The opening scenes of The Evil Within would fit well with most openings for horror movies. There's the character and relationship establishing dialogue, the eerily foreshadowing message, and of course, the sudden disappearance of pretty much everyone else when the lead characters (all of whom work in law enforcement) finally arrive on the scene. You just know that the Beacon Mental Hospital is going to be a smorgasbord of living nightmares. And that is exactly what you will be expecting as you step into the game of The Evil Within. Created by the man behind Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami and his untested dev team of Tango Gameword, and published by Bethesda's Zenimax, this game certainly holds a lot of promise. In this review, we check out if they actually deliver.
What is The Evil Within?
The Evil Within is a survival horror game that puts you in control of Detective Sebastian Castellanos, who is pretty much a walking archetype of those trenchcoat wearing detectives who seem to survive on nothing but dry wit and an endless supply of cigarettes (or an older latino version of Hellblazer's John Constantine). Well, that is who he is looks-wise, but as for the actual character, he is more smoke and dry quips than anything else. This is pretty sad since the game could have gone a long way if they made his dialogue a little more likeable, or cooler, or anything other just plain board.
In control of Sebastian, you move about in a 3D environment that has very little room for exploration and more ‘enforced' path-designs that will constantly push you from one little disturbing event to the next. This game is set up to make you feel unnerved from the moment you start (even not pressing a button on the start screen causes a creepy animation). Your task is to survive anything that the game throws at you by either hiding from it until your reach the exit, or making use of whatever meager weapons you have in order to kill the things that are after you.
What is Going on Here?
Since this is a horror game, it does not take a rocket scientist to instantly know that the multiple homicide thing at the mental hospital is nothing but the start of all things creepy and scary. And this starts as soon as you gain control of the character. The initial stage is a combination of the surreal, macabre, and the disgusting. The developers set out to scare the players and they are trying to hit every single niche that they can. The end result is pretty crazy as there are a lot of adrenaline pumping sequences that just makes you want to run along and push Sebastian to the right direction in order to ensure that he makes it out alive. When you are not doing that however, you will have to trudge through the game's more clumsily applied stealth mechanics where you stumble your way through until reaching the goal (and probably dying a few hundred dozen or so times in the process). Well, that's an exaggeration, but you will die a lot in this game, and sadly, it is often the game's fault.
Goodbye Clever Man
One of the greatest things about 3D environment is that it gives the players freedom –not only in movement, but also in terms of decisions and actions. You choose your way, your style, and figure out puzzles with lateral thinking instead of sticking to a single formulaic solution. The problem with The Evil Within however, is that this gives you little to no chances to be clever.
This is particularly troubling with the stealth mechanics –as the game is designed in such a way that charging headfirst into every fight is more likely to get you killed than anything else, you are often forced to hide. Sadly, the game's stealth controls and mechanics are so haphazardly implemented that mastering it will have you dying more times than you should. The game is challenging enough to kill you, but that does not excuse the plenty of more times that the mechanics let you down.
The enemy AI is the worst in this regard –enemies are literally scripted to move and change their patterns based on how you are progressing in the area. This means that even if you were hiding perfectly well and did not let the enemy know where you are, they will automatically get in between you and the exit just because you progressed through the map far enough. You never truly feel like you are outwitting enemies or winning even the smallest engagements, and this makes much of the game feel very unsatisfying.
Eventually, once you get enough green goop to upgrade your stats and weapons, Sebastian is able to tough it out in fights a little better. This is very true when you get that magical crossbow with elementally charged attacks. Fighting against the bosses that once cornered you to death is satisfying, especially when you are handily winning the encounters (just be sure to be economical in your usage of the oh-so-scarce ammunition). The combat is a lot more solid and enjoyable than the stealth that permeate much of the game until well into the latter half of the game.
Not Quite RE
If you are thinking of getting The Evil Within for the sheer horror, do so. It is a pretty good experience that while most of the gameplay feels frustrating, the delivery of the frights feels nice. Though do note that the main story itself feels a little too generic and haphazardly resolved in the end. For those hoping to get a 'Resident Evil' kind of game, prepare to be disappointed. While the game does have a few references and nods to Mikami's genre-setting zombie game, it is a far cry from what