The Evil Within breathes fresh life into the survival horror genre. With Shinji Makami (of Resident Evil 4 fame) at the helm of Tango Gameworks, the air of expectation is unavoidable. Thankfully The Evil Within delivers a genuinely frightening experience horror purists have been crying out for. It may even leave some players simply crying.
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release: (NA) October 14th 2014, (EU) October 14th 2014, (AUS) October 16th 2014
Playing as Sebastian Castellanos, a veteran police detective investigating a murder homicide at the Beacon Mental Hospital, things take a violent and sinister twist as his partners are killed by a mysterious being out of this world. After being knocked unconscious, Sebastian awakens in the nightmarish Krimsong City with warping landscapes occupied by monstrous creatures. Sebastian will need to fend against the evil and hopefully make his way back to reality. Clearly this is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill murder case.
The term survival horror is often used, but rarely done with justice. The Evil Within manages to balance the survival aspect, leaving players feeling vulnerable, producing some truly tense gaming moments. Supplies are extremely limited and ingenuity is needed to survive from the many threats littered in the environment. Knowing when to run and when to stand your ground is the difference between progressing beyond a hurdle, and being massacred on your way to another bloody “try again” sequence.
There’s plenty of death in The Evil Within, most of which involves Sebastian’s untimely demise; but what separates the game from other horror survival adventures are the deaths don’t feel cheap and are often justified. I found myself willing to return time and time again to face the challenges ahead, and that sense of satisfaction for having cleverly cheated death or overcoming an obstacle that seemed impossible provided immense gratification.
The transforming game world provides a non-linear gaming experience, with your direct actions and choices shaping your immediate location, while opening new paths and areas to explore. The events are often scripted, but being able to craft how you tackle The Evil Within is completely up to you. Spanning fifteen chapters of borderline insanity, the environments are as diverse as the creatures that inhabit them.
My only real gripe with The Evil Within‘s story is its conclusion and rather unfulfilling end. After dodging and weaving your way through a web of intricate mind games, it felt strangely unsatisfying. In fairness, I’m not sure how I would have ended the game myself given the rich experience during the lead up.
Gameplay is controlled in a third-person view as pioneered by Shinji Makami in Resident Evil 4, and clearly it’s still the ultimate choice for combat and exploration. Being able to see threats approaching from the sides of your character, as well as your close-proximity environment has always been a favourite of mine, which the game does exceptionally well; even if it doesn’t really pave any new ground or territory for the genre.
The available weaponry is fairly substantial, including shotguns, revolvers, rifles, grenades and knives for close-quarter combat. The Agony Crossbow, a projectile-based weapon fires a range of unique bolts with added abilities such as freezing, blinding and electrocution among others. The limited ammunition available will make you question when to use each of these weapons, as much as you’d like to fire off a few shots into a persistent pursuer’s face. Mechanical components can be scavenged in order to fashion more bolts for your Agony Crossbow, or if you feel extremely tactical you can also lay down a series of bombs for a well-planned trap or two.
Although melee combat doesn’t require ammo, it isn’t the most effective answer to your problems, best served as providing distance rather than head-on confrontation. Stealth can be used to sneak up on enemies, but unfortunately creating opportunities to strike from behind are few and far in-between. Coupled this with what appears to be overly sensitive AIs and it’s a mean task to say the least. On top of this, incapacitated enemies will revive if not set alight with matches, but again these are in limited supply.
First aid resource is predictable scarce, as are the vials of green gel used to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities leaving you in quite the predicament. Do you improve your shotgun, or give yourself a bit more speed for unexpected getaways? The challenge of juggling your resources combines beautifully for heart-pounding situations that is guaranteed to get the adrenaline flowing.
My biggest issue with The Evil Within is the lack of intriguing personalities to really invest myself into. Sure, I feel for Sebastian’s predicament but he never drew me in enough to make each death suffered really matter. I’m not sure if it’s a case of being desensitized to all the constant bloodshed or a lack of character development, but for whatever reason Sebastian didn’t resonate with me on the same level as Leon Kennedy did in Resident Evil 4.
The toughness of the game is a strength and weakness depending on your play style with scarce checkpoints available, but I encourage you to endeavour through The Evil Within as it is a nightmare world worth exploring… as strange as that sounds. It’s terrifyingly brilliant with its inventive and thoughtful approach that really delivers on the scares if you’re into that kind of thing.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.