The Evil Within (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Parent Talk: The Evil Within is rated M for mature (ages 17+) because of blood, gore, intense violence, and strong language. Often the game feels like something you’d expect if you went to see the latest Saw movie. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is one gruesome game. You can cut off the heads of your enemies, you can burn bodies, and so much more. If you’re even a little squeamish, this isn’t a game for you.
Plays Like: As any good survival horror game, The Evil Within forces players to use their surroundings intelligently, scavenge for supplies, and conserve ammo wherever possible. Some areas force stealth, while others are all out action segments. There’s a great balance of creepy moments, tense cutscenes, and fantastic combat in this third person extravaganza.
Review Basis: Completed the campaign.
When Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami left Capcom I was really saddened by the news. This was the man who gave us Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and the much beloved Resident Evil 4 and RE Remake on the GameCube. He was also responsible for many other classic Capcom games, but those four set a certain pedigree that Capcom has yet to surpass in the survival horror genre. I had always hoped that maybe one day he would return to the Resident Evil universe and deliver another masterpiece, but when he left Capcom I knew that was never going to happen. Fast forward a short time later and he announced his new game studio, Tango Gameworks, were developing a brand new survival horror game. While it wasn’t Resident Evil, my expectations were extremely high. This is Shinji Mikami we’re talking about here! So was he able to strike gold, or has he been away from the genre for too long? Let’s find out.
If I had to pick one aspect where The Evil Within really shines, it would have to be in its atmosphere and tension. While I never found myself sitting in a corner crying for mommy, that honor goes to Alien: Isolation, I did find the sense of tension to be at an all-time high for many parts of the game. The attention to detail in the environments and the settings are ultimately what do it. You always feel uneasy because while you know something is out there, you never know exactly where. The fact the game is a physiological thriller as much as it is an intense action game, only adds to the stress. This is a game where walls disappear before your eyes, where enemies can materialize out of thin air, and where you’re lost more so than you realize.
There’s one section that sums up The Evil Within perfectly, and it’s from fairly early on in the game. There’s a section where you have to pass through a short hallway where a series of hospital beds are lining both sides of the walls. The lights are mostly broken, except for one off in the distance that is flickering, so barely anything is illuminated. You can see there’s something slowly walking back and forth towards the exit. As you slowly make your way towards the enemy, you realize that all of the beds have bodies on them, there’s blood on the floor and ceiling, and you accidently hit something on a table in front of you. You spin the camera around to see that one enemy rushing towards you, so you pull out your gun, which only has three bullets left in it. You take the shot, killing the enemy, but suddenly you hear grumbling, and notice movement. Those bodies on the beds are all moving, and they’re all heading straight towards you!
- The combat system is rock solid. You can tell this is a Mikami-san game. While using the shotgun, sniper rifle, or handgun, you get a real sense of power. The problem is that ammo is so hard to come by. You want to make every shot count, and thankfully you can do just that because the controls are spot on. There’s also a stealth mechanic, where you can sneak up on unsuspecting enemies for an instant kill. The environments can also be used to your advantage, where you can lure enemies into bear traps, explosives, and more. What happens when all of these elements are thrust upon you, choice! There’s nothing like taking out a group of enemies with a well-placed explosive bolt from your crossbow when you only had one bolt left, or getting that perfect stealth kill when you were surrounded by enemies. It’s moments like these that make you feel like a bad ass, and that’s awesome.
- Much like the Resident Evil remake on the Nintendo GameCube, The Evil Within features enemies that can resurrect themselves after they’ve been downed by the player. The old ‘burn the corpse’ mechanic from that legendary game returns here, and you’ll want to burn all the bodies you come upon, especially later on in the game. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but you also have the chance to gain additional supplies from the burnt corpses.
- Simple crafting system. While you scour the environment for ammo and syringes to heal yourself, odds are you’ll also stumble onto several parts. These can be used to craft ammo for the Agony Crossbow. You can freeze, explode, electrocute, blind, or craft standard bolts. Not only can you find the parts, but if you dismantle traps you can gain additional crafting supplies. The catch here is that these environmental traps aren’t just there for you to get caught up on, but as I mentioned before you can lure enemies to them. What ends up happening is you start to balance the desire for more ammo for your crossbow, with an easier way to take down enemies. Again, it’s all about the choices you make.
