Having played it, The Evil Within is 2014’s most promising title (as a survival horror tragic)

by Ben Salter 7 Comments 15 Likes 5,008 Views 28/05/2014 Back to Xbox One articles The Evil Within

The return of true survival horror. A new IP that isn't rehashing a safe formula. Shinji Mikami.

These elements conspire to make The Evil Within 2014’s most promising upcoming title from the mysterious pool of the year’s many unknown qualities.

There is plenty to be excited about over the coming six months — although the cross-gen handicap remains a persistent factor — but this E3 we’re going to be inundated with sequels that we already know about. Meanwhile, the hyped new IPs from major publishers establishing a cautious console generation are keeping the safety on in the battle of risk aversion.

The Evil Within already stands out from the crowd.

THE REBIRTH OF SURVIVAL HORROR

The Evil Within has been pushed back two months, to October 23, to accommodate the extra polishing that transforms a stingy horror game into a terrifying fight for survival. As the next five months transpire, you’re going to hear The Evil Within described as one thing: this is what Resident Evil 5 should have been.

There's fair reason for the comparison. Director Shinji Mikami created Resident Evil, but left following the conclusion of what is arguably the best in the series, and the most important third-person shooter of the 2000s, Resident Evil 4.

I had seen the resemblance between the once GameCube exclusive and The Evil Within before, but it wasn’t until I played two chapters for myself (both in the middle of the game, as to not leak the story) that I truly understood the relationship between what was once the benchmark for survival horror, and the newcomer that’s destined to claim similar high praise.

Calling it Resident Evil 4.5 would be to discredit The Evil Within. The fleeting glimpses of story and its inscrutable world struggling to emerge from the shadows, purposely leaving the player in the lurches, are nothing like the Resident Evil lore, and protagonist detective Sebastian Castellanos won’t be remembered for his perfect hair or bulging biceps.

Yet, controller in hand, it feels so similar to the game I once dreamed about. The control scheme and Sebastian’s movement are fluid with Mikami magic, and feel like a modernised version of Resident Evil 4 (let’s face it, the original control scheme is horribly dated in a dual analogue world).

Crucially, as a survival horror tragic, The Evil With demands you choose fight or flight. That’s where the survival-action monstrosity has gone wrong; being able to retaliate fire while running away undermines the artificially tense atmosphere, and morphs what should have been a horror game into another action shootout.

The Evil Within permits Sebastian to move and shoot at the same time — the beginning of the end for Resident Evil in the eyes of loyalists — but it corners you to focus most of your effort on one or the other. It’s too late to ask a new generation of gamers to stand stationary to fire, that would be moving backwards, so Shinji’s team has crafted an ingenious solution to recapture the fear generated by opting to make a last stand when you had a chance to flee.

A combination of enigmatic enemies powered by supernatural forces beyond the realm of understanding — we were purposely kept in the dark as how some of these monsters have such outlandish abilities — and Sebastian’s movement favouring firing or electing to run emulate the survival instincts of the horror games of yesteryear. Sebastian needs to fight with limited supplies or run away to regroup, and there’s no room for second thoughts.

A THINKING MAN

Purist horror emerges from the unknown. In the two hours of The Evil