There are very few games that I anticipate with every fiber of my being and The Evil Within happens to be one of them. Since it was first teased in those two crappy vines, I kept a very close eye on this game. With Shinji Mikami behind the project and a menacing name, people all over eagerly awaited the release of this game. Now that it’s out, does it deliver on its promises or should The Evil Within stay inside? Let me start off with, this game has a killer first chapter. It’s tough, scary and is easily one of the best parts of the game and one of the best starts to a video game.
You play Detective Sebastian Castellanos, your typical troubled bad-ass cop where your journey begins in a car ride to a new crime scene, where dozens of people have been murdered in a mental hospital. Not long after arriving, you’re knocked out by Ruvik (the main antagonist in the game) and wake up in dark room with one of the many “chasers” in the game. You wake up upside down in what looks like a meat locker with human cadavers hanging from the ceiling next to you. Mr Chaser, who looks like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, helps himself to one of the bodies and promptly begins butchering the bloke for dinner. You swing yourself to the nearest hanging body, grab the knife lodged in his side and slice the rope keeping you from your freedom. Now that you’re free, you need to escape the chaser. You sneak past him, steal his keys and vanish from the room with your freedom in tow… and then the alarm goes off.
Horror, panic and fear kicks in and are instantly intensified when you hear the unmistakable sound of a chainsaw. And so the chase begins. He catches up, you’re almost out of reach when he nicks your right leg, costing you mobility. You escape, hide and move from cover to cover. With no gun, no effective weapon, and only one working leg, you must escape this madman before he finds you. This is the very first chapter in the game and it’s unbelievably difficult and it’s The Evil Within I was hoping for. Unfortunately, that intense feeling of helplessness and panic pretty much fades away from chapter 2, where it becomes more a little bit more “actiony.” This, however, doesn’t make it a bad game, just not what I truly expected. To say the game is scary is laughable, it’s not frightening at all. It’s a little bit unnerving at times (I’m looking at you spider-lady) and the twisted setting will give you the chills, but I highly doubt you’ll start sweating with fear. To give you a brilliant comparison, it’s very similar to Resident Evil 4 (Ed – Okay, I’m sold). I’m sure many people have said the same thing, and it happens to be true. There are so many similarities between the two games – barring Ashley Graham – so if you loved Resi 4, you’ll love this game.
As the story progresses, you meet people who are deformed, maimed and twisted and it’s your job to find out what’s happening and… uhm… take a stab at stopping the evil. Aside from the lack of genuine scares, the game does have a lot going for it like the voice acting, memorable monsters, resource management and visuals. Some of the characters are very interesting and mysterious, especially the nurse Tatiana, who you’ll meet every time you want to save. There are a number of unique features in the game that I thought were interesting and really exemplified the theme of the game. I can’t say why, as it might spoil the game a little, but throughout the game you must collect green gel (which I call brain gel) and have it directly administered to your brain through a chair that looks like a torture device. This is then used to upgrade your skills and equipment. It’s not the most logical system – sticking green gel in your head to increase your gun’s clip capacity – but a lot of this game is twisted and makes little sense to begin with. It artfully goes from crazy to crazy in the most seamless fashion and never feels like a drag. The pacing of the game is splendid, but it could be hampered depending on how good you are at playing the game. I’m not trying to patronize you, but this game is challenging. It took me about 13 hours (which is apparently very good compared to other people’s results), but that doesn’t include all the restarts and checkpoints from dying all the time. At the end of the game, my Castellanos died 84 times in the most decadent of ways, from face bashed in to eaten alive. So, if you die frequently, it could affect the pacing of the game and may even frustrate you to the point of rage-quitting.
Another area of the game which has the potential to be frustrating, is the combat. Melee combat is useless and all the melee weapons you pick up (axes and torches) can only be used once before being destroyed. Resources are scarce, so shooting isn’t always the best thing to do, not to mention that your enemies can take a beating. Then the buggers start wearing masks, which gives them extra facial protection. And if that’s not bad enough, sometimes you need to burn them to finish them off. This makes resource management ESSENTIAL. The best you can do is try to sneak kill as many enemies as you can before you’re discovered. Once you are, you can shoot or run and hide till they go back to their original spots. Hiding gets a little tougher as the game progresses, so it’s best to get a knack for killing silently from the start, or learn how to shoot without missing. I enjoyed the combat because I’m damn good at survival horrors, but if you’re not a hardcore horror fan, this might be an area you’ll find difficult. Your arsenal is pretty slim, but that means less ammo variety to hunt down. The best weapon is the agony crossbow that uses bolts, which can be created, instead of bullets. What’s amazing is you can create bolts with different effects that shock, flash, freeze and explode.
Now for the setting. Although it’s not scary, it damn well looks the part and it is pretty. A lot of work has gone into making this world beautifully deranged, so much so that you’d like to see it in person (Ed – No Kyle, I think it’s only you), but you also don’t. The bosses in the game, and there are quite a few, all exemplify certain emotions or mental states and are fearsome and memorable. The Keeper (or Boxface), the Spider-Lady, Leatherface lookalike and The Twins are just a few of the bosses that you have to look forward to. There are some hiccups in the game, whereof a few just won’t go away. The first issue is the framerate. It’s not as smooth as a game like this one should be. Castellanos’ running looks a little odd and his two co-workers Joseph and Kidman don’t look as developed as everyone else. There’s a significant lack of puzzles in the game, which would’ve added some extra dimension to game other than just shooting, stabbing and igniting your enemies. The puzzle sections that are included are good, especially the brain puzzle which was showcased in the game’s demo. It’s only used in one chapter of the game, which is a shame as it’s really good. The game also has a massive and super obvious texture pop-in issue – it’s very distracting, but it’s also a bit of Bethesda thing of late. Then there are some control issues. I had some trouble dashing properly or changing my stance from left to right when hiding behind a wall. When the camera is out of your control, it’s usually in the worst possible place ever, and when you’re hiding, your range of vision is terrible, leading to poor judgement calls and possibly death.
While it’s not the terrifying game I was looking for, it certainly is a game I’d go back to. Resident Evil 4 remains one of my most well-played games of all time, and The Evil Within is almost its spiritual successor. If you’re looking for a good survival game within a twisted setting then this is it, but if you’re looking for something to scare your pants brown, then you might want to try something else.