The Evil Within is supposedly the next big horror game from Shinji Mikami, famed for directing the original Resident Evil’s (Particularly 1 and 4). The latest hyped up survival horror which goes back to pure horror… or so they say. The game is currently hanging around the 70’s and 80’s on metacritic, which is maybe a fair score, however I’m not sold on the reasonings why other review sites are marking it down.
But let’s start from the beginning, The Evil Within for all intents and purposes plays out as a sequel to Resident Evil 4 and occasionally like the new Resident Evil revelations. The game begins throwing you in to a true horror game, minimal weapons, very sparse ammo supply and some truly horrific enemies out to hunt you, it gradually transitions into a stealth horror as you find yourself devoid of ammunition – relying on stealth kills, avoiding enemies completely or luring them into environmental traps to dispose of them. The third and probably most common style of gameplay in The Evil Within is action horror, slowly guiding Sebastian through environments clearing the way via a succession of headshots before being thrown into a climax with a boss or horde scenario. It’s almost as if TEW forgets it’s way mid way through and then tries to correct itself for the next chapter, i’m unsure if the chapters were developed by different teams or what but they have some real contrasts inbetween them – this surprisingly actually works in TEW’s favour, as slower scarier chapters can often be found before/after intense action chapters and they work to enhance and contrast each other. There is a story here, though it’s more of a driving force to pull sebastian through the game’s twisting environments and to introduce it’s nightmarish creatures in a way which vaguely makes sense.
So, similar to other games in this genre as of late, you will be given a selection of weapons as the game goes on (though relatively few, due to no proper inventory system – you’ll acquire weapons and use them for the rest of the game), these weapons along with your character can be upgraded by spending points you’ll collect in the game world – unlike most other games you’ll find that playing without upgrading at all is a very very bad time. The weapons by default are fairly weak, as is the main character (who I believe can only sprint for 2 seconds by default – nowhere near enough to outrun a crazy guy swinging around a chainsaw). Perhaps because the defaults are so weak, finally scraping up enough points for an upgrade often feels substantial and ‘a big deal’ – a nice change compared to games which play the ‘increases damage by 2%’ bullshit.
Following on, with all the weapon upgrade systems, it is unsurprising that towards the end of the game, TEW shifts from a horror to a flat out action game, later chapters include being attacked by men with rifles and full body armor, as well as taking out a humvee with a machinegun mounted on top (and then using said machinegun to fight off hordes of enemies). This is a bit of a shame, as the first half of the game does so well in terms of atmosphere and horror elements only to have the end turn into call of duty.
Enemies and environments play a big part in TEW, and the game provides both in abundance. After playing the demo at EGX, I kind of expected the entirety of the game to take place in mansions or psychiatric hospitals but the game provides those and everything inbetween including an unexpected trip to a castle town in broad daylight – somewhere which wouldn’t feel out of place in a dark souls game. Areas match their suited purpose, with extra atmosphere added for quieter sections.
Enemies are arguably the best part of the game, standard enemies are appreciably creepy but the bosses are truly nightmarish – I’ll refrain from spoiling too much, but every boss is memorable and features their own set of mechanics to dispatch, most importantly all of them will make you fear for your characters life, there were multiple times I was so focused on trying to flee that I didn’t even realise they were able to be attacked. Safe head in particular (used in the promotional footage) is more terrifying than pyramid head in my opinion. A special mention also to a segment in the game with invisible enemies which hardly be seen at all, these enemies typically appear in areas with physics enabled props and complete silence – this segment was in my opinion one of the best parts of the game, as even minor noises coming from behind you will cause your eyes to widen, did that wheelchair just move? or am I imagining things?
Onto the graphics, they are more than adequate even on the lowest settings on PC, with only low shadow quality causing any noticeable ugliness (low resolution shadow maps) however this is arguably a fault of your own PC rather than the game’s – You could always turn them up at the expense of framerate of course. On that note, many were frustrated that TEW would not support 60fps on PC, but the option is there and can be enabled fairly painlessly, only requiring a console command once per load, I would definitely recommend the PC version over the console version, having played both, even if you are on an aging PC like myself and can only pull 40FPS, the additional 10FPS buffer to prevent it from dipping into the low 20’s (as it does on console) is a real game changer. Though I wouldn’t advise it, you can also change the aspect ratio on PC to get rid of the cinematic letterboxing, or even increase it if you so choose. I found myself paying little attention to it after a few minutes of play though, once you get into the game you’ll likely not realise the letterboxing is even present. Sound design could be better, ambient noises and music aren’t really powerful enough to set the mood on their own (unlike for example, Silent Hill), there is nothing wrong with the sound, but if they had put more emphasis onto the ambient music the tension could have been even higher.
As a final note, is the game scary? Well.. Yes and No – there are definitely a ton of points in the game where you will be scared for Sebastian, times where you will audibly say out loud ‘oh god, please no’, yet your weapons are almost always on hand to remind you it’s a game. While I was creeped out at times, or scared of a particular enemy chasing me, there werent any moments during gameplay where I felt like I had to take a break because the game was too stressful or scary – similarly there were no points during play which I felt excessively uncomfortable (unlike a certain Silent Hill’s endless staircase into darkness). As mentioned I feel this is maybe in part due to weak atmospheric audio but also perhaps because despite the low ammo counts and so on, you always feel well equipped enough for the job.
Shinji Mikami pulls through again, a solid action survival horror which really puts into perspective how bad the recent Resident Evil games have become. The Evil Within is well put together and flows well, it’s a shame the game isn’t scarier, but it certainly does enough to unnerve you throughout with it’s great enemy and level design.
Approximate Game Length : 10-15 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £16 / £25 = 0.64
Should you play it : Yes, especially if you are a fan of the old survival horror games
This is a pretty solid 4/5, the game mostly let down by some occasional FOV issues and identity issues including a lackluster third quarter.
Ps. Console commands you may need: ‘R_swapinterval -1’ sets 60fps cap, ‘R_forceaspectratio 2.0’ forces aspect ratio to 2.0, default is 2.5