The Evil Within Preview
The Survival Horror genre has taken some backward steps since the release of Resident Evil 4, which could be why the game is on every single platform you can imagine but handhelds (give it time). This look to be changing sometime in 2014 with Shinji Mikami directing ‘The Evil Within’, known in Japan as ‘Psychobreak’. Being developed in Japan studio Tango Gameworks (setup three years ago by Mikami), the studio also includes Ikumi Nakamura (Bayonetta), art director Naoki Kataki (the 2002 Resident Evil remake & Okami) & design lead Shigenori Nishikawa (Viewtiful Joe, Mad World) who Mikami singles out as future directors of their own studios. Tango Gameworks is yet to release a title but surprisingly Bethesda Softworks will publish the game on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One with a concrete date in 2014 yet to be announced.
Anyone familiar with Shinji Mikami will know he was the director of some amazing games, with his resume including games such as Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil: Remake, P.N.03, Resident Evil 4, God Hand and Vanquish. He has also worked on Killer7 and the Devil May Cry series. His experience in the horror and action genres undeniably make him an expert as to what truly makes a great horror title, though admittedly, the challenge has become greater for Mikami.
“Not much has changed when it comes to instilling terror in the player,” Mikami says. “But people have got used to the tropes of horror and they know what’s coming next, so in that sense it is harder to make them afraid.”
The Evil Within seems to be going back to the original Resident Evil’s gameplay and avoiding the more recent action-packed Resident Evil 6. Players will be made to feel powerless in The Evil Within as there is scarce ammunition, confined spaces, as well as near-invincible enemies that will require you to conserve ammo and run and hide if need be. Tension will be the forefront of this world with Mikami aiming to fill players with dread, so much so that they may want to avoid frightening sequences they must progress through.
The story follows Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners, Joseph Oda and Julie “Kid” Kidman, when they are called to the scene of a gruesome mass murder where a mysterious, powerful force is lying in wait for them. Witnessing the killing of fellow police officers one after another, Sebastian is then attacked and loses consciousness. Waking up in a land infested with fearsome monsters, he has to fight his way through a world of death and madness in order to understand what’s going on. Sebastian has to face his fears in order to survive the journey to discover what lies in the shadows of that mysterious force.
The start of the demo is atmospheric and creepy, with empty police vehicles scattered about and our character Sebastian cautiously making his way through the area enter a building. Inside, the main hall is absolute carnage as the building’s interior is a wreck and littered with bloody corpses. Sebastian checks security camera footage and sees a ghostly figure effortlessly killing a squad of heavily armed police officers. He turns away from the screen, only to see the very same ghoul staring at him. It screams, and we cut suddenly to black. Sebastian’s eyes blink open only to find ourselves hung upside down with gallons of blood spilled all over the walls and ceilings, surrounded by mutilated corpses. A rather large butcher wanders into the room (reminiscent of the enemies of Shadow Man) and begins to carve meat from one of the dead bodies, then carries the meat over to a table.
A fellow strung up corpse near Sebastian has a butcher’s knife still stuck in it and slightly glowing. Sebastian begins to swing, attempting to gain enough momentum to reach it. He succeeds, and grabs the knife to cut himself down. After crashing to the floor, the butcher returns. It is apparent that to face him head-on would be suicide, so the player has to avoid the beast rather than attempt to confront it. An opportunity presents itself as the butcher begins to carve up more meat, and Sebastian deftly sneaks by. Combat isn’t always the right choice in in The Evil Within, which makes for a refreshing change from most survival horror games.
Borrowing from horror movies, The Evil Within uses a variety of different techniques to scare the player, from simple “jump” moments (such as a body falling out of a laundry chute), to having to re-confront the butcher in order to steal his key so Sebastian can make his escape. This is where you have to get so close you share the protagonist’s anxiety and tension, as well as the relief he must have felt after making his escape. Unfortunately that marked the end of the demo, but it more than made me keen for the full game! It’s great how in such a short time, The Evil Within has impressed me immensely, and with so many other great horror titles coming out, it looks like 2014 could be the comeback of Survival Horror!
Written by Nick Pearce