything in lay terms, so that everyone is on the same page.
2) Removal or Changing of Stamina Meter
Running away from big scary unkillable enemies is something of a respected convention in Japanese horror titles. Naturally, the inclusion of a coveted stamina meter that runs out after four seconds, and causes players to watch a wheezing animation should it run out, is a brilliant idea.
This single gameplay oversight is horrible to deal with at lower levels when you’ve not upgraded Sebastian enough to counteract his lack of apparent physical fitness. It doesn’t even make sense in the rest of the world. The player is taking control of a rugged police officer, who likely has had to pass some level of physical training to get into the job, and then likely used it to catch some criminals over his years of service. Even if it’s just there to inconvenience the player: it shouldn’t be.
An artificial, arbitrary stamina meter dictating how careful you need to be with your four seconds of sprint is nonsense, as it serves only to make the early chase scenes that much more difficult in a completely dull way.
1) The Camera
It’s hard to talk about The Evil Within without mentioning the third-person shambles over your shoulder. While far from the worst camera in video games, The Evil Within certainly isn’t winning any awards for the way that the game tries to let the player see.
This 360 rotating mess is the reason you end up being shot or hit half the time in this game, as there’s no lock-on system to allow for fast acquisition of enemy targets. Because the camera is so slow, even when set on one hundred sensitivity, you’re constantly battling to keep approaching enemies, or bigger on-screen events, in view.
This can cost valuable HP, as the unseen zombie can sneak a hit in from an angle that you weren’t aware of. This camera brings with it a certain degree of restriction, forcing the player to move it carefully, and keep their targets preferably coming from the same direction. Not that this is always possible, as certain events later in the game have enemies coming from multiple directions.
The final nail in this flawed coffin is the way that the camera reacts to weapon zoom. Aside from the sniper rifle, which makes sense to be zoomed like it is, every gun in the game suddenly becomes equipped with telescopic sights when the aim button is pressed down. It’s such a leap because hip firing a gun takes place from Sebastian’s ‘normal’ viewpoint, and then suddenly you’re transported to a view where you can see the end of his gun, and then that’s about it; it’s not ideal really.