The Evil Within is a survival horror video game developed by Tango Gameworks and released by Bethesda Softworks in October of 2014. Also, it is directed by none other than Shinji Mikami who is best known for creating resident evil. Mikami assured fans that The Evil Within would take survival horror back to its roots and that the game was “true survival horror”.
Such statements from Mikami raised a lot of people’s expectations on the game so there was a lot riding on The Evil Within to be the return to survival horror that we’ve all been waiting for and that’s quite a lot of pressure to put on any one game. It’s all well and good hoping that it can reignite a genre that isn’t seen as being very profitable or marketable in 2014 by some of the biggest developers in the industry. Hope will only get you so far, I’ve played the game so I’ll answer the question; is The Evil Within true survival horror experience that we’ve all been waiting for?
The game is played from a third-person perspective in which scavenging for supplies and learning when to fight or run are key factors in surviving. The main character of The Evil Within is veteran police detective Sebastian Castellano, he is aided by his colleagues Julie Kidman and Joseph Oda.
While investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital, Detective Castellanos, his partner Joseph and Kidman encounter a malevolent and powerful force. After seeing the slaughter of his fellow officers by a man wearing a white hood and covered in burn scars, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. After awakening and escaping from the hospital, he finds himself in a deranged world with Krimson City undergoing massive earthquakes, unreal shifts in terrain and hideous creatures called Haunted wandering among the dead. Facing unimaginable terror, and fighting for survival, Seb embarks on a frightening journey to unravel what is behind this evil force.
The game world can transform during scripted events and as the result of player actions, altering locations and creating new paths. Castellanos must use medical items to restore health; some of these items cause temporary hallucinogenic effects. By collecting vials of green fluid throughout the game, players can upgrade Castellanos’ abilities.
Throughout the experience the player will gain access to various weapons such as a revolver, shotgun, sniper rifle, knife, grenades, and the Agony Crossbow, a projectile weapon that fires bolts capable of freezing, blinding, electrocuting, or exploding enemies. Ammunition for weapons is scarce, but mechanical components can be harvested to craft additional bolts. Melee combat is designed only to create distance between the player and enemies, although the player can instantly kill some unaware enemies after sneaking behind them. Enemies that are downed or incapacitated are capable of reviving. Enemies must be set on fire using a limited supply of matches to permanently defeat them.
I won’t be giving away any more details about the plot as it would be quite difficult to avoid major spoilers.
Firstly, visually The Evil Within has quite a unique look to it. The game has a letterbox view with huge black bars atop and below the screen, this is something that I never had an issue with but I’m aware that many people have complained about this.
You’ll find yourself in a variety of well-crafted environments throughout the game and each of them has a certain attention to detail that anyone that enjoys survival horror will appreciate. I praised Alien: Isolation for how good the lighting effects were and I have to praise The Evil Within for the same. There are undoubtedly moments in the game where the visuals are lacking but overall I was really impressed with just how good it looks and there is some stand out moments that I’ll comment on further into the review.
If I could describe the combat in The Evil Within I’d say that it feels remarkably similar to Resident Evil 4 but better in some ways. The weapons feel really good to fire and give you a strong sense of impact; blowing an enemy’s head off with a double barreled shotgun has never been so much fun.
I’ve heard many people describe the game as a spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4 and I can completely understand that type of comment. The Evil Within nails the combat and it’s something that is very important in a survival horror game. It doesn’t hold your hand; you’ll come up against some very menacing enemies with a few options on how to deal with them and it’s up to you to decide how to tackle it.
There is nothing like taking on a huge group of horrific monsters as your ammo quickly dissipates before your very eyes, you must be smart about how you use each bullet and make every one of them count. I can’t compare the tension created in these types of situations to any game since the original Dead Space; it’s a joy to experience in 2014.
Let me just be honest, the game is downright insane. There is an endless flow of blood and gore and scenarios that seem to get crazier and crazier but there’s one thing for sure, I absolutely loved it.
It’s so crazy that it’s impossible not to laugh at what you’re seeing and it’s something that only Shinji Mikami could have got right.
This isn’t to say that the game isn’t scary but it doesn’t really give you any opportunity to stop and be scared, it’s that relentless.
The designs for the various grotesque enemies in game are excellent; in fact I’d go as far as to say that they’re some of the best, most creatively designed enemies and monsters since Resident Evil. I guarantee you that these twisted creatures will be remembered for many years to come. My personal favourites are “the keeper” and the terrifying “reborn Laura”.
Most enemies will take a decent amount of your ammo before going down, you’ll blow a huge hole in one of their faces and they’ll still keep coming for you; it’s awesome.
There are a number of boss fights in the game and each one requires a different strategy, these battles can actually be very challenging and will require some trial and error before you get through them. You’ll die a lot in the game so get used to seeing Sebastian get crushed, decapitated, smashed into mush and so forth.There are even times where Ruvik himself can randomly appear for you and all you can do is run or die.
Unfortunately, I found the game to be very generous with its auto save system so I didn’t feel the full impact of my deaths as much as I would have liked.
The voice acting in the game is quite average, well except for Jackie Earle Haley who does a really great job as Ruvik; a little too similar to Rorschach though. The dialogue has a certain level of cheesiness that just had to be intentional, Sebastian never reacts with any real emotion to the shit storm that’s surrounding him and it’s very amusing.
Talking of Sebastian, as a protagonist he isn’t anything special in fact he’s downright generic. This isn’t helped when you learn of his backstory which makes him feel quite cliché as well, he’s very wooden but I guess it’s up to each player to decide if Mikami did this intentionally as a nod to some of his previous work.
One of the biggest problems The Evil Within has is with its plot and narrative in general. Throughout the game you’ll get a slight grasp on what’s actually going on but it’s very difficult to follow so in the end you just have to accept things for what they are and go along for the ride. Not to say that the story isn’t interesting but it’s just quite a confusing mess if I’m honest. I think the game may have benefited from a more simplistic storyline, I appreciate Mikami trying something new and different and it’s definitely that but it could have used more explanation.
This isn’t really helped that the ending is serious sequel bait and leaves far too many plot points unresolved and unanswered. It hints that it’s going in a certain direction but the conclusion isn’t there so who knows if it will ever be explained. I’m not too upset at how much of a sequel bait ending it has because I really want a sequel to this game! I just would have liked had it not left me in a confused state.
I finished the game in just over 15 hours with 77 deaths which I’m quite pleased with. It definitely has some tough moments so scavenging for every bullet and health syringe is essential if you want an easier ride, make those bullets count.
The Evil Within is a serious breath of fresh air as well as being an insane, psychological, bloody, tension filled experience that I didn’t want to end. It continuously surprised me with how it was able to get more and more extreme with its visuals and set pieces.
So, is The Evil Within the survival horror experience we’ve all been waiting for? I say yes. It may not get everything completely right but one thing it nails is how fun it is from beginning to end. I felt as if I was playing an old school survival horror game during my time with it and that’s rare in 2014. If you’re a fan of survival horror then I think you’ll love the game like I did, thank you Mikami.
The Evil Within