I didn't expect to like The Evil Within 2, but since finishing it nearly two years after it was released, it's become one of my favorite horror games of all time. Yes, even in the year of the Resident Evil 2 remake, The Evil Within 2's schlock and gore and nonsensical plot far outshine Mr. X's big boots, much as I love 'em.
The Evil Within 2 is a modern cult classic, an erratic and strange horror game that deserved far more praise than it received back in 2017. And I will explain why by making fun of it's incredibly stupid premise and an even stupider boss fight.
Spoiler warning: I'll be openly describing the penultimate chapter of The Evil Within 2, even though I still don't understand it.
Some context, and if you feel lost just know I'm right there with you: You're in the evil Matrix where everything is made of digi-milk. The lead character's wife is made of milk too, and she can wield the digi-milk like a milk sorcerer, a milkromancer, if you will. At one point you must fight the milk-wife, and it's one of the most ridiculous scenes in a videogame ever contrived. It's dumb and it rules, but we'll get to that.
Getting around in The Evil Within 2 requires navigating a series of tunnels that are really just computer networks. Recalling how Steve of the popular children's show Blues Clues would leap into a painting, you get sucked into computers (while already in the Dairy Matrix) as a means of transit. There are monsters there and the hero's daughter, Lily, is the child core that powers the cream realm, or something, I think.
It doesn't make any sense, and I revel in that brand of unrestrained camp. The Evil Within 2 operates on laughable dream logic that Sebastian, the dour protagonist, and everyone within wholeheartedly accept with little more than a huh, or, what's going on?
Like Resident Evil's Umbrella, an evil corporate entity wants to use this particular toddler to make bad guy weapons or something for some reason. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that the evil guys are all men in suits that cackle and smirk and say stupid shit like this:
*spoilers for the end of the evil within 2*writers, pay attention. THIS is the perfect climax. pic.twitter.com/3GUP4aLtOMMay 10, 2019
Many bad psychological metaphors stand between Sebastian and his daughter, including his strained relationship with his wife, Myra, who wants to keep their daughter tucked away in the frothy void. Myra can control the milk, you see, and she's built a milk house on a milk hill in a milk desert to protect Lily. That isn't gonna fly with Sebastian.
After taking out a fiery cult leader producing magma men inside the milk dimension as a means of ruling it (don't worry about it), Sebastian finally reaches the milk house and begs Myra to pack Lily's things and leave with them.
She doesn't abide and threatens Sebastian, clearly conflicted over whether to kill him or not, flickering between a sinewy armored version of herself and her 'authentic' self, dressed in the latest from Nordstrom's Rack.
VIDEO: The milk-wife monster in all her glory.
So Myra charges and Sebastian shoots her in the head, which cracks like an egg and exposes a bundle of orange eyeballs just kinda rolling around in that carapace. Naturally, she becomes milk, bubbles up, and emerges as a large, fleshy torso monster.
At this point, I'm laughing so hard I can barely breathe. There are long stretches of The Evil Within 2 that are as tense and terrifying as any great survival horror game, but I live for the whiplash that good camp provides.
The two go at it in boss fight format, Sebastian with his guns and Myra with her massive blistered limbs and spider babies. You see, the milky white substance making up 'reality' is a metaphor for the deep state and corporate control over culture. Myra only wants to protect her daughter because she, wielder of metaphor milk, has been indoctrinated by the milk. Sebastian wants to break free, so he shoots the milk to make it go away.
And when he shoots the milk enough to bust a big arm off, the arm, of its own will, scuttles toward Sebastian and picks him up. So stupid. So good. This continues until the milk-wife is little more than a spine sticking out of the ground. But she melts back down and the two reconcile their differences like it's a daytime soap.
The themes are all tangled up, but so earnest and transparent that I can't stuff down my affection. It's this spilling over of emotion and grotesque aesthetic and subtext that makes up the best campy horror, and The Evil Within 2 never holds back.
The tone swings between horror and humor like a jackhammer in The Evil Within 2, between the moments where you're sneaking by a monster you can hear but can't see and those where you're shooting your wife's towering, blistered Milk Matrix torso in the weak spot as you scream at one another about what's best for your daughter. These blinding contrasts sharpen the intended pathos, whether the desired result is a chuckle or scream.
The Evil Within 2 is packed with milk-wife moments: the fight with a goth Dragon Ball Z-looking guy in a gallery suspended beneath the gargantuan tentacled eye of a camera, or when Sebastian shoots a bed-ridden clone of himself to escape a nightmare in a nightmare. The Evil Within 2 is consistently buckwild. Milk-wife simply sealed the deal.
The Resident Evil 2 remake and Resident Evil 7 are largely credited with reviving the beloved puzzles and intricate level design of survival horror classics, but The Evil Within 2 is a celebration of that old low-poly, otherworldly spirit. It's a convoluted mess with terrible writing, but it's more spirited, surprising, and self-aware than any horror game I've played. Don't miss it.