When The Evil Within was announced it came with a massive amount of hype. There was so much talk of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami bringing back true survival horror and creating something that’s greatness could compare to Resident Evil 4. With the bar set so high based on Mikami’s legacy, how does The Evil Within stack up to some of survival horror’s greatest?
The story revolves around Krimson City detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners, Joseph Oda and Julie Kidman, responding to a multiple homicide call at the Beacon Mental Hospital. Sebastian quickly realizes this is definitely not just another day at the office as things go sideways and he’s left stranded and lost. The Evil Within‘s story remains a mystery for the majority of the game, focusing mostly on Sebastian locating his partners and figuring out exactly where he is.
As a main protagonist Sebastian Castellanos is not the most interesting character you’ll ever play as. The same can be said for the supporting cast. The voice acting is very bland and almost nap inducing, considering the characters are in a life or death situation. You may recognize Julie Kidman as Jennifer Carpenter, best known for the foul mouthed cop sister on the hit series Dexter. Unfortunately Jennifer does not get much of an opportunity to shine and put her wide array of curse words to use.
The Evil Within features the same 3rd person over the shoulder gameplay that was made famous in Resident Evil 4. The controls and character movements are smooth, seamlessly switching from running, shooting, or crouching. The first portion of the game focuses heavily on stealth, as you’re being stalked in labyrinth type corridors by deranged maniacs. Ammunition is sparse and melee attacks are virtually ineffective which creates a feeling of hopelessness that is expected in a survival horror game. Apparently the Krimson City police department has no focus on cardiovascular endurance, since poor Sebastian cannot sprint for more than a brief second without panting and wheezing with his hands on his knees. This can become frustrating when trying to maneuver around a mob of enemies as it leaves you completely immobile while your stamina bar regenerates. Luckily for our detective pal, sprinting endurance is one of the many skills that can be upgraded.
This brings us to the topic of green gel. Green gel is collected from breaking barrels and crates or defeating tough enemies. This gel is basically a currency used to purchase several upgrades. These upgrades include character upgrades such as life and sprint time, weapon upgrades such as damage and reload speed, and stock upgrades that will increase the amount of ammunition you can carry. One of the most unique weapons of The Evil Within is the Agony Crossbow. The Agony Crossbow uses a variety of different bolts that can give you an edge on any enemy you encounter, whether it’s freezing them, shocking them, or even pinning them with an explosive charge. These bolts are crafted using parts that are found throughout the game and salvaged from disarming traps.
While it shows flashes of brilliant survival horror, The Evil Within has many moments that feel all too familiar.
One of the highlights of The Evil within is how well it creates a truly creepy atmosphere. The background noises of a revving chainsaw or the disturbing squishing sounds made from walking science experiments will guarantee to raise the hair on your neck. Unfortunately this is overshadowed at times by the dodgy graphics. For every moment that The Evil Within shows off some beautiful visuals there are equal moments when textures take a few moments to load or certain character features, like hair, create mysterious blotches on Sebastian’s forehead. Keep in mind that this is a PlayStation 3 review so PS4 and Xbox One players may have a more polished visual experience.
The opening chapters of The Evil Within show a glimmer of hope for Survival Horror fans. As mentioned before the odds are stacked against you as you must sneak around enemies with no way to defend yourself. You are unable to simply run away from enemies and your mobility decreases as your health is lowered. As the chapters progress you gain more firepower and ammo pick ups become more frequent, which changes the focus from stealthy survival to more third person shooting action. While it shows flashes of brilliant survival horror, The Evil Within has many moments that feel all too familiar.
There is no denying that The Evil Within shows tremendous potential to become an excellent survival horror series. The excellent gameplay and controls are unfortunately balanced with underwhelming characters, graphical issues, and a slow starting storyline. If you’re a fan of Shinji Mikami and his many classic survival horror games there is no doubt you will enjoy The Evil Within despite it’s blemishes.