Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Horror, Third Person Shooter
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
Resident Evil 4 had an understandably huge effect on the gaming landscape, with a large amount of games using it as inspiration. Creator Shinji Mikami now seeks to follow his success with a new company and a new IP. Can The Evil Within live up to its roots, or does this game scare for all the wrong reasons?
The Evil Within follows an aging police detective named Sebastian Castellanos. After he gets a call to a hospital he discovers a bunch of dead bodies and shortly after him, his partners Joseph and Juli, a doctor named Marcelo, and an insane teenager named Leslie, all find themselves trapped inside of a strange nightmare world controlled by a mysterious heavily scarred man named Ruvik. Full of monsters and other horrors, the group attempts to find a way to escape, but not everyone here is on the same side and everyone has their own personal agenda. As interesting as this premise is, The Evil Within’s story quickly gets lost. Keeping track of what’s going on is nearly impossible, there’s large stretches of the story not advancing in any meaningful way, and when it does it often isn’t really interesting enough to care about. The game is really about Ruvik’s history and most of the other characters are just there to see that play out, but this means that most of the other characters are also not nearly interesting enough to be there.
At the start of The Evil Within I was only given a handgun to defend myself. Stealth was important, and by holding down the right bumper I could move slower and avoid attention. I could also hide inside of closets and under beds if I was caught, giving me a chance to get away. Most importantly, I could sneak behind enemies and kill them instantly with a stealth attack. Since conserving ammo quickly becomes one of the most important strategies of the game, stealth was really important. That said, I wish the stealth mechanics were a little more fleshed out. There was really nothing to it other than holding down the right bumper and staying out of the line of sight of enemies.
Yet as The Evil Within continued I found myself better equipped. The game had your usual third person shooter arsenal: shotguns, rifles, and magnums made up the majority of Sebastian’s weapons. The one unique one is the Agony Crossbow: it can fire bolts like a normal crossbow, but over the course of the game I found five different ammo types for it. By the end of the game I could use it like a flashbang, fire freezing shots, or set down mines with it. There are various traps throughout the world, and disassembling them allowed me to take the parts used to make them and assemble them into new bolts. Once I was better armed then I was at the start, combat became a much more viable option.
Enemies usually took the form of regular people that have been transformed into shambling messes, wrapped in barbed wire and with various metal pieces jutting out from them. Sometimes they have weapons, and sometimes they’ll just try to impale Sebastian onto their own body parts. You need to carefully place your shots when dealing with enemies to be sure you’re not wasting ammo on them. Headshots aren’t a guaranteed kill, I actually found legshots to work better to drop them then using a match to burn them before they could get up. The strange areas that Sebastian finds himself in are often littered with traps as well. I could disarm a tripwire for parts for my crossbow, but luring an enemy into one is an equally valid strategy.
The combat really becomes interesting during the game’s boss fights. At the start of the game this isn’t much more than an overly powerful man with a chainsaw, but later in I would see horrors of all kind that required any number of strategies. One woman, with many extra limbs all contorted in different directions so she more resemble a spider than a woman, was only weak to fire. So instead I had to lure her into furnaces, over ignitable oil slicks, and make use of nearby torches and explosive barrels to hit her. Intense encounters with various horrors served as the highlight of the game. That said, in a game full of fantastic boss fights, it’s extremely disappointing to see that the final boss is just a series of quick time events. I was hoping in a game without any that this issue would be avoided, but it appears not.
Outside of regular combat there’s also a few unique section. Running scenes see Sebastian fleeing from some sort of threat, requiring me to navigate him around obstacles and death traps and away from some threat. They’re not bad, but occasionally a little clunky. There’s an occasional turret segment, but they’re mostly forgettable. A large stretch of game sees me partnered up with fellow detective Joseph. He can assist in combat and is smart enough to stay out of the way of my shots, plus I was able to heal him without using any healing items. I thought the segments with him would be a pain, but I was actually surprised to see myself a little disappointed that I wasn’t spending more time with Joseph.
When I wasn’t partaking in combat, I was solving one of the game’s many puzzles. The Evil Within is littered with puzzles, and a lot of them are quite creative. Following charts to jab certain parts of a brain, or following clues littered around a room to hit a specific button offers some interesting moments that required me to stop and think. There’s also usually a death penalty for guessing or failing a puzzle, so avoiding that was always within my best interests. There are some puzzles, however, that just felt too much guess work to me and that I wanted nothing to do with. These stopped me for a while, and often just left me frustratingly looking at a guide.
The story is nonsense, the last boss is a letdown, and some of the puzzles suck. Yet the rest of the boss fights and puzzles are fantastic, and the regular encounters are a perfect blend of difficult and scary. The Evil Within may not reach the heights of Resident Evil 4, but this is one hell of a horror game that is worth experience for any fans of the genre.