Created by a legend in the industry, The Evil Within is a statement about Survival Horror by the guy who invented it. Trending more towards action as time has gone, the genre needed a bit of a reset, and no one makes games about vulnerable characters just trying to escape madness and terror quite like the Japanese. Landing just in time for scary season, this game will creep you out, but it will also drag you in… by the hair if necessary.
Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Getting off on the wrong (severed) foot
The trailer at E3 ‘hooked’ me (and yes, bad puns are coming your way) even though I’m not a ‘horror’ guy per se, and do my best to avoid media that makes me feel uncomfortable. Love interests? I’m game. Male power fantasies? Why not! How about a lonely soul on a path of vengeance? Perfect! Running terrified from horrible monsters in claustrophobic spaces? Not so much. But what the heck, it’s that time of year right? To be honest, I have found myself enjoying a certain ‘thematic’ amount of goosebumps this month, and that has no little to do with The Evil Within. Though one look at a trailer and you might find yourself thinking, ‘OK, so, this is made by gore buffs as a sort of (I don’t know if this is the right term here but…) ‘love letter’ to other fans of the genre. You wouldn’t be wrong… but you wouldn’t exactly be right either.
I love the smell of 2 stroke engines in the morning
The Evil Within starts with a bang… well, no, not exactly… more like the noise a chainsaw makes, so, more like a Vroom Vroom. Honestly, it doesn’t even really start that way, it just sounded fun, the chainsaw bit takes a minute to get to. And that sums up the beginning of this game pretty well, providing one of my only major criticisms in general. For those of you who could give two (insert expletives of your choice here) about story, it could be a ‘nearly fatal’ (bit of horror humor there folks) to your experience. It’s very stop and go for the first while, with a lot of exposition/cut scene to game play ratio in the early going. It’s a bit jilting, and in this way, the game does itself no favors. It gave me the wrong impression about what to expect. It was only afterwards, ‘determined’ to play through so I could give it its fair shake that I found myself, to my surprise, having fun.
Ok, ‘fun’ might be a bit of a stretch… these sorts of games aren’t really played for giggles, but compelled to keep on at any rate. The game reveals itself slowly, and as it did, it became hard to deny the skill that went into it, nor my continued desire to play. A lot of this is story and pacing, and maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to be a quality, particularly with their psychological horror, of Japanese story telling. Which is as great a place as any to discuss the games origins.
An ‘Appalling’ Pedigree
If footage of The Evil Within seems reminiscent of what used to be good about Resident Evil, well, there’s a reason for that. Made by the same guy, Shinji Mikami‘s resume is fairly impressive. This guy seems to have singlehandedly (with his team of course) created Survival Horror, not to mention the way we understand 3rd person shooters as they are today, he was also a critical part of Resident Evil 4, which just might be the penultimate example of the Survival Horror genre. There’s certainly some of its DNA at the core of this one… and no, not like a trace bit of fluid left at a scene, more like… something frightening, grown in a vat from large bloody chunks of something else.
European countryside, ‘monstrous’ population, crazy cult, and some sort of supernatural force that is based in science… that about cover it? How about characters that give you an instant case of the goosebumps, and sequences that occasionally force you to put down the controller, walk away, and prep yourself to try again… because it’s got those too. There is also a heady psychological thing going on, and not just in the ‘lunatics in the nuthouse’ sort of way, though you’d be forgiven for thinking so… I certainly did. The Evil Within at first seems like gore glorification, a part of the Gore-ror (horror with gore, get it?) genre that films like Saw are all about. It moves past that eventually (well, not entirely), and with elements like the Save Hub (you’ll see what I mean) and some of the almost psychedelic (but, like, the worst trip ever) cut scenes and transitions, will have you wondering just what is going on, and whether this is all just playing out in the head of a madman… or are you the madman? With an undercurrent of news clippings and ‘missing persons’ notices that you will come across, the lines started to blur, and finding out just what on earth was going on became as much a motivation as making it past whatever horrible monster was lurking around the next corner.
Yer Gonna Die
Clearly a game that prefers the ‘survival’ part of Survival Horror, game protagonist Sebastian Castellanos is just a normal dude in some supernatural world. In fact, he’s so vulnerable I’m not entirely sure why they bothered to include a life bar. With the exception some of the early chapters, more often than not if something gets a hold of you, its curtains, bloody, meaty curtains. In the early going, stealth is absolutely essential, and one of the only ways (setting things on fire helps) to make sure the baddies stay dead. Resources are dear as well. Ammunition, matches, syringes (health) and green gel (XP), except for the latter, the amount Sebastian can carry is very limited. ‘Run and hide’ is a solid option though, and trust me, you’ll be using it… or you’ll be seeing that reload screen a lot. Luckily there is an upgrade system. Using that green gel I mentioned, the player can choose which of Sebastian’s abilities to upgrade. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to consider, and, unlike some games upgrade systems, it’s not arbitrary, nor is it OP (over-powered), your choices are only going to help you cope, that’s it. If I might offer a little suggestion? Ignore the weapon upgrades at first, and focus on upgrading your supply limits, it’s pretty essential.
The weapon selection is fun, and doesn’t ‘shoot it’s clip’ early, giving you plenty of time to get to know your tools. You will want to upgrade these as time goes, but if you can one shot your enemies while only carrying five extra bullets… I think you see my point. It’s worth doing a little research on, honestly, as some upgrades (sprint time, as a good example) I just didn’t need. Another pro-tip…. dismantle everything you can, even bombs (this might require some practice) as they result in ‘parts’ of which you can carry an unlimited amount, and can craft into bolts. Once you get the Agony Crossbow, which is ‘crazy’ effective for traps and crowd control, you’ll thank me.
This is a game filled with blood and violence and waves icy shivers that start and your hackles and work their way down (ESPECIALLY with the bosses *shudders*), but my experience with The Evil Within showed me a game worthy of its predecessors. Heck, for you Resident Evil die-hards that have been lamenting the state of the franchise, I think its creator made this for you. Underneath all the gore soaked splatter is a game crafted by a master, something that took a moment to notice, but once I had, I couldn’t ignore, even while cringing backwards into my chair.
Overall Rating 4/5