- Exploration is rewarded. Players who thoroughly explore the various stages will find green ooze which can be used for upgrading your abilities, from extending your health and stamina, to being able to hold more ammo. The progression system in place here is fantastic, and scales perfectly with the rest of the game so you never feel like you’re overpowered. You can also find small statues which, once broken, will reward a small key. These keys can be used to unlock special lockers which grant a wide assortment of awesome goodies.
- Even though you’re well-armed, don’t expect for this to be a cake walk. You’re going to die, and often, because a simple miscalculation can cause your head to roll. If you want to use stealth, be extremely careful what you bump into. If you want to use more straightforward action, make sure those headshots hit their mark or you’ll find yourself completely surrounded with no ammo to speak of.
- Speaking of the difficulty, the boss fights are just crazy. Most of these consist of creatures that can down you in one hit, even if you have full health, so you don’t want to screw up! Most fights require you to either use the environments to your advantage, such as when you fight the spider lady, which forces you to use fire against her. Others are more typical fights where you dodge and shoot. Whatever you do, you can expect to die at least a few times, and have an utter blast doing so.
- The audio visual package is fantastic. I already touched upon how great the tension and atmosphere are, but the graphics and audio go the extra mile and deserve to be singled out. The environments vary quite significantly from a stunningly detailed forest, to a crumbling church, to well…something else entirely. Lighting is superb, especially with the great fire effects. During the night you can see fog in the distance, there are stars twinkling far off in the sky, and there are so many gruesome and disturbing elements from disfigured faces of clowns just hanging on the wall, to bodies ripped apart everywhere. It’s disgustingly beautiful. Audio is used sparingly so as only to give you hints of the trouble ahead, but therein lies the genius. You’ll always hear enemies mumbling, you’ll hear footsteps and other ambient noises, and when trouble comes, the music picks up to keep your adrenaline rushing.
+/- Sadly what starts off kind of intriguing eventually becomes too convoluted for its own good. I found myself not even caring about the story whatsoever towards the end of the game. I just wanted to ‘make it out alive’ as it were. As for the story itself, players take on the role of Sebastian Castellanos, a detective sent in to investigate a series of gruesome murders at a local mental health hospital. From there things go bat-shit crazy as you experience one nightmarish scene after another. What brings the story down is that Sebastian just isn’t an interesting protagonist, and neither are the characters that surround him. I was intrigued to learn about the past residents of the asylum, but never truly cared, and given the constant jumps and flashback sequences, I didn’t feel any remorse over what happened to any of the supporting cast.
+/- The save system is a bit perplexing at times, and perfect at others. Let’s talk about the good first. There is a manual save system where you go back to the main ‘hub’ as I call it. From here you can upgrade your abilities, unlock lockers with the special tiny keys, and save your game. So that works fine, it’s the auto-save feature that leaves something to be desired. For the most part it works just fine, your progress will be saved after lengthy sections of the level, or after key fight scenes. However, there are times where it won’t save your game for what feels like an eternity and should you die, you’ll realize that it really was awhile, thereby forcing you to redo large sections of the level again. It’s bizarre.
+/- Load times aren’t too bad, until you start dying. Once you begin to have to restart over and over, you’ll notice time starts slowing down and load times get longer and longer. The reason for this is that the save system typically places your save directly before a cutscene. Yes you can skip cutscenes, but the fact that you have to go through the process of the cutscene and startup of the battle is what ultimately makes the load times feel longer than what they truly are.
- There are some anomalies here and there. Some texture pop-in is present, minor clipping issues, and depending on the angle of the camera, shadows can get pixelated to the point they look like early PS2-rendered shadows. These moments don’t occur often, but they’re noticeable when they do.
The Evil Within feels like a direct continuation of Resident Evil 4. It shares a lot in common with that masterpiece. It’s tense, atmospheric, and has a great progression and combat system. While the story is mostly forgettable, and I never felt truly scared, overall the experience was an adrenaline ride of disturbing imagery, great survival horror gameplay, and that classic Shinji Mikami formula. If you enjoy more traditional survival horror games with a focus on surviving, The Evil Within won’t disappoint.
Final Score: 8.5/10