The Evil Within: Spot-on horror

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Ever since its first reveal trailer, The Evil Within has looked to be a cross between the action and suspense of Resident Evil with the disturbia and horrifics of Silent Hill.

For the most part, The Evil Within definitely succeeds in that regard: the script tosses in a lot of frightening moments as the mystery unfolds; the monstrosities that emerge against you are just nightmarish enough to keep you sleepless; and the design of the in-game world itself is terrifying to find yourself trapped in. Unfortunately, a lot of technical flaws and impairments mar what could have been one of the better survival horror experiences to date.

TERRORS OF THE UNKNOWN

The Evil Within puts you in the shoes of rugged detective Sebastian Castellanos, who inadvertently winds up in a hellish reality while investigating a mass homicide in the Beacon Memorial Hospital mental asylum. The-Evil-Within screen shot 01 Character development is not the game’s strong suit as everyone gets typecast rather early on. But the unfolding stories surrounding Castellanos and antagonist Ruben Victoriano, aka Ruvik, are gripping enough to warrant attention, even if they are a tad disjointed. While it’s not an entirely original plotline overall, the flow and execution more than make up for its shortcomings. That said, I do have to admit that the environments, thrills, and scares that the game throws at you aren’t exactly new to horror fans. If you’ve played a lot of games in the survival horror genre, many sequences become quite predictable and formulaic (especially the boss fights). However, they still don’t fail at touching a nerve, especially when they sync with the atmosphere to perfectly play on fear of the unknown. As for the gore level, it’s extremely high here, to the point where the phrase “buckets of blood” is a severe understatement. No matter which way you cut it, this is definitely neither for children nor the fainthearted. Even adults will want to exercise some caution.

READY, AIM, MISFIRE

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless against the monstrosities that are trying to kill you. The game gives you two general ways to dispatch enemies: up-front with an arsenal and stealthily from behind. The former is very vanilla for the genre, and if you’ve played any of the Resident Evil titles, it’ll feel very, very familiar. This is not surprising, given that the director of The Evil Within is none other than Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. But this tags along a whole slew of problems from the get-go. The-Evil-Within screen shot 02 First, the aiming for most of the weapons is quite cumbersome with some imprecise reticle movement and marginally slow panning. You can upgrade your firearms and stats with collectible Green Gel, the variety and diversity of which compensate for the caveats somewhat later on. The thing is, it’s still no excuse to have such clumsy controls when other similar games have made significant improvements in the field. Another issue is the awkward menu for mapping your weapons and items to the d-pad. One stickler is that it leaves you open to attacks because it doesn’t actually pause the game (it goes into slo-mo). As you can imagine, when faced with either enemy hordes or being chased by them, it’s not helpful even when all you want to do is use a healing injection. Then there’s its unintuitive interface, where it’s easy to press the wrong direction on the analog stick or d-pad and mess up your choices.

BUMP IN THE NIGHT

As for the stealth gameplay, it’s really just a paltry imitation of The Last Of Us that sadly fails to match on several levels. Character positioning lacks refinement when sneaking against walls and turning corners, making it easy to accidentally get audibly noticed or exposed. The-Evil-Within screen shot 04 Hiding places such as under beds and inside closets feel rather silly in practice, although they are effective in conveying a sense of trepidation as you hear your heart beating. Melee kills are useless here unless done stealthily, which is probably the only positive reason to approach enemies that way, especially since ammo is heavily scarce.

HANDICAPPED SPACE

But the real detractor in The Evil Within is the limited field of vision. For aesthetic purposes, the entire game is displayed in letterbox cinemascope format, resulting in black borders along the top and bottom over the widescreen display, which obscures much of the scenery. The-Evil-Within screen shot 05 You’ll usually not notice it, but consequently, navigating tricky hall layouts and locating key items do become quite arduous and frustrating when fumbling with the in-game camera. It’s also more of an annoyance during action sequences and boss battles that involve traps, hazards, and hidden switches.

Review by Erik Paolo Escueta First published in Speed January 2015 issue