The Evil Within (Xbox One Review)
The horror genre has been somewhat lacking for a few years now. As time has progressed the original greats like Resident Evil and Silent Hill have been met with lukewarm reviews and a great yearning for the better days. The days where you feared what was lurking around the corner and the pressure of puzzles remaining unsolved. Well the grandfather of horrors games is back and he has brought The Evil Within with him.
Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within is a twisted affair with fractured realities and distorted dreams. From the off set nothing feels right and there is a looming presence that strikes fear in the player as Detective Castellanos looks on to a flicker figure moving through the static of a CCTV monitor. The unsettling feeling of not knowing what is happening as you jump through different realities picking up parts of a fractured and hazy past really add to the confusion. One of the most gripping aspects is trying to work out what really happened to all these people trapped in the different realities, are they crazy? Or am I just going crazy trying to work out what is happening.
At its best The Evil Within is a brilliantly scary game that sets the atmosphere perfectly. Fog rolls in over a sleepy and haunted village and strangers shuffle, mumbling, in the background. There is a great spine chilling feel and the gore is surreal. Having your face mashed through the grated floor like a twisted child forcing a hard lump of Play-Doh through a spaghetti machine is but one of the many painful ends you might meet. It’s all brutally fun and terrifically gratifying. But at its worst The Evil Within can stutter visually and trying to see invisible enemies can become a headache. The prolonged disorienting flickering in some scenes can also be an eye sore and over stays it’s welcome to the point that I had to stop playing. And lets not mention some of the horrible collision detection on trees or odd visual bugs that happen in an area where there isn’t enough room for stealth kills, nothing quite ruins the atmosphere as much as a man passing through a wall gripping on to a dead guy.
The game play is reminiscent of older Resident Evil games but with a little more polish and direction. You can hide in cupboards while being chased by the unspeakable evils that haunt the worlds in The Evil Within. Although if you get caught jumping in to the nearest locker a chainsaw might just burrow its way in to your cortex. One niggle that hasn’t been rectified from the Resident Evil series is the annoying camera angle; while entering a room your character obscures the view and has no way of backing out once it is established that there is an enemy right in front of you. What The Evil Within does well, it does phenomenally so. Burning bodies is a small but cathartic experience, nothing quite gives off the same satisfaction as knowing that the body isn’t just down but burnt to a cinder and there is no chance of revival. Be wary with your matches, they can be quite scarce and there are certainly some enemies you don’t want getting back up.
For every enemy you burn and container you smash there is a chance of finding green gel, or brain juice if like me you couldn’t quite get by the emblem being a brain in a jar. This upgrade system adds new depth to the game as there are limited resources in the game and you need to spend them wisely. Do you want to upgrade your weapons? It might cost you some melee damage and health in the long run but without packing some mean firepower your only option is to run and that is certainly not the detective’s strong suit.
Traps also play a massive part in setting the pace of The Evil Within, a careful and hawkeyed player must be vigilant and carefully plan routes through levels. As you carefully sneak up behind unaware enemies, either avoiding the traps or dismantling them as you go. By dismantling these traps you gain materials to make your ammunition for your crossbow. The traps stop players from aimlessly running from point A to B forcing them to consider their route and allow enemies to amble towards them creating tension as the try to defuse bombs in a rush to survive.
The Evil Within delicately treads the fine line between of pad smashingly frustrating and gratifyingly difficult. When stakes are high and a spider-like entity chases you down seamlessly endless corridors you really get a true feel for the difficulty. Finding the perfect balance of speed, dexterity and timing leaves you feeling exhausted and relieved when you shut the vault door after several unsuccessful attempts. Other times you will find yourself shaking your fist in anguish as you didn’t time the opening of a chest perfectly and paint the surroundings with your innards. There is also a great deal of varying difficulties ranging from casual mode to akumu mode (a mode in which one hit means complete death) that will truly test your skill and patience.
On top of countless difficulty levels there is also a great deal of extras to collect. You can cobble together fragments of a map in the amalgamated world of an asylum and your office as well as keys to unlock different wall vaults in the back room too. These vaults can contain much needed ammo and health or even more keys, they are definitely worth opening. These keys can be found scattered across the game in the shape of religious statues to be smashed. And for the more gamerscore and trophy focussed bunch there are possible achievements for completing certain areas without setting off alarm as and without taking damage. It is nigh on impossible to experience everything The Evil Within offers in one attempt.
Overall The Evil Within returns the horror genre to its grass-roots, cramped in tight spaces hoping to god you weren’t spotted. It has all the features we have missed and have been asking for since Resident Evil 4 and Mikami has delivered on his promise of making a truly terrifying game. The only downfalls are that some niggles from his previous games remain unchanged. I loved the vast majority of The Evil Within and struggled to put the remote down for the 13 hour run time. It’s a great game and challenges you to manage resources and ensure you never miss a shot. Your heart and dinner will simultaneously find themselves in your throat and in the best way possible.
The Evil Within was acquired at a private retailer and no embargo has been signed or agreed, hence the review being early.