There’s no escaping the fact that I, and many others, were on the hype train for this game. The horror genre has been in dire need of something that would bring fresh, new ideas to the table and bring interest to the once loved genre again. However, this is not the title to do that.
The Evil Within wastes no time thrusting you into its weird, gruesome and insane world. You play as Sebastian Castellanos and are accompanied by Julie Kidman and Joseph Oda to investigate a mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital. After entering the lobby and seeing the crime with your own eyes, your attention is drawn to surveillance footage where you witness the murder of a few security guards pulled off by a man moving at inhuman speeds. The killer on screen appears behind you and attacks, leaving you unconscious. Upon your wake, you realize you’re now in a messed up, gorey world and decide it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on.
The plot holds up a gorgeous and polished world. Artistically, it hits every high note on the page. Through dark and cramped corridors to open cities that still give off the same feeling of claustrophobia, all the environments, enemies and weapons were designed to create and fit a world that would be remember for the years to come. It never felt like there was an area throughout the game that felt that it didn’t receive as much love as the last. This is what I believe to be the games strongest feature. It looks great through and through.
But the complaints are raised when talking about the black bars to bring forth the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the game. These bars were added to add to the “cinematic” feel of the game. After taking them off, I can safely say that the bars really do something for the game. While you’re able to see more of the area you’re in at one time without them, it takes away from the cramped feeling the game is supposed to be feeling and takes away from the games story telling.
Sadly, the games story telling is one of the weakest points. It’s not interesting enough to make you go out of your way to look for more. There’s just not enough substance to everything, even with the notes that you find scattered about the game. It feels like the story was written around the levels that were designed rather than vice versa. It’s good enough to keep you going, but not good enough to make you want to learn more. It’s too straightforward. While it appears that the team was attempting to put walls around the story to make you feel the need to want to know more, they appear incomplete.
Navigating these levels has been crafted in a way that you’d almost expect from the genre. Very akin to Resident Evil 4s gameplay is The Evil Within. Follow path, shoot things in your way, or if you’re short on ammo, sneak past them and maybe give them a stealth kill. Boss time? Shoot it with all the ammo that you hopefully didn’t use. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of it laying around in the boss areas so you’ll be fine anyway!
See the issue yet?
The Evil Within markets itself as a survival horror game. While playing, I should feel suspenseful. I should feel like I’m always in danger of getting killed or being spooked. I never really felt that way at all. I was never really scared and I credit it all to the gameplay. It’s not because it was too simple, but simply because it doesn’t do enough to make you feel like you’re actually helpless, like you actually don’t stand a chance against the foes your facing. Not to mention, knocking a couple of them down close to each other, I could burn them by pressing B. It likes to try and make use of the burning mechanic that you use matches for. It’s effective and sadly can be used all the time. I was never short on matches and towards the end of the game, I often found myself in surplus of them.
The whole hiding mechanic felt completely worthless because it was never, ever needed. If something was chasing me, I’d turn around and shoot it. I should have to fear the enemies. I should have to fear the levels I’m crawling around in. Things should make me grasp my controller and give me sweaty palms, should make me jump, should make me scared. Instead, I felt like the game was a chore to get through. I wanted to see the lackluster story to an end and that was about all it held me for.
Killing enemies isn’t all bad, though. Oddly enough, it seems like it encourages you do so, rather than stealth around. On some occasions (and on some enemies all the time), they’ll drop jars of green goo that can be used to upgrade Sebastian. These jars can also be found scattered about levels and can be used to upgrade ammo capacities, damage output, sprint speed and so on. Also found laying about are goddess statues which can be destroyed to reveal a key. Keys can be used a the safe area in the game, where you’ll often be finding yourself saving at. There, there’s a room full of safe boxes. A key can open one of these boxes. Each box has a different goodie inside, be it goo, ammo or syringes for health. It really does do everything it can to make sure you have safe passage without it being too, too obvious.
Follow up a pretty looking, but empty world, stale gameplay and a poor story with dialogue that just doesn’t hit the right notes. The cast does a perfectly fine job at portraying the characters they were set to be and giving the emotion needed at the proper time. But what’s written on the page and read to you doesn’t do the game any good. It’s dry and boring through and through. The soundtrack here doesn’t do much to help add to anything. It’s there, but not often enough for you to really take notice of what’s playing in the background. For what little music that is noticed, it’s not very good, either. Screechy stringed instruments have become the norm and can complete the job of helping the tense and horroresque environment, but here they feel too random and scattered to really help anything. The sound department, besides the voice acting, is lackluster. It’s normal and plain, using the same sounds you’ve heard from previous titles across games of the past decade.
What The Evil Within gets right throughout the roughly 12-15 hour campaign is quickly diminished by everything the game does wrong. For something that came from the man who was at the helm of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil series, the expectations were set high. While not the most dreadful attempt at a revival of a genre, it’s also one that falls short of the requirements needed to leave a lasting impression on an audience.
A note for PC players:
The port ran at a stable 30 FPS while streaming once I kicked it way down to 720p. There have been a lot of issues with how well the game has been running on various systems. I have no played with the new patch, but if you are interested in purchasing the game, I highly recommend you check out the demo on the store page first.
Ethics Disclosure: This game was purchased by the reviewer.
The Evil Within can be purchased on Steam, Xbox 360/One and the Playstation 3/4 from their respective retailers and digital stores.