The Evil Within Review
Genre: Survival Horror
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Shinji Mikami’s ‘The Evil Within’ carries with it an unfair burden. On one hand, Mikami himself is being put under scrutiny as he is the “Father of Survival Horror” and both critics and gamers want to know if he has what it takes to develop another hit survival horror franchise. On the other hand, comparisons to Resident Evil (Mikami’s biggest franchise hit) will be inevitable from some gamers, meaning they might not be able to critique The Evil Within on its own merits and faults alone.
I will be approaching The Evil Within for exactly what is and calling it as I see it – an ambitious new game from a man who helped define a genre and gain it the fame it now has. Is it perfect? No. Is it scary? Not really, but it is a fun game with genuine moments of dread and tension. It also has a wonderful creativity about it with some of the absolutely bizarre events that take place throughout the story.
The Evil Within casts players as Detective Sebastian Castellanos (voiced by Hell on Wheels star Anson Mount), who is sent to investigate a multiple homicide at Beacon Mental Hospital with his partners Julie “Kid” Kidman and Joseph Oda. Things quickly escalate out of control as the team encounter a dark and sinister force in the form of Ruvik, a mysterious man in a white hood who is covered in scars. During the investigation, Castellanos is knocked unconscious and after some gameplay (which I won’t spoil for you, dear readers) escapes Beacon Mental Hospital only to find the entire city being transformed by earthquakes. The dead rise, the world looks terrifying and Castellanos finds himself struggling to solve who Ruvik is, what is going on and how to stop it.
The story in The Evil Within has a wide appeal, though it can feel inconsistent with its pacing. During actual gameplay, you’re simply trying to survive, reunite with other characters or solving puzzles while learning what backstory you can. During the cut scenes, there can be moments where the game actually explains itself, but these are usually interrupted by something. If like me, you love mystery and all things bizarre, you’ll be drawn in by The Evil Within’s sudden weird twists that are hurled at you. One minute, you’re at a nightmarish village running for your life, the next you’re in a dream (or are you?) talking to a nurse at a rundown ward (possibly back at Beacon), or the game will find another way to completely throw off your senses. It creates a tense atmosphere where you really don’t know who or what you can trust. In this regard, The Evil Within’s almost like an extremely gory and twisted Alice in Wonderland as every character and environment can take on another form or dark twist at any moment.
Then there are the slow or awkward moments, where the game’s story can feel somewhat goofy or the game’s love of completely transforming itself can leave your concentration exhausted or simply waning. The areas populated with monsters also contain clues and crafting materials to scavenge, so thorough players will find themselves exploring every single building they come across – which becomes extremely tedious. Open doors, creep around at a snail’s pace, open drawers, find a few bullets. Rinse. Repeat. It also throws the story’s pacing off a bit and I found myself having to really try to remember what I was doing and why I was doing it. I’d recommend taking a break from the game between chapters for that reason as you would not want to load a game and play from a random point in a level.
“Enough about the story! Is it actually scary?”
That depends on what scares you, I guess. I find horror is very much like comedy and is subjective. There are moments in The Evil Within where I may have been startled (where you “jump” on the inside), but I never genuinely screamed or threw my controller down and refused to play from sheer terror. Even though it’s in the midst of a major comeback, survival horror is still proving to be a challenge for even seasoned developers. Whereas Alien: Isolation might feel too drawn out for some players, the Evil Within might feel like it strays away from being an actual survival horror game, given that there are RPG-style character upgrades and multiple weapons to collect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very much a fun horror title, I just wish it didn’t feel like Resident Evil 4 at times. People who haven’t played many survival horror titles will probably jump at the scare moments and find themselves terrified by some of the undead and monsters that The Evil Within offers.
So while it’s not all raw survival The Evil Within does offer a wonderfully imaginative spin on survival horror. The gameplay can change drastically in an instant, which keeps players on their toes in the best way. At one point I was running away from a chainsaw-wielding monster who managed to severly wound my leg. I was then limping and making my getaway at a much slower pace when it seemed as though my pursuer had given up. To my surprise he then locked a door behind me and turned a switch which transformed my once promising escape route into a bottle-necked deathtrap. Bodies either side of the corridor were swept into giant blades and shredded before my eyes as the blades drew closer and closer. It’s moments like these that make The Evil Within a great title and it has many of these in store for the player.
- A Fresh take on survival horror
- Tense and wonderfully imaginative atmosphere
- RPG elements weren’t needed
- Pacing can be inconsistent
- Not as scary as it could have been
It might have sounded like I didn’t enjoy The Evil Within at times. Quite the contrary, I rather enjoyed it – I only wish it played to its strengths more and offered more moments of tense horror. The characters are unfortunately weak but the atmosphere and the environments are quite interesting. Fans of Mikami’s previous work will definitely enjoy it, as will anyone looking for a good horror title. Just don’t expect to go into cardiac arrest from fear.