There I stood, corridor stretching out before my very eyes as my character, Sebastian Castellanos, slowly lost his sanity, grasping his head and collapsing to the ground as his field of vision gave way to utter chaos. Behind me I could hear muffled angry shouting as unease washed over me: I wasn’t alone. I didn’t know what was behind me, and I definitely didn’t want to find out. I grasped firmly upon my controller and forced Sebastian up onto his feet, immediately running down the endless corridor, sprinting as fast as I could. “Damn,” I thought as I watched what was left tiny white bar in the top left corner of my screen dwindle away. “No more stamina.” Sebastian’s breathing got heavy and his movement became impeded just in time to see an unknown force dressed entirely in white materialize in front of him and end his life with a sickening squelch.
Does this section sound like a game to you, or is it more of a nightmare? Scenes like this capture the essence of The Evil Within, the new game by Resident Evil veteran Shinji Mikami, and go to show how this deranged title is a bit of both. Frustration, tension, and insecurity overwhelm the mood, and though it can be a struggle to summon up the courage to check behind every corner, you’re going to have to trust me when I tell you that’s a good thing. In fact, The Evil Within is at its most successful when it causes you to jump out of your seat, and let me tell you, it did that more than its fair share of times.
"The Evil Within is at its most successful when it causes you to jump out of your seat, and let me tell you, it did that more than its fair share of times."
Agonizing. That’s the best way to describe the 30 or so hours I spent with my first play through of The Evil Within. Shinji Mikami knows what he’s doing and spares no time immediately plunging the player into a grotesque mixture of sadistic violence, macabre enemies, and unrelenting tension that feels like a true horror experience, one I haven’t had the pleasure of going through since I was a kid playing Resident Evil 2 for the first time. Unlike the modern nods to survival horror, think titles like Outlast and Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within gives you the illusion of safety. It arms you with a variety of weapons, gives you a way out, and makes you feel like you just might survive, then it goes out of its way to rip any comfort you’ve found away from you, leaving you stripped and clinging to life. It reminded me at points of games like Dark Souls, what with its unbelievably brutal enemies that require pinpoint accuracy or extreme creativity to bring down. Fighting down to your last bullet is commonplace, and making every last shot count becomes more than just a mantra, it becomes a way of life.
"Fighting down to your last bullet is commonplace, and making every last shot count becomes more than just a mantra, it becomes a way of life."
Though the story does get absolutely ridiculous as the game goes on, I found myself enjoying every moment of it, smiling about the fact that Mikami went with a bit of absurdity to break up the tension. Then again, I’m a B-movie horror fan, and some may be put off by its over-the-top presentation. I’ll put it to you this way: if you love kitschy flicks like Re-Animator, Hellraiser, or pretty much anything directed by David Cronenburg, then The Evil Within will be more than up your alley.
I spent all my time with the PS4 version of the game, though I did get an opportunity to play it for a little while PS3 as well. Aside from enhanced textures, faster load times, and the inclusion of a few ambient lighting effects, I didn’t notice much of a difference in graphics between the last-gen and current-gen versions of the game which was a tad disappointing, especially with so many titles being released lately that boast their eye-candy. The Evil Within definitely could have benefitted from more of a next generation realization, but even as it stands it sets a foundation for what can only hope will continue on to be thriving series. Hopefully this one will remain rooted firmly in its survival horror elements.
"Aside from enhanced textures, faster load times, and the inclusion of a few ambient lighting effects, I didn’t notice much of a difference in graphics between the last-gen and current-gen versions of the game which was a tad disappointing."
The Evil Within is not a forgiving game, though. Expect more than a few frustrating moments that start off genuinely terrifying, but quickly become tedious. Instant death sequences are scattered throughout the game, and the checkpoint system is far from forgiving. Nothing is worse than spending 45 minutes slowly stealth killing each and every enemy, saving your ammo and precious health pickups, only to find a trap or enemy lying in wait for you around the corner, ending your life and forcing you to start all over at the beginning of the chapter. My advice? Take a deep breath, set down your controller, and come back to the game understanding that this is supposed to be an unforgiving experience. It’s going to happen a lot.
"Though the game is unforgiving, the graphics look a bit dated, and the story takes a straight to the madhouse, I loved my time with The Evil Within."
Weapons and ammo are fun to use. They offer a lot of possibility as well, especially for those that think out of the box. Matches and the use of fire also play a big part of this game. If anything looks remotely burnable, take note of it and use it to your advantage, because in this game fire is your best friend. Controls feel good and inventory management is relatively smooth, but are still prone to panic-ridden mistakes, which there will be plenty of. Upgrades are smartly implemented, and offer up a chilling list of options that all feel necessary. You’ll definitely find yourself questioning your next move and ultimately decided whether or not your choices were worth it. It makes everything feel valuable, which is essential, especially in a title such as this.
Though the game is unforgiving, the graphics look a bit dated, and the story takes a straight to the madhouse, I loved my time with The Evil Within. Sure, the game needs some improvements, but it’s a true nod to the survival horror genre. It’s one with immense replay value (new game plus modes) and it’s the perfect title for the Halloween season. Play it with the lights off and headphones on for the best experience and let yourself be completely engulfed in barbed-wire-laden terror… if you dare.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation 4