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Game Review: Evil Within 2

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Initial Release Date: October 13, 2017

Developer: Tango Gameworks

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Genre: Survival Horror

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Every October we look for something truly horrifying and entertaining to watch, read or play to help get us in that very special Halloween spirit that would make even the Great Pumpkin proud to grace our pumpkin patch. This year that special something turned out to be “Evil Within 2,” the sequel to Shinji Mikami’s original “Evil Within.” Shinji is to the survival horror genre what George A. Romero was to zombie horror films. You may have heard of his past work on a little franchise called “Resident Evil,” the first video game that any of us can recall having a reaction to similar to a scary movie. (Don’t tell us you didn’t jump when that first zombie dog jumps through the window, or the first time one of the zombies grappled you and sunk their teeth in you like a deep fried Twinkie at a fair.) This time Shinji let John Johanas and the Tango Gameworks team take the directorial reins, but he oversaw the project along the way. The transition is seamless and something very special to play. So, grab a mason jar of that green goo and see what we had to say (or scream!) about this gaming experience.

“Evil Within 2” brings back protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, as if the poor guy didn’t go through enough in the first game. The MOBIUS corporation has returned along with his partner, Juli Kidman, whom double crossed him in the previous installment. MOBIUS is seeking out Sebastian to help them. You’re asking, “Why in the hell would he ever help them after what they put him through last time?!” Well, they have what would be any father’s weakness… his daughter that he thought was dead for the past three years is alive and at the core of the STEM system MOBIUS is using. The catch? She is missing and Sebastian must reenter the nightmarish world that he barely survived before to find his daughter. It sounds simple-ish, right? TOTALLY WRONG! Once you’re put under and enter STEM, things begin to unravel quicker than Freddy Krueger’s sweater.

One of the things that really impressed us about “Evil Within 2” was how immersive it was. The first two chapters of the game you don’t actually fight anything – you are quite simply taking in the story and watching the setup of a cinematic horror movie, but you’re in control. The credits even scroll as you control Sebastian on screen. In a way, you are the director of this scary movie. You choose your actions and how to handle situations. Sure, there are confines of the game, but you really don’t notice them all that much. You might walk into a relatively small house or simple room, but when you open one door it may lead to a mental hospital overrun by creatures or you may find yourself on the receiving end of a madman’s Polaroid. Without giving too much away, we will say that you not only have to worry about the zombie-like creatures and freakishly-demented boss battles, but also a crazed killer snapping photos and creating “art” of the victims he kills. It freezes the moment in time and suddenly you’re watching an Instagram-style Boomerang video of someone’s brains being scattered across the room. Even more chilling is when you see portions of his art gallery that contain multiple heads attached to one another, bodies held together with barbed wire and things done with saws that would make even Jigsaw cringe with terror.

The actual act of fighting in the game can be a bit tedious and difficult to navigate at times. You want your character to move like Batman from the Rocksteady Studios games, but instead he is a little stiff. At first it was frustrating, but we soon adapted and really enjoyed a different take on the fight scenes. You see, instead of going into a room full of zombies, guns blazing, you should look around first. There may be an oil barrel you can kick over and shoot to ignite them all in an inferno. Or maybe they are standing in water, bust out that electrified crossbow and zap them all together. Another fun and nail-biting way to play is to sneak up on the zombie creatures and try to get the drop with a stealth kill. They are very unpredictable and never act the same way twice, so you don’t know if you will be caught or not, but it’s a riot to try. It’s really a survival horror game that makes you think and problem solve. We also liked breaking out car windows and honking at zombies, then running away. What can we say, we’re easily amused at times by teasing the undead!

There is an upgrade system similar to “The Last of Us,” where you collect parts, tools, etc… then, at various points you can upgrade your weapons, fabricate bullets or health items. We preferred drinking that magical coffee at the safe houses that somehow restores your full health. Make ours a double! You also collect red and green goo along the way and hidden keys. These can all be used in STEM to upgrade your abilities in a Matrix-like fashion. You collect the stuff, then cash them in to be injected with abilities. A word of advice… the FIRST chance you get, you’re going to want to use the “bottle upgrade” that allows you to smash bottles on undead that grab a hold of you. This happens a lot, and it’s better to smash a bottle on their head than to take damage. While there are ways to get your health back, such items are pretty scarce along with limited ammo.

One last thing we have to mention, because it’s done so well, is the environment. The detailing and textures in the game are really gorgeous. Nothing was left unfinished. It’s such a cool sight to see the fractured portions of a small town floating in the background or when you near an edge of an area. Because you are in this dream world, reality becomes blurred in odd ways. It feels very authentic, because the environments are so realistic. One minute you’re running down the street from a zombie, and you dart into a house, only now it’s not a house. It’s a mental ward or demented art gallery. It’s an effect seen in horror movies, but when you are actually playing and experiencing it, the sensation is goosebumps-inducing!

 “Evil Within 2” is like “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Walking Dead” and “Silent Hill” put in a blender and then poured out in video game form for the most bizarre and enjoyable horror survival experience ever to splatter across your screen. Our advice is to wait until dark, flip off the lights and give yourself as much time for the first portion of the game as you would to watch a movie. After Halloween is over, and you’re missing those haunted houses, just fire this game up and you’ll definitely get your fright fix!

 

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Trunk Gaming

Game Review: PREY

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Game Title: PREY

Platforms: PS4, PC, XBOX ONE

Release Date: May 5, 2017

This was, for these reviewers, an odd gaming experience.

What do we mean?”

Well, the marketing for PREY seemed to portray the game as an action packed, first person shoot ‘em up… yet folks online were touting the RPG perspective of the game. So what the heck is it? A first person shooter or an RPG?

The answer is, the game is not a single form of any inside the box gaming. Arkane Studios really thought outside the bun here, just like one of our favorite pregaming fuel up spots. As you start playing, you’re immediately dropped into a totally immersive environment. It appears you’re getting in a helicopter on a high-rise building to be whisked off, but don’t believe your eyes… or your ears for that matter. Nothing is what it seems in this game, and that is really what captured our interest.

Admittedly, it was frustrating at first. There isn’t really a built-in tutorial feel to give you the bearings you need to get going quick. There are “tutorials” available in the options menu, but nobody really wants to do that, right? You want to just seamlessly and naturally figure out how the controls work and be given a clear direction on what you should do. PREY does the opposite, and at first we were ready to turn the game off and take it back, but we forged on and before long, we could NOT put the game down. The lack of direction that frustrated us at first soon became what we loved most about the game. It’s as if you are truly the lead character of the game, MORGAN YU (male or female, they give you the option). You have no clue what’s going on at first, but it’s okay, because neither does your character. YOU decide what to believe and who to trust. Should you listen to your brother who tries to convince you of what your thoughts are, or should you listen to the robot that has your voice and supposedly YOUR directions on what to do and where to go?

One very exciting element of PREY is that there is not just one way to complete an objective. Say there is a locked door you need to get in, and you don’t have the access code. Look around your environment. Maybe there is an air vent up high or some duct underneath your feet. Is there a button on the other side of the door you can use a foam dart gun to activate? Maybe you can find a passcode via the computers in the space station, because guess what… there are actual emails on each terminal, maps, well acted audio logs, etc. Arkane does a wonderful job of painting this haunting space station environment. So these are really the RPG elements of the game. You can decide to help the people you meet, or if you don’t believe them… well, let’s just say you can launch them out into space, whack ‘em with a wrench, or let the aliens rip them apart.

Though there are a few guns in the game, you’ll soon find they are not necessarily the best way to deal with your opponents whether they are the aliens (Typhon), rogue turrets, or corrupted engineer robots. As you go through the game, you study the different aliens you have to fight. As you gain knowledge, you can use “nueromods” to inject this knowledge and abilities into your system. You’ll discover that using a lightning blast or increasing your health is far more beneficial than loading up that shotgun. You’ll also need to gather materials to recycle and fabricate your bullets, guns, EMPs, etc… there isn’t much of just finding random boxes of ammo lying around like a regular shooter game.

PREY is a wonderfully bizarre game that will grab you, pull you in, and before you know it, hours will have passed. That’s why despite our initial knee jerk reaction and a few glitches in the gameplay, we are certifying this game as a quarter muncher! Because if this game was in an old school arcade, we would be pumping in those hard-earned silver coins to find out what happens next. Our advice is play through the game once quickly (around 16-20 hours), then go back and really delve into the game and do all of the smaller tasks and enjoy the details (40 hours-ish).

Until next time, keep on pressing start!

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