Good old Survival Horror, who can forget the classics like Resident Evil, Parasite Eve or Silent Hill? As it turns out Shinji Mikami hasn’t forgotten the glory days of Survival Horror and being the creator of Resident Evil, how can he? Now I’m going to be brutally honest, I felt like this game betrayed me as I was playing through it and I was ready to just tear into this game as payback and show no mercy, listing all the ways it failed to do its job and how much of an utter betrayal this game was but after finishing it I don’t feel angry anymore. My hate for this game quickly faded during the final boss fight (which rocked by the way) and I was left with an inner conflict I am still trying to resolve even as I write this article. Maybe I will find the resolution I’m looking for at the end of this article, or maybe I’ll have to go and replay the game again. There’s only one way to find out so let’s not waste any more time and into the mind of The Evil Within.
Upon starting this game I was immediately wowed by the effects on the character models during the prologue, the way that the raindrops landed on the main character’s coat and slowly soaked its way through leaving very realistic looking wet patches on his shoulders and back.
The texture quality in this area wasn’t too bad either however as the game went on I noticed what appeared to be a decline in visual quality as the textures in later parts of the game looked muddy and low resolution, character models started to look dated and not as impressive as they did at the start, and the awesome liquid effects seen during the prologue were nowhere to be seen. Poor visuals can be forgiven if the gameplay and story make up for it, however it would be remiss of me not to mention the game’s lackluster performance due to its framerate being capped to 30 and the forced aspect ratio of 2.5:1, these can be changed in the developer console which Bethesda have released to the public, you can find a few guides on these in the Steam Community page. That’s not the only thing to go into a steady decline and when I say steady decline I really mean it goes in a very strange direction for what’s supposed to be a classic survival horror game. The first few chapters played like traditional survival horror with the usual open(ish) levels, scarce ammo and health drops and enemies shuffling about and you have the option to fight or avoid them by sneaking around them and hiding, but later on the game suddenly becomes a corridor shooter for a few chapters while still being very stingy with ammo and health drops. This was the point where I started getting really annoyed at the game because it just seemed to me that it didn’t know what it wanted to be, the game is full of stupidly difficult sections where you are forced into an arena and swarmed by waves of enemies just so you use up all your ammo and health items and after experiencing the start of the game, this felt oddly disconnected to that experience, like I’d shifted sideways in to another universe where The Evil Within wasn’t actually a survival horror game but something else entirely.
These are the weaker parts of the game and they are plentiful, they’re not fun or interesting because the enemies you face are the same generic enemies you’ve fought in previous sections only there are a lot more of them. The only variety in these sections relates to what your targets are holding, sometimes they’re carrying an axe or a sickle, sometimes it’s a stick of dynamite or they’re not carrying anything at all which alter the enemies’ grapple attacks: unarmed enemies will strangle you and do minor damage over time unless you break free with a QTE, armed enemies will grab you and swat you with their weapon taking a quarter of your health off and as for enemies with dynamite, they’ll grab you and give you an explosive hug you’re not soon to forget, instantly killing you, sometimes, explosive damage seemed inconsistent and affected by random things such as time of day and phasing of the moon. It also doesn’t help that not every headshot will kill an enemy. This lies in the fact that your weapons have a chance to do a “Critical hit” which will kill in one shot to the head, a nice idea if I’m honest but at the start all weapons have a 0% critical chance and you have to spend some experience (in the form of Green Gel) to get your critical chance up the maximum of which is 50% at level 5. If you do run out of ammo, you have melee weapons to help protect you, but there’s not much in terms of variety. You have your fists/pistolwhip and two single use melee weapons, your fists are rubbish though because they don’t do enough damage and you have to run away after every second swing otherwise enemies will just turn around and smack you in the face so hard you’ll never need a dentist again. This means all you really have are the single use melee weapons: a hand axe and a flaming torch, which can be found in specific areas or they can drop from dead enemies. There is a third way of taking down enemies, matches, you can find boxes of matches in every level and they’re a saving grace if you’re running short on ammo, the trick is to knock enemies down with a pistol or a shotgun shot and then drop a match on their bodies and burn them to death. If there are multiple enemies near the burning body they can catch fire too, however you start with an extremely limited amount of matches unless you upgrade your match capacity, also as a word of advice, don’t go burning bodies that are actually dead as it not only wastes matches, but you feel a little silly afterwards.
I feel I have said enough about the gameplay and its difficulty, I found the linear shooter and arena sections really annoying but I loved the quieter and slower moments. It’s that dissonance that caused my hate for the game in the first place because in my mind this is not how a survival horror should play, survival horror to me should be slow and subtle while offering you options in combat, fight or flight. While this game has plenty of tension, that alone doesn’t make survival horror. To me survival horror made you feel uneasy and unwilling to engage enemies because they were threatening and monstrous but you had the option to avoid them, this game doesn’t give you such options outside of go in guns blazing or stealth kill everything and no matter what you do you will be forced to fight and I feel this hurts the game badly. So what is The Evil Within? It’s an action horror game with some stealth elements and challenging encounters, it took me a while to come to this conclusion and when I did my opinion of it changed drastically, I had judged this game wrong and I had expected something different. My false judgment isn’t entirely my fault, I should point out as this game was heavily marketed as being old school survival horror for the new generation so my anger should really lie with the advertising and the marketing. I expected something like the classic Silent Hill games but got the modern Resident Evil instead only the developers cut down on the sugar and decided to at least try and build atmosphere rather than going for flashy Hollywood action sequences and punching boulders. While this game does have some flash it’s nowhere near as absurd as Resident Evil 6.
This is not a game for people wanting another Silent Hill 2 or the next Clock Tower, but this is a game for people looking for a decent challenge with an interesting (if a bit strange) story. It doesn’t do anything notable or particularly new or different, it has some interesting boss designs but regular encounters are very samey and repetitive, often throwing in new enemy types before quickly abandoning them again. Overall I think this is a game with an identity crisis, it didn’t know what it wanted to be and instead scrapped the idea of being a traditional survival horror game to become a challenging action horror game while still trying to cling to the idea of being survival horror so while it doesn’t get a glowing recommendation from me I’d still say give it a shot when the price goes down if you’re curious.