Sony

Evil Within 2 (PS4)

Protagonist Sebastian Castellano is out to save his daughter. That’s it; he’s a one-note character. A classic for-the-screen gumshoe, Castellano’s expertise in shotguns, sniper riles, and crossbows belies his deskwork and current health situation. First seen, Castellano dunks his head onto a bar. He’s flanked on his right by two well-dressed Matrix cast offs. Music lightly plays, drifting Castellano toward unconsciousness. Let the man drink; he’s seen some things.

Soon he’s off to Union Town, a faux-American small town inside a faux world created by a familiarly evil corporate conglomerate. Union Town, with a judicious use of color and mood, isn’t inviting. Despite the mild skyline, peppered by small businesses, it’s infested. It’s truly America – Union Town is overstuffed with people who desperately need health care. Some come covered in swelling boils. Others spew vomit and leak petulance. Also in the American way, this situation is solved with guns. Spooks or ghouls doesn’t matter; bullets solve it all. That’s how things work in the west.

Castellano enters Union Town with a single track mind. That doesn’t change. What follows is a lengthy custody battle, streamed from the minds of psychopaths, with real world consequences. Much of Evil Within 2 is awful and cruel. Bodies splinter, melt, burn, and fray. Visits to crematoriums and morgues seem ubiquitous for the genre.

Evil Within 2 teeters on the edge of narrative bravery. Much as it mildly commentates on the American way – and not kindly – Castellano just exists to put bullets in things. Late, detective Castellano stares down a black preacher who spouts a line about Castellano’s, “brute force and intimidation.” There’s something bubbling, but it’s not to be.

Making the damsel Castellano’s daughter doesn’t alter the circumstance. It’s old-fashioned drama. Still later, a showdown over the child between parents lacks thematic weight. The original Evil Within imperfectly explored the psyche of a guilt-riddled cop. The sequel spins-off into another saga of guilt, if one so direct as to lose any of that ambiance. Castellano is just a parent. Wounded, but no less out to save his kin.

Everything in-between follows the same directness. The gooey blood fest stays with the horror, winking via a handful of ideas (coffee restores health). Evil Within 2, even with sometimes stubborn voice acting and pokey writing, doesn’t want to embrace the slimy roots of schlock horror.

Despite the advent of an open city environment, ultimately adding nothing other than a drag on pacing, Evil Within 2 doesn’t linger. The pace is potent even with a dozen or more hours to plunge through. Story beats fall into place with clean endings to each major act. Flirtations with combat serves as a necessary distraction from all that Evil Within 2 isn’t doing, notably any pretense of standing for anything.

3/5

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