Because safe is just a word in Shinji Mikami’s freaky new scarefest.
from the mind of Shinji Mikami, the father of survival horror, The Evil Within is the newest and eagerly awaited game from the director of such games as Resident Evil 1-4.
‘While investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners encounter a mysterious and powerful force. After seeing the slaughter of fellow officers, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a deranged world where hideous creatures wander among the dead.’
I was one of the lucky few who got to have a proper go of the newly released demo at Japan Expo in Paris, and damn was it good. Like a macabre version of Willy Wonka’s factory opening, there were long queues for the demo, even on the quieter days at Expo, and this just added to the tension building up amongst fans eager to have the first peek. Grotesque yet haunting artwork covered the booth, whilst those waiting at the front of the queue watched earlier players create their own custom mementos as posters of the box art were edited to show players’ faces contorted in pain and covered in barbed wire.
The demo starts out with you controlling Detective Sebastian Castellanos as he warily makes his way through an abandoned forest path towards a dark and foreboding mansion. The use of third person viewpoint for once, doesn’t make you feel disconnected from the action, as camera angles are used cunningly in the game to unnerve and disturb you. The atmosphere is dark and claustrophobic, and each decision in the game feels like it might be your last. Narrow doorways and a zooming camera make you feel like you’re squeezing in behind Sebastian as he enters each new room. This is only heightened by the slow pace and tentative way that he grasps and turns each handle, cranking up the fear as you wonder just what is awaiting you in each new room or hallway.
Light sources are used inventively in this game, and although you might feel safe at first with your paraffin lamp, it only serves to highlight that each brighter light casts a darker shadow in the game’s environments. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself routinely switching off that lamp just to make sure that that thing in the darkness isn’t actually following you…or is it? Although the concept of a haunted mansion should feel tired and overly familiar by now, The Evil Within somehow manages to make it feel fresh through inventive gameplay and eerie settings. Even though you’re about to poop your pants at any given moment, you’ll find yourself admiring little touches like the way the moonlight and tree branches outside cast shadows through windows and other little flourishes highlighting their attention to detail.
Gameplay is a good old fashioned survival horror nightmare. Movement is similar to Resident Evil 4 in that it’s comfortable and agile for those ‘nope’ moments, whilst still very easy to pick up and cycle through weaponry and items. Yes, you’ll have weapons and ammo, but you better preserve them if you want to survive long enough to see the game through to its conclusion. Instead, much of the demo was spent hiding and sneaking past enemies Solid Snake style. Sharp movements and loud noises attract enemies to investigate your location, and an awareness meter appears at the top of the screen to let you know how much they’re currently interested in you.
It might be satisfying to unload that headshot on whatever the hell was chasing you down that hallway, but you better be prepared for the consequences. Bodies have to be burnt if you don’t want them to come back to life and kick your butt, so make sure that if you are going to take that thing down, that you have enough matches to burn it afterwards. Weapons shown in the demo included a pistol, knife, shotgun, and crossbow with varying types of ammo, hinting that later enemies will be tough and have exploitable weaknesses; similar to the bosses of the early Resident Evil games.
I won’t spoil the surprise, but you better keep on your toes as you’re never truly safe anywhere in The Evil Within. Later on in the demo, it’s made horribly clear that the monsters aren’t your only worry, with the mansion itself hiding horrible secrets and traps in wait for you. Peppered throughout the horrifying tension like Easter Eggs from Satan, are various puzzles that you have to solve to advance through the game. These include art and gory brain examinations that if you’re (un)lucky, will play horrifying audio of torture and experiments gone awry.
All in all, The Evil Within is set to be a big hit amongst horror fans later this year when it’s released by Bethesda Softworks. With an additional ‘Fighter’s Chance limited edition, The Evil Within is due to launch in the EU and UK on the 24th October 2014 (just in time for Halloween) and will be available for PC, current gen (PS4/XBO) and previous gen formats.
I’d say play this game if you liked Silent Hill, The Clocktower series, early Resident Evil games or just about any other old school survival horror games and avoid if you scare easily, have anxiety, or prefer a more action oriented horror game.