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· Classic survival horror gameplay
· Can be very scary and unsettling
· Fractured narrative keeps you on edge
· Hideously frustrating
· Poor performances and patchy visuals
· Assorted technical issues
· Cheesy dialogue
· Completely ridiculous storyline
The Evil Within isn’t everyone’s most anticipated title, but for the most ardent fans of Resident Evil it’s a massive deal. Bethesda’s horror game is directed by Shinji Mikami, who first created Resident Evil. In short, this is the man who invented the modern survival horror game in 1996, then came back to reinvent it nine years later. Can he do it again another nine years on?
To raise excitement levels further, The Evil Within is widely seen as a spiritual successor to Resident Evil, taking survival horror back to the good old days before the second-rate Resident Evil 5 and the wildly incoherent Resident Evil 6 that all but wrecked the series. The Evil Within has been seen as a return to slow-burning tension and lurking fear after those more action-oriented titles.
SOME OF THE STORY
Shinji Mikami’s latest blood-drenched action horror, throws you straight into the action. While investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital, Detective Sebastian Castellanos, his partner Joseph Oda and “rookie” Detective Julie Kidman encounter a malevolent and powerful force. After seeing the slaughter of his fellow officers by a man wearing a white hood and covered in burn scars, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. After awakening you’ll be given the task of escaping the hospital alive. I won’t tell you more for fear of spoiling The Evil Within’s many curveballs, but it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems.
Along the way we get a tour of horror idioms, ranging from slasher movies and the torture porn of Saw to the creepy hospital corridors and rusting barbed wire of Silent Hill. Nor is Mikami averse to rifling through his own back catalogue. The over-the-shoulder viewpoint and general controls stink of Resident Evil 5 – basically Resident Evil 4 but with movement while you’re shooting.
The big idea with Resident Evil 4 was to mix survival horror with action. Here, it’s to mix survival horror action with stealth. You’ll spend a lot of time sneaking around in The Evil Within, trying your best to sneak past or behind enemies and dispatch them quietly with sneak attacks. You can spend hours in some chapters scoping out the area, investigating houses and doing your best to put some weaponry together.
In the early stages of the game you’re pitifully weak, consigned to hiding under beads and in lockers in order to survive. Running away can also be a good option, but Castellanos seems to suffer from some respiratory malady, to the point that after two or three seconds of sprinting he has to stop and take a few deep breaths.
The enemies meanwhile, are not so weedy. Even the most basic zombie monster takes two shots to the head or more to go down. Melee attacks aren’t so much last resort as an utter waste of time. Bigger boss enemies soak up damage like a luxury, super-sized sponge. The combination of Sebastian’s all too human weaknesses and the toughness of the enemies can make for a fiendishly challenging proposition.
Life never gets any easier for our hero, as he plunges into an ever-evolving nightmare spread out among poorly lit mansions, insane asylums and forests while caught in plot that will leave psychiatrists and biochemists scratching their heads.
This unnerving dark ride combined with a “Hostel” group of enemies (disfigured humanoid creeps looking to butcher for pleasure) infects 15 chapters of action as a player is immersed in roughly a 20-hour killing spree.
TOOLS AND GEAR
Sebastian eventually carries a pistol, shotgun, crossbow (with constructible bolts that explode, freeze and poison), matches to burn bodies, and grenades. He is always short of health and ammunition, as he spends an inordinate amount of time crouching in the face of unimaginable horror.
The player learns quickly the delicate choice between fighting off difficult-to-kill, mutated humans (often wielding weapons), and simply hiding or running away after watching Sebastian get brutally murdered over and over again. It’s a game that challenges the gamer to the point of insurmountable frustration even while set on a “medium” difficulty mode.
There are a few jump-out-of-your-seat scares within some beautifully constructed environments, but The Evil Within ultimately takes its cue from Resident Evil 4, and is more about the slaughter. I was hoping more for the scare here rather than shock. Those looking for these types of grisly encounters — absolutely not for the squeamish or anyone under the age of 17 — simply need turn off the lights and get ready for a blood-soaked journey into a virtual hell. Specifically, the player can see characters stumbling upon a field of zombies and getting ripped apart, sliding down a chute filled with entrails and lined with blades, being eaten alive, blowing off parts of enemies’ heads, skewering creatures with harpoon bolts and routinely being electrocuted to upgrade skills.
The Evil Within has enough moments to make for an irresistible Halloween treat but relies too often on bloody kills to satisfy. Unfortunately, for this gamer who loves scares, Sebastian’s survival offers little resemblance to the days when Mr. Mikami’s original Resident Evil chilled a player’s bones.
The Evil Within is a good game, even if it feels a little old-fashioned with its claustrophobic over-the-shoulder camera that artificially makes it difficult for you to see enemies. It remains endlessly surprising and inventive from beginning until end, it rewards exploration, and apart from some moments of frustration (probably caused by the camera) it stayed fun all the way through for 14-19 hours of gameplay. However the technical problems, poor storytelling (welcome back to the ’90s folks!), lack of satisfying level progression and the gradual ditching of stealth in favour of shooting drags it down. Some people will hate it completely, but I’m not one of those. If you like the idea of Resident Evil 4 crossed half-and-half with Silent Hill then The Evil Within is the game for you.
3 ½ / 5 STARS !