The Evil Within Review – WTF is THAT?! (PS4)
After much anticipation and at least four years of development, The Evil Within has finally been unleashed on most major platforms. From the twisted mind that conceived and created the Resident Evil franchise Shinji Mikami, this is a new attempt to scare the bejeezus out of you. With Halloween right around the corner, is this a perfect game to play with the lights off?
The story begins with detective Sebastian Castellanos being called alongside two partners to investigate a disturbance at a local mansion. With little fanfare, they approach the ancient-looking structure. Numerous cop cars are already on-scene, but all officers and weapons are mysteriously nowhere to be found. A quick look at the security camera feed for the mansion starts your nightmare, and you are incapacitated.
The game really hits the ground running when it comes to trying to kill you. From the start, your health is very low and Sebastian has a limp thanks to your friendly neighborhood chainsaw murderer. Within the first few minutes, I got my head ripped right off by approaching an enemy incorrectly. The Evil Within lets you know that each mistake you make may be your last. You’ll be spending much of the game deciding which weapon to use given the limited ammunition that you have. You can upgrade your abilities such as your health and maximum ammo, but you’ll still be fighting to survive in a world gone mad. Upgrading the pistol and your health give you the best chance at staying alive.
This is a bloody, grotesque game. Do not let younger eyes see or hear this game, because it can get pretty disturbing. Enemies often have growths all over them, their eyes glowing otherworldly colors; others are two-headed, wrapped in barbed wire while bleeding slowly, or far, far worse. They’re also surprisingly tough — often times a headshot is not enough to put them down. To make matters worse, a downed enemy may come back to try and get their revenge unless you stomp them a few extra times or, much more permanently, use a match to light their body, disintegrating them to ash which fades away. Matches are not too hard to come by, but they are in limited numbers, especially as you move towards the game’s climax.
Gameplay consists of snooping around in the shadows, taking out whatever enemies you can stealthily, and avoiding traps, ideally disarming them to gain some parts. You can use these parts to build bolts for the game’s signature weapon, the Agony Crossbow. This epicly-named crossbow has multiple types of bolts with a range of effects. My personal favorite quickly became the explosive bolt, which can be used for instant gratification by shooting an enemy with it for blood-splattering results. It can also be used as an impromptu proximity mine by shooting it into a wall or the floor, exploding as enemies come close to it. You do have to be careful with this and any explosives, however, because they can most definitely do some major or even fatal damage to you.
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One area I felt could have been improved upon would be the game’s story. It’s all over the place. Everything starts out extremely vague, and you aren’t introduced to the main characters much before everything goes to hell. No concrete evidence as to what is going on is evident for the first two-thirds of the campaign or so, and even then the message isn’t very clear. There’s some tape recordings of a doctor who’s gone crazy, though his voice acting felt pretty dry. The recordings have some vague pseudoscience about merging minds, but it isn’t particularly engaging. I felt no connection to either other major character, and honestly forgot about them until I met up with one of the two after a couple of hours. A small bit of Sebastian’s past is revealed in journals that are found which activate save portals, but it’s hard to get a gauge on him. He hardly seems to be affected by the things going on around him — his aim remains steady and he only stops if you sprint for too long. Still, the story does progress steadily along, and the scenarios you are presented with become stranger and stranger the longer you play. It does feel like a descent into madness, which is its intended purpose.
As far as The Evil Within‘s scare factor goes, your mileage may vary. Since the game is pretty linear, once you fail a section, you know what to expect, and so the scare factor diminishes considerably on repeat playthroughs. If you’re squeamish at the sight of blood or wounds, though, this game will have plenty to scare you with. The sound effects are excellently crafted, with squishing, crunching, moaning and screaming hauntingly echoing most places that you visit, all naturally presented in at least 7.1 surround sound so you know exactly where impending death is coming from. Personally, the only times I jumped were when I was blown up by a trap. They are all over the game, and as mentioned can be used to salvage bolt parts. There’s so many trip wires and proximity mines, it’s hard to keep count. It feels beyond aggravating to clear a room of enemies or even take down a boss, only to be killed by some stupid mine or door trap that you didn’t see or react to in time. Perhaps that’s the point of them, but occasionally this will happen a long time after a checkpoint, and you’ll have to try an entire section of the game again. Checkpoints are normally pretty well-spaced, though, so at worst you’ll lose 20 minutes of progress.
While The Evil Within doesn’t quite reach the iconic Resident Evil 4‘s level of brilliance or scariness, this is a satisfyingly gruesome adventure. Playing on Survival difficulty or higher is a true challenge, and you need to make quick decisions about which enemies to take out first, when to run and hide, and which crossbow bolts to make in semi-real time. The story is pretty convoluted, and you don’t really become attached to most characters, but ultimately this is a very well-done survival horror game with stealth elements mixed in for good measure. The Evil Within is a great game for the Halloween crowd, and has some added replayability in the form of a New Game+. This is an easy buy for all horror fans, and is a game that should not be missed by those who want a challenge.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.