Date Released: October 14th, 2014
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Survival Horror
Rated: M for Mature
Survival horror games have been making a comeback, and in its ranks is The Evil Within. For those of you who don’t know, Shinji Mikami is a very prominent figure in the industry; known for creating Resident Evil, Mikami spearheaded horror into the mainstream and now returns with his recently formed development team, Tango Gameworks to make his mark once again. With Mikami in his element, The Evil Within is a nice twist to the zombie-filled horror scene and does much to stand out amongst the crowd while paying homage to the game that started it all.
Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his colleagues are just returning from a case when they receive a call; multiple homicides at Beacon Mental Hospital. As they arrive at the scene, the entryway is littered with unmanned squad cars and ambulances. When they open the doors to the hospital, they are met with a terrible sight, but find a lone survivor uttering the name “Ruvic”. As Sebastian checks the nearby security monitors he witnesses the murders of three cops by a hooded figure with supernatural powers, and without warning, comes up behind our unsuspecting hero and knocks him out. From then on Sebastian must fight for his life as he braves a world suddenly turned mad and fights men and women turned into grotesque monstrosities.
Veterans of the recent Resident Evil games will feel right at home in The Evil Within: third-person, over-the-shoulder camera, an array of weapons to choose from, multiple foes to deal with at any given time, and plenty of bosses. But what Tango Gameworks did away with is the item management, and depending on whom you were to ask, that decision was either a good or bad one. I believe how they handled it to compensate was smart. Instead of having to stop what you’re doing to decide on whether you want that extra bit of ammo or not, everything is as simple as having a maximum amount for each weapon class. Of course I love item management in classic Resi games, but it does have a few flaws when in a tight squeeze. Now instead of dealing with management, your main concern is conservation of items.
The Haunted, which are the altered and mutilated “human” mobs that you will be mainly contending with, are numerous and a single Haunted can ruin your day, so just shooting your way out isn’t always the best idea. Ammunition is in limited supply, and when managed poorly, you will be left defenseless. This choke-hold on provisions will force you to alternate between weapons so no weapon goes left unused.
If you do play it smart, you will always have just enough when you find yourself surrounded. To help save up each precious bullet there are plenty of means to dispatch foes. Sneaking up on most enemies will prompt to silently take them out with a knife kill and most areas are rigged with booby-traps just waiting to be used in your favor. Take care not to fall in these traps yourself, as a subtle visual cue of red spots will indicate that one is near. Once you take the time to think things through, you will use everything at your disposal to its fullest potential; using your rifle to snipe a sniper, a shotgun for crowd control, a pistol to take out stragglers, and the Agony Crossbow to set up traps of your own. The developer made sure to give you just enough of what you need to make it out of any situation without being a bullet charity, and encourages strategy instead of running and gunning.
Another added feature is an upgrade system where you can increase any of Sebastian’s attributes: Abilities, Weapons, Stock, and Agony Bolts. Throughout the game you can find a substance known as green gel by killing enemies or finding them along the way; this is the main currency in which you can buy your upgrades. Anything from health, to weapon damage, to how much ammunition you can carry is upgradeable. At first I thought that a fully maxed out character would make the game too easy, but to my delight I found the game just as challenging and no weapons were absurdly overpowered. You’re never powerful enough to breeze through the game nor do you ever have more than one fully stocked weapon, and the hordes of creatures are strong enough to take a few bullets to the head without being too frustrating to handle. It’s a great balance of game difficulty and avatar strength that somehow works really well.
Plenty of extra collectables are scattered in each chapter of the game and can shed some light on Sebastian’s past, and of the strange events surrounding some particular characters. What players will want to keep an eye out for are small Goddess statues and Map Fragments. The statues, when destroyed, will reveal a key that can be used on safes that grant ammo, a large jar of green gel, or a pair of keys if lucky. The Map Fragments may not give you an immediate reward, but if you collect all 26 of them you will be greatly rewarded.
There are only two difficulty settings to choose from when playing for the first time: Casual and Survival. As daunting as “Survival” may sound, that’s only the medium difficulty setting. When you beat the game, you unlock a bunch of stuff like a figure gallery, a New Game+ mode, new weapons, and two more difficulty modes. Nightmare is your hard mode, but then there is the dreaded 悪夢(AKUMU) mode; a mode so insane that a single hit from anything will kill you. There are plenty of things to do and collect, so The Evil Within is has plenty of things to do that will have players looking forward to a next playthrough, or wanting to put themselves through hell.
This psychological thriller gone horror will whisk players all over the place, leaving some to wonder what is real and what is just a delusion of a mentally unstable mind. Even our main character will occasionally ask this very question. The one thing that is pretty silly about the whole thing is how our protagonists react to these ever-changing events and occurrences. Not the slightest bit of panic or amazement can be heard in their tone and it leaves the people we are supposed to care about as nothing more than emotionless robots that we can’t empathize with. The voice actors do a great job and everything, but if they were instructed to be as uninterested as humanly possible in what they are doing, then they hit the nail on the head. Or perhaps it’s just a homage to the campy voice acting of the first Resident Evil – the world may never know.
While not the scariest game out there, that doesn’t take away all the great things The Evil Within does. It takes classic staples that horror games have been clinging onto and does away with them in risky move that works out in their favor. And what they did keep is as refined as you would expect from a development studio headed by the grandfather of the survival horror genre. The atmosphere is haunting and suspenseful, the gameplay is refined to a t, and the locales, at times, are as twisted and gnarly as the bosses and enemies you fight. The Evil Within puts “survival” back into survival horror.
Overall Rating: 4.25/5