Monday, February 26, 2018

Not the right horrible

I just finished a great big, well constructed open world game with a variety of things to do and see layered on top of a interesting setting. And my reward? A horror game with open world-ish sections that are not interesting to look at or explore, filled with repetitive enemies that are too hard to fight, haphazardly slapped on top of a setting that is both familiar and boring.

Assassin's Creed Origins has ruined The Evil Within 2 for me. Not that it took much.

The Evil Within was basically a classic Resident Evil with the gore and camp turned up to 11. At the time it was exactly what Resident Evil had failed to deliver in years: a good time with a few scares, a few gross moments, and a plot that made precious little sense but was still amusing.  Since then Resident Evil VII happened, a game that was better than it had any right to be, so instead of aiming for that mark The Evil Within 2 takes a shot at being Silent Hill 1 or 2. The good Silent Hills. And it does not go well.

Calling The Evil Within 2 open world is being disingenuous. It just has some larger areas that can be freely explored. Take the word 'freely' with a grain of salt as exploration is hampered by bad stealth mechanics and bad shooting which makes the already difficult to dispatch enemies trials of both skill and patience. More than two zombie things is a serious problem and running away is not an option because the green goo they drop is required for leveling up skills.

I will admit that having just enough ammo to survive most encounters makes for a tense experience that fits well with this trying to be a horror game. The first title did this as well but I do not remember the combat being as inaccurate and clumsy. It's tense but not enjoyable, a relief when over but not looked forward to.

Think back with me to the parts of Silent Hill 1 and 2 that really, really worked: large areas with very limited visibility that obscured both where you were going and what you were fighting. The Evil Within 2 is all too happy to show you what you are facing and that clarity is never frightening.  It breaks its own illusion by being too excited to show off its tech. Does the weird camera monster that skulks along the ceiling while making distrubing, sexy sounds look cool? Of course, but there is no mystery, no room for imagination. What you see is all there is and then, unlike Silent Hill, you are forced to fight it.

There are bright moments. When the large areas are replaced with smaller, scripted locations I remember that the first game was not bad at all. The current antagonist murders people and then traps them in a cube of repeating time, forcing them to relive the moment of the gorey death over and over, forever. It looks cool and awful, just like it should. If there was more of that, more mood and less clumsy fighting with the last bullet in my gun, I would be having a better time.

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