The Evil Within Game Review : Excellent horror pacing, Superb survival action, Challenging
You cannot use the words 'survival horror' without the Resident Evil series popping to mind. Created by the legendary Shinji Mikami, the Resident Evil series rose to fame and spawned a legion of games like Silent Hill and The Last of Us that had you scrounging and fighting to survive against all odds. Now from the mind of the master of the survival horror genre comes a new game, after a string of bad Resident Evil games. The question is: Does Shinji Mikami san still have the magic to make The Evil Within work?
An investigation into a brutal mass murder at a mental hospital turns into a full fledged nightmare for Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his posse. As a mysterious and massive evil force is unleashed upon the city, forcing tectonic plates to move and bringing up all manner of monsters to roam free. It's up to the good detective to face off against all the horror movie tropes come to life.
The story starts off with a bang, literally, though it never seems to keep up that same pace or even settle into a smooth rhythm and build up of a truly intriguing and horrifying world. What the game does get right is in it's bit parts. Filled to the brim with atmosphere, extremely detailed textures, tight claustrophobic spaces right up to dark open environments all cast beautiful lighting. Each shadow seems like it's hiding a grotesque monster waiting to jump at you.
Unlike most of Shinji Mikami's games, where he creates a memorable cast of characters, you just don't end up really giving two hoots for the good detective and his partners and any other side character. After a point, you just don't care about the story or it's characters, instead every fibre of your being in concentrating on moving from level to level just surviving.
You have seen the monsters in the game before in plenty of slasher/horror flicks. There's plenty in here to fuel enough nightmare for a few years. Especially the situations the game puts you in with the monsters, literally make you want to bite your nails, except if you leave your controller to do that, it's certain death for you. With The Evil Within, prepare to die — a lot.
Think of The Evil Within as a combination of the best parts of Resident Evil 4 with a lot of Dark Souls thrown in for flavour. Resident Evil 4 was undoubtedly one of the best games to date in this genre, which makes it the perfect framework for The Evil Within as Dark Souls brought to the table a very high difficulty, truly difficult enemies and no dumbing down of elements at all.
The end result is a brutal, unforgiving game that ramps up the survival horror to an almost extreme. Even saving the game and upgrading your character is made painful and slow. Thankfully there is a good checkpoint system, and unlike Dark Souls, when you die you don't lose everything.
Playing as Detective Sebastian, the game will take you into the deep, dank underbelly of some concrete monster. There are parts with monsters strewn about, and there are those unnerving long empty stretches of dank corridors, where there's nothing, not a threat but a clever play of light around you by the developers.
When you do encounter a foe, the action is simple, you have a melee attack button or if you do have ammo, you can shoot your guns or bolts. Except that your enemy is a lot smarter than your average video game baddie. Not content with being just cannon fodder, these enemies fight back, and even the lowest level of monsters can kill you with a few swings. Sneaking around is the best strategy.
Survival is the key here. There are pickups like the green bottles of goo which upgrade your skills and health syringes here and there. Maybe if you're lucky, a couple of bullets. However, most of the time you will have to make your own ammo out of parts you get after dismantling traps, which is a danger on it's own.
You have to sneak and disable traps, and while some just have one button press disarm, there are bombs where you have just one shot at in a mini-game — miss it and it's boom. There are times where we found ourselves roaming through areas with no ammo, no health syringes, just a few matches to light up fallen corpses. All you have are your wits and getting in the perfect sneak attack, without alerting the rest of the horde.
The challenging action and the survival elements really make The Evil Within an enjoyable experience. Though, the game could have used a better camera, which makes running away tricky, as you don't know what's behind you or coming from where. Especially since the sudden jump scare of a monster makes you flounder around even more. By the time you get the camera around, it's already too late.
With Dark Souls, the controls are responsive, so your deaths are usually skill based. In The Evil Within, you will find yourself dying over and over again because your character, instead of meleeing the monster, suddenly decides to reload. Then you start all over again back at your save, only to retrace your steps and miss all your pickups because unless the camera is in a certain angle the prompt does not come up. Then you die on the bomb mini-game. Tough is tough, but the developers should give some leeway.
Graphics and sound
The graphics of The Evil Within are nowhere near as that of The Last of Us; this game takes a more cinematic approach to horror. Using its graphics in tandem with clever cutting techniques and blurring, sudden sepia toning to scare the heebie jeebies out of you. What we appreciated the most is the way the light sourcing works. Somehow the game feels like every horror movie you have ever dreaded to watch, all rolled up into one big scary package. Be warned, there are scenes of extreme graphic horror. The game does not shy away from dismemberment or disembowelment or anything in between.
In the sound department, The Evil Within, takes everything that goes bump in the night to a whole new level. You will hear distant screams and howls of some monster you don't ever want to have the pleasure of meeting. You will hear the rustling grass around you, the creaking of doors, shuffling of footsteps, all too near. In tandem with the shadows, you will sometimes jump at nothing when your eyes thought they just saw or when your ears thought they just heard. The way sound and graphics coalesce together to create an experience, letting your imaginations run wild is an amazing feat that the developers have accomplished.
If you aren't at all afraid of taking up a challenge and love getting scared out of your pants, you will love every moment of The Evil Within, confusing story and all. A gorefest, scarefest, splatterfest, whatever you may call it, this game is like all your favourite horror movies on one interactive experience. It is a tough and frustrating game at times and quite expensive too. Recommended if you love Resident Evil and relish in survival horrors.
Rs 4,299 for PS4 and Xbox One
Rs 2,999 PC
Rs 3,999 for PS3
Rs 3,949 for Xbox 360