The Evil Within 2

Resident Evil 4 meets the Truman Show in an entertaining but unremarkable follow-up, held back by tepid stealth and warmed-over scares.

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The Evil Within 2 shines on PS4 - but Xbox One and PC fall short

Digital FoundryThe Evil Within 2 shines on PS4 - but Xbox One and PC fall short

Poor PC optimisation will frustrate those looking to play at a locked 60fps.

The original Evil Within was a divisive release, but most can agree that technically speaking, it was a bit of a mess. With a choppy frame-rate across both consoles, broken on-disc launch code and a lacklustre PC port that really didn't want to run at high frame-rates, it was clear that a lot of changes were necessary for the inevitable follow-up. That sequel arrived last week, helmed by a new director with promises of a massively overhauled engine.

So, does The Evil Within 2 manage to overcome its predecessor's issues and hand in a quality horror experience with smooth performance? Our tests suggest that the PlayStation 4 version is fine and offers a huge leap in polish and quality over the original game. Although the improved quality carries through to the other releases in many respects, there are several aspects that disappoint. Xbox One suffers from reduced image quality and frame-rate issues while the PC game appears incapable of getting the most out of your hardware, meaning that a locked 60fps was off the table during our testing - even with an overclocked i7 and the mighty Titan Xp... running at 720p.

The technical issues are frustrating, but PS4 owners generally get a great experience with only minor issues. When you first begin, a splash screen appears indicating that this game has been created using the so-called STEM Engine - powered by id Tech. There is very little information available on this technology but the words "powered by id Tech" also adorn the logo for Arkane's own VOID Engine which, according to one if its creators, was derived from id Tech 6, while id Tech engineer Tiago Souza has confirmed elements of his Doom 2016 work within the new Evil Within.

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The Evil Within 2 physical launch sales quarter of original

The Evil Within 2 physical launch sales quarter of original

Shadow of War slightly down on Shadow of Mordor.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War and The Evil Within 2 both entered the UK chart this week - but with very different fortunes.

Shadow of War launched in second place. Its physical sales were down slightly on console compared to 2014's Shadow of Mordor, but this could be put down to the rise of digital sales.

(UK numbers company Chart-Track does not log PC or digital sales.)

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The Evil Within 2 review

The Evil Within 2 review

Assassin's creep.

The scariest thing you'll hear in The Evil Within 2 isn't the sound of your very own daughter burning alive, or the paralysing roar of an alerted zombie, or even that witchy refrain through your PS4 controller's speaker as one, especially tenacious apparition shadows you from room to room. It is, in fact, a single dialogue line: "I'll mark its location on the map for you." Another throwback horror escapade from Shinji Mikami, albeit with DLC designer John Johanas in the director's chair, The Evil Within 2 takes cues not just from the legendary Resident Evil titles but also, rather terrifyingly, from open world tactical shooters.

Set in a collapsing, monster-plagued VR simulation of Union, a picturesque American town, the game's 15-20 hour plot includes extended tours of three generously proportioned urban maps - each packed full of crafting resources, upgrades, collectibles and backstory documents, and pegged down by safehouses where you can assemble weapons and ammo, save the game and accept optional missions from conveniently useless side characters. While roaming and foraging you'll call upon a chunky Communicator that lets you track objectives and tune into recordings of past events, in echo of Tom Clancy's The Division. You'll also contend with a greater emphasis on stealth and terrain tactics than in the previous game: there are now AI awareness indicators to help offset the higher risk of ambush, a glowing silhouette effect for when crouching in vegetation, and tacit "base" layouts where you might, for instance, use your trusty crossbow to lay tripmines between parallel crates, or throw bottles to create a distraction.

These are ideas the likes of Ubisoft Montreal have long since bled dry, and initially, their presence here feels abominable - like asking the Babadook to wear a ghillie suit, or handing Freddy Krueger a sniper rifle. Factor in the omission of some of the original's weirder intricacies, such as burning corpses to stop them resurrecting, and it's hard to avoid the suspicion that The Evil Within 2 is an awkward cash-in - a forced reconciliation between Mikami's eccentric vision and a "safer", more callous species of action game. That sense of dismay never entirely dissipates in the course of the story - it doesn't help that the basic zombie/mutant AI is far too braindead to support this kind of open-ended tactical horseplay, peering at its surroundings with pantomime caution as you squat 10 metres away, aiming a flamethrower. But fortunately, the open world parallels only go so far.

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This week on Outside Xbox we returned from the videogaming promised land of E3, laden with video wares that can be found over on our YouTube channel. Though if you thought we would then just succumb to jet lag and spend the next seven days in blissful unconsciousness, think again.