The Evil Within tries to be Toyama's Silent Hill!
Shinji Mikami's The Evil Within is the first game he's directed since 2010's absolute blast, Vanquish! He was also the creative producer on Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows of the Damned, the game which featured a glorious throwback to The Evil Dead films. I'd recommend that game to anyone looking for a bit of fun, but what about The Evil Within?
One can certainly see the director's desire to channel the franchise that we all loved to hate: Silent Hill (I mean hate in the sense that it scared the living sh*** out of me). But in what ways does this game draw from the previous efforts and varying styles that Mikami has exhibited over the years? To whom would I recommend his latest game and what could that potential player expect to find in this horror universe? All the answers are here, let's take a look at The Evil Within!
Drawing from the past
While Silent Hill is certainly an inspiration and an impactful element upon the ambience of The Evil Within, the game also demonstrates the great Resident Evil games' style horror. The elements of the slash terror horror we're so familiar with from Resident Evil 4 EW are mixed with some of the remake's more creepily-paced resource management skills.
The game is set in a paranormal universe, therefore permitting the director to play with notions of reality as we explore the dark, dank and horrifying locations that we're trying to escape. You will find yourself trapped and hunted within the confines of dilapidated hospitals, grueling forgotten prisons and unforgettable torture chambers as you are consistently subjected to alternate dreamlike realities in The Evil Within.
The game is divided into various chapters, each being presented in 2.35:1 ration and demonstrating the game's superb art direction. As one expects from Japan, we are pulled out to a menu after the completion of a chapter which I continuously struggled with.
The menus seemed to not only pull me out of the game but also out of the atmosphere, and while they certainly offer an, albeit, momentary form of release from tension, the overall effect resulted in my exclusion from the game's great ambience, which took a while to return to. A small issue, but in a game that relies so much on its atmosphere I felt this worth mentioning.
In order to progress in this hostile and terrifying world, the player will have to take control of Sebastian Castellanos and learn to utilize his surroundings as a method of survival. With an array of weapons at your disposal from the standard knife or shotgun to the Agony crossbow (which can be used to freeze, blind, electrocute, or explode your enemies) taking down enemies may seem simple, but don't let that fool you.
Crafting is vital to your survival. Mikami understands the importance of us finding our own path through the game, rather than supplying us with weapons that simply deal great damage upon pickup. Each weapon lends different functions that serve well against varying enemy types, it also depends upon the player's style of whether they want to trick their enemies with explosives and traps or simply blow the hell out of them with guns.
You'll come to realize yourself what works well and learn to hang onto items that suit your playing style, but staying smart and effectively using what the game gives you is vital to your survival.
The enemies in The Evil Within are seriously tough, particularly since you don't want to be anywhere near them. The creatures that roam these corridors are hideous beings that never fail to instill terror. If they get too close there is a melee combat option available, but this really only pushes them back, so you can run rather than killing them.
The deaths in this game are vicious. Blood soaks the screen and the surrounding floors and walls following an enemies' death or your own. The torture elements are difficult to watch at times as we encounter mad scientists and beings designed to make your life a living hell.
The enemies can arrive in packs and swarm upon you with a variation of melee and ranged attacks, occasionally forcing you into a corner which never fails to fill you with terror. You can also utilize objects in your surroundings as noise-makers to distract the enemies that hunt you in order to prevent being overrun, but the worst aspect about these creatures is how they refuse to die.
Enemies can rise up even after you deliver some serious beatings and even following decapitation, leaving fire as the last option for finally laying them to rest. The AI is effective at keeping you on your toes, generally leaving the player to feel helpless against the odds.
Sebastian represents the player well in The Evil Within, he consistently can be overwhelmed by the horrors that surround him as he struggles and limps his way to salvation. We feel his pain as we are confronted with yet another terror that seems too powerful for us to overcome.
The Evil Within's campaign is all about making the player feel 'the horror.' Though unfortunately, this isn't the best display of Mikami's great attention to pacing. The middle section of the game can feel a bit sluggish, forcing us to confront some banal locations and some moments of death that just seem unfair. There are also situations that I felt I'd played in earlier games (such as having to face a guy with a chainsaw in a village, which happens so often in his creations), sure they are slicker in The Evil Within, but they couldn't help but draw me out of the experience at times.
That being said, the protagonist and majority of settings are well realized and the combat system is a pleasure to use. The game genuinely makes you feel afraid to turn corners, to let enemies get too close, and that moment when you fire your shotgun only to realize you have nothing left is truly awful.
The game world can transform during scripted events and as the result of player actions, altering locations and creating new paths. Castellanos must use medical items to restore health; some of these items cause temporary hallucinogenic effects. By collecting vials of green fluid throughout the game, players can upgrade Castellanos' abilities, which becomes increasingly satisfying.
Having only played this on the PS4 I can only speak of graphical content in terms of the NextGen console. The graphics weren't as great as I would have expected, with some areas seeming a bit poorly generated. Though overall it's a slick looking experience on the PS4 that'll draw you into its dark world.
While certainly not reaching the great heights that this wonderful director has reached in his past, he has certainly taken the elements that have worked for him over the years and placed almost all of them into The Evil Within. The result is a very enjoyable, terrifying albeit muddled experience which I would still highly recommend to fans of horror games or of the world of the great Shinji Mikami.
My verdict: 8.5/10
The Evil Within will be released tomorrow for PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360 and PS3.