WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS FOR THE EVIL WITHIN 2 BELOW. TRUE TERROR.
The first half of The Evil Within 2 is fantastic. That can be credited in large part to its phenomenal villain Stefano, a psychopathic photographer who sews corpses together for art and is accompanied everywhere by a stitched-up pile of limbs and camera parts named Obscura. He’s the solid center that the entire game rotates around: his brutality grabs you the moment you lay eyes on his “work”, and nothing brings him more joy than using his world-manipulating powers to toy with you in unpredictable ways. You spend all your time jumping at shadows because he could show up at any moment and make you the focus of his gleeful sadism. He’s terrifying, and single-handedly makes the game terrifying too.
Aaaaand then you kill him halfway through the story. After an intense final boss fight where you end his macabre gallery show with a well-placed bullet (and an even better-placed one-liner), The Evil Within 2 should come to a close, but stubbornly chooses not to end for ten more hours. The second half of the game spirals into a mess of unnecessary new side characters, edgy religious cliches and such blatant Resident Evil copy-pasting that I’m shocked Nemesis didn’t show up for a cameo. It’s such a sudden and egregious change that I can’t help but think the second half of the story was added later, the result of frantic attempts to build an extra act out of scraps and dartboarded horror tropes.
After everything the first half of The Evil Within 2 accomplished, its sudden quality-plummet is incredibly disappointing – and it didn’t have to happen. The Evil Within 2 has a brilliant story waiting in the wings for Stefano and Obscura that’s never fully explored. Focusing on that for 10 more hours would have made this game into something incredible.
Once upon a time (or more accurately, in the leadup to Fallout 4) I wrote a little article called “History of the World According to Fallout”. The response was fantastic and I’m still proud of it to this day. Unfortunately, the article has since been scrubbed from the internet – you call still find the original text here (or here if you can’t stand slide shows), but the URL has been redirected.
Instead of letting this beloved history lesson disappear from the internet, I’m reposting it here in its full, two-year-old, wildly out-of-date glory. Tell your friends!
The world of Fallout 4 is many things – big, desolate, full of monsters, intensely irradiated. But above all (except maybe irradiated), it’s mysterious. When you stumble from the comforting darkness of a recently opened vault into a sun-scorched desert hellscape, there isn’t much time to ask questions before something starts trying to shoot you, eat you, or some combination of the two. Those questions still linger: who created the vaults, why are people so horrifically mutated, how a parody of Coca-Cola almost managed to outlive humanity. But with hints to their answers scattered far and wide, with a thousand threats in between, it can be hard to decipher it all in survivable fashion when you’re actually playing the games.
That’s where we come in. If you’re dying to understand why the Fallout world is the way it is (like why everything looks like it came out of the ’50s), look no further than this handy timeline, breaking down the history of the world according to Fallout into easily digestible chunks. Let it be a guide for you, and a lesson for all of humanity: seriously, don’t mess with nukes.
The Evil Within was easily my ‘most-anticipated game’ of 2014. Early descriptions of it read like someone had poked through my diary to create my personal perfect game: it had the macabre but meaningful aesthetic of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame (which felt like it was in such short supply back then), the flight-or-flight gameplay of Dishonored and a wonderfully creepy focus on psychology and the unique horror concepts that stem from it. I was lucky enough to get to review the game, and when I finally got my hands on it I couldn’t wait to see how would scare the next few days of sleep out of me.
I played it. And I hated it. All my hopes for this game – one I was sure would be a landmark horror title – were destroyed within the first few meandering chapters. Even that early it was clear that the story, game mechanics, and the very sense of terror at the game’s core fell far short of what I’d envisioned. I ultimately gave The Evil Within a middling score (and agree strongly with many of the points raised by my colleague Susan Arendt, who scored it even lower) and the deep sense of disappointment I felt then has stuck with me to this day.
Now The Evil Within 2 is on the way, and you’d think my disenchantment with the first game would have me steering clear. But instead, I’m looking at The Evil Within 2 like it’s an ex-boyfriend I’m stalking on Facebook – I hate the pain it caused me, but my God does it look good. As disillusioned as I was with The Evil Within, there’s something deep inside it that I did treasure, and the sequel looks to be dripping with it too.
Life has left this blog looking sparse as of late – life and far-flung technological issues that have turned me into a temporary luddite. Thankfully those issues look to be getting resolved, so I thought I would take a quick warm-up lap with a topic that’s been on my mind lately: my personal picks for underrated games.
This list is sure to expand with time as I find more sadly forgotten masterpieces, and should serve as a nice reference for what little-known or little-loved games I think everyone should try. And if I think they’re worth playing, you know they’ve gotta be good.
The last few weeks have not been kind to No Man’s Sky. After years of build-up gained it a massive following powered by ever-ballooning hopes, launch day proved it was not only far shallower than fans had expected, but also kind of boring. The situation has since gone full coke-and-mentos as negative reviews pile up and players call for refunds en masse.
I’m experiencing much of this from a distance, because I never had a personal interest in No Man’s Sky. When asked I’ve said it’s down to motivation – I need specific goals when I’m playing a game, which even the best resource-gathering titles (e.g. Don’t Starve) often lack. But the longer I look at the No Man’s Sky situation, the more I realize the thing that repelled me is something else, something much more intrinsic to the game as a whole: procedural generation. Because that shit doesn’t work.
As is wont to happen at about this time of year, Destiny is pulling me back in after a months-long absence. While I get the Moments of Triumph mostly squared away and clean up miscellaneous quests to prepare for Rise of Iron, I’ve also started poking at the universe’s extensive lore, walled off from the game itself in the online Grimoire – and not just to keep track of how many Calcified fragments I have left.
It’s packed with tons of truly fascinating, well-written information about Destiny’s bleak-dance-party version of the universe, but I’ve been especially interested in data about the Traveler – what it is, where its mysterious journey through space has taken it, what it’s actually up to because games have given me trust issues. Even the earliest fan speculation about the Traveler justified my suspicions that it isn’t as benevolent as it seems.
I’ve repeatedly found myself in fascinating conversations about horror gaming recently – meeting new folks who love horror games, venturing into the realm of horror board games (I can’t recommend Camp Grizzly enough) and waiting patiently for Friday the 13th: The Game has definitely given me even more opportunities than normal. And, as is wont to happen, PT has come up quite a bit – its impact, its unfortunate fate, just how pants-shittingly scary it is. But in all of that, the most fascinating discussions have been about the game’s story – and how, indeed, it does exist.
However, that story can be difficult to fully grasp while dodging a spasmodic ghostly stalker and trying not to look a whole houseful of paintings in the eye. And despite the fact that it’s been two years since PT first grabbed everyone’s attention, I’ve yet to find a clear, succinct explanation of the story for those curious about it. (The Grate Debate has a good video breakdown, but at 40 minutes long, succinct it is not.) So – for reference if nothing else – I’m going to do it here, digging through all the complex clues breaking down my theory on just what the hell happened in that house – and how it all comes back to you.