The Evil Within is a hair-raising experience that starts early in the first chapters of the lengthy psychological adventure. While the major gaming outlets currently have the Playstation 4 version hovering around a 76 and Xbox One edition at an 84 out of 100 average, it seems like a must-play for fans of the survival horror genre. The mind behind this title, Shinji Mikami, has a resume that includes Resident Evil 4, and aspects of that title shine through in a new way from this game’s opening chapters.
Going through the opening bits of The Evil Within, anyone that has played other games from the genre can feel a familiarity almost immediately. While Resident Evil 4 began a couple of trends found in this game, such as light quick-time events and third-person shooting, the gameplay itself feels more akin to The Last of Us. Granted, that title’s zombie-shooting was just a tweaked version of Resident Evil 4, but the slow, deliberate ways of moving through environments is something found in the more recent game. Stealth kills are positioned early as a preferable path against standard enemies as noise or line of sight will bring them together en masse to lay out the Detective for good.
These opening bits, besides the stealth kills, feel as The Last of Us did in numerous ways. Supplies, such as bullets and health, are beyond scarce; on the “standard” difficulty, players can consider themselves lucky to have any bullets or health after the second chapter of The Evil Within. It takes a somewhat careful eye to spot traps in the way of trip wires, bear traps and enemies waiting to reanimate. Each of these can be dealt with peacefully, the mechanical traps giving parts for some future contraption while enemies on the ground can be burnt with found matches or torches, sometimes yielding more supplies. The shaky aiming, weighty sound of the guns and tenaciousness of the enemies make shooting a tense affair against one or ten closing foes.
The visuals in the opening chapters of The Evil Within leave an impression that probably will not go away for a long time. Graphically, the opening moments seem somewhat standard until a mysterious enemy places you next in line for a human butcher. Without being too graphic, the sounds and environment clearly show that this is not a place to be, especially for hemaphobics. Sebastian Castellanos, The Evil Within’s protagonist, goes through these tutorial zones, but is in no way safe with that butcher not wanting his prize to escape. The second chapter introduces the standard enemies and an nontraditional upgrade system that may turn some people away from upgrading at all. The additions are certainly welcome, but the way in which Sebastian applies them can be quite unsettling.
Opening with this programmed stinginess as a principle piece of gameplay incurs feelings that lovers of Resident Evil will remember, but newcomers to the genre may have to get used to. Another survivor horror game, Alien: Isolation, instilled a kind of helplessness in the player with the unstoppable Xenomorph enemy. The difference between The Evil Within and that title is that you are given the means to survive in various ways here while Isolation introduced a more “run-and-hide” answer to the game’s most dangerous foe. Choices such as that give Shinji Mikami’s latest the first pieces in place to be his greatest, and there is still a lot of insanity to shift through until the end.
Opinion by Myles Gann