The Evil Within review

The Evil Within review

The Evil Within review

by October 14, 2014

Climbing into a metal storage room lined with moist, gleaming viscera, I spot one of the undead Haunted horde, chowing down on some unlucky sucker. I quietly sneak up behind it, but it hears me somehow and turns around to attack… just in time for a giant tentacle to slide out of an overhead pipe, grab it, and disappear. Uh, all right then. But it isn’t long until I’m facing that belligerent squid monster myself, while viciously outgunned and with no idea why I’m fighting it, because that’s how this game works. A head-first dive into an awe-inspiring, grotesque world, The Evil Within misses the mark on gameplay and story, but still comes at horror in a unique way that’s worth experiencing.

A callback to the old-school, Resident Evil gameplay of yore (by the Resi 4 man himself, Shinji Mikami), The Evil Within stars Sebastian Castellanos, a detective dragged into a horrific nightmare world by a psychotic phantom. While he scrambles to understand how exactly he got strung up in a butcher shop specializing in human meat, the world around him immediately jumps to attention. On the surface, the graphics create a photorealistic setting that looks like you could reach through the TV and touch it. The slaughter-filled environments promptly use those graphics to render things you definitely don’t want to reach out and grab, like bloody saws and monsters whose heads are embedded with barbed wire.

Gore is the name of the game here, where sacrifices tied up in bags give way to monsters that rip off their own heads. While such grotesque imagery isn’t inherently frightening–when you’ve seen one spurting blood fountain, you’ve seen ’em all–it immediately sets the tone of the world and doesn’t let up through Sebastian’s entire journey. You never forget what a dangerous, awful place you’re trapped in, and you could even call it beautiful… in that deranged way people do before they start laughing maniacally.

When boots hit the unsettlingly stained pavement and Sebastian encounters the Haunted (the zombie-like monsters you’ll spend most of the game killing), he in theory has a wide array of options for how to eliminate them. Sadly, they don’t work so well in practice. For instance, it’s possible to stealth kill most unaware enemies by taking them out from behind, but many are hyper-aware and your methods of distracting them ineffective. You can throw a bottle (or fire an arrow if you like to live dangerously and waste ammo) to direct their attention elsewhere. However, they rarely stay occupied long, and will often turn around for no apparent reason and spot you like hide-and-seek world champions. That certainly makes landing a blade in the back of a Haunted head feel like a triumph, but limits stealth from being used effectively in all but a couple of sequences specifically designed to take advantage of it. Traps (either environmental ones already in place, or those that you set yourself using the Agony Crossbow) are an option as well, and they have great staying power against two or three enemies. But if you’re dealing with a crowd, as you often will, the traps become less and less effective, and any Haunted that aren’t standing directly on the trap have a nasty habit of surviving them.