Let’s face it, most video-games the past few years haven’t been that scary. Shinji Mikami, the godfather of survival horror – also part of the original Resident Evil team – video-games is trying to change that with the development of upcoming title, The Evil Within.
The Evil Within stars detective Sebastian Castellanos as he finds himself in a strange place that is definitely not the wonderful land of Oz. Initially, Sebastian is accompanied by a seemingly harmless doctor who is trying to find his patient.
The bizarre world of The Evil Within is one filled with all kinds of twisted creatures and Sebastian will find out first hand just how aggressive these creatures are. So did I within the first few minutes of my demonstration. These are enemies whose sole purpose is to kill. Perhaps that’s why it is so difficult to confront an enemy like this, especially when they will attack without any notion of self preservation.
Being able to down one of these enemies is only just the beginning. In true survival horror style, it is then necessary to torch them or risk being surprise attacked once they rise – just like many iconic horror film protagonists. such as the creatures from Evil Dead. This makes for some tense moments where it’s necessary to juggle burning enemy corpses while fighting those still walking around, intent on killing the protagonist.
What is so great about the supporting cast is that it doesn’t get in the way. The location suddenly changes from a creepy basement to an even eerier sewer section – it’s basically The Evil Within’s way of messing with the player’s mind. Don’t ever think for even a second that you are safe whilst playing this game. A few careless steps in the sewer is all it takes to get poor Sebastian blown to bits.
The Evil Within isn’t one for hand holding and it makes for some interesting outcomes. Any other title would have given some sort of warning that this sewer section is crammed with traps. But The Evil Within seems intent on making sure players pay close attention to what is happening – such logic should feel familiar to those who played Dark Souls.
Anyway, once taking the time to find out their locations and how they work, traps become useful tools in fighting the large group of enemies that appear. Making use of these traps is an essential survival skill because The Evil Within isn’t your typical trigger-happy experience since ammo is scarce. Believe me, this isn’t some clever marketing ploy either..
Putting such strict restrictions on the consumption of ammo for guns and a crossbow means having to get creative. It’s fantastic to make use of such tools as wire bombs, explosive barrels and so on to lure enemies to a rather gruesome ending. The character can also sneak around and make use of a knife to kill unsuspecting enemies, therefore conserving ammo. Amusingly, being careless can also result in some equally gruesome ways for the character to die – such as disarming a bomb incorrectly.
Clicking the right analogue stick will bring up the inventory and as expected, even the health items are limited. After dealing with the sewer enemies, the character is suddenly placed inside what looks like an operation room. A creepy spider woman creature then promptly decides to give chase. The natural reaction in this situation is to empty every gun in your arsenal, hoping that she will stop and keel over. Instead, she will continue marching towards the character, throw him to the floor and violently bash his head in until it resembles a watermelon smashed into tiny pieces.
Some of the enemies in The Evil Within are invincible and the best way to face them is to run the opposite way. In this case, running back to the corridor will result in getting trapped in a dead end. Just as the dreaded feeling that it’s head smashing time again starts to sink in, a regular undead enemy crashes through the door – thus, creating a brief opportunity to escape. This kicks off a thrilling escape sequence with the spider creature constantly giving chase. Sebastian keeps running, and finally makes it to a lift. A brief moment there gives the impression that the character is safe – until the spider creature rises from a corpse and promptly smashes the character’s head in.
The second half of the demonstration takes place further into the story just as Sebastian reaches a mansion. In here, The Evil Within is able to show off that it’s not a linear experience like the sewer sequence – which was still interesting to explore due to the rather confined areas. After all, what better way to terrify someone than by putting the character inside small areas full of traps and enemies.
In the mansion, the main objective is to solve puzzles that will activate three switches and open up a large door. The puzzles are solved in no particular order and the task of finding them is the sole responsibility of the player. This is pretty much another situation where it’s necessary to look closely at surroundings – in this case, follow cables connecting the puzzle mechanisms to door switches.
The mansion is huge and there is a lot to see whilst exploring it. Yet again, it’s necessary to pay close attention because not only are there unusual traps, but an invincible creature is also constantly stalking Sebastian. It will literally pop up at the most random of times and it can teleport – meaning that even running away isn’t a guaranteed way of avoiding it.
Enemies can also open doors – albeit only by forcing them open – and yet again this emphasises that there is no area where it’s possible to feel safe. Another good example is a torture mechanism that suddenly appears as Sebastian walks into a corridor. It will grab the character and pull it towards some revolving blades. The only way to save yourself is by shooting a target to stop it.
The puzzles themselves consist of listening to a tape which gives out some rather horrible instructions of amateur experimentations with brain sections. It’s then necessary to make use of a diagram to know which is the correct area being described in the tape. The final step culminates in using a device to perforate a brain – while the subject still seemed alive – with a nail. There’s another puzzle found where it’s necessary to enter the right coordinates in a safe (only on normal or higher difficulties) to open up a door.
It’s refreshing to see a horror video-game that doesn’t just rely on the usual sights associated with the genre. Instead, it makes very good use of gore and concessional confined environments to mess with the player’s mind. Solving the portrait safe puzzle will result in blood suddenly oozing toward the player, likely making them jump out in surprise.
The mansion itself is eerie and gives a sense of dread that something awful could happen at any moment. And being stuck in a narrow corridor with a spider creature giving chase is, unsurprisingly, nerve-wrecking. These are honestly the sorts of experiences that will leave the human mind feeling disorientated and suspicious for many hours after experiencing The Evil Within.
The controls for various commands and using weapons are fine and work as expected. However, the use of certain forced camera angles sometimes makes it unnecessarily harder to see what is going on the screen than it should be. Found throughout the demonstration were items used to craft all kinds of arrows and other ammo for the crossbow. There’s also the promise of items eligible for upgrades.
Not being told what to do most of the time makes it somehow difficult to know what is going on. But it’s also a blessing given that it means paying closer attention to any subtle hints – such as the change in music, lights turning off and on and so on. This is what true survival horror is about and it shows just how confident Shinji and the rest of the team are about The Evil Within – they would rather rely on players finding their way around and let them look for things themselves rather than constantly coddling them.
It’s clear that The Evil Within is not content with finding just one idea and sticking with it. Perhaps that is what makes it such a terrifying journey, the fact that it is never clear what will happen next. It truly makes for a tense experience since players will never feel safe. Even listening to people moaning in agony in the distance will result in creating the most horifying mental images.
If the rest of Evil Within is anything like the little descent into madness I had, then it’s quite possible a lot of players will need therapy come October 24th. For now, it seems true survival horror is finally making a terrifying comeback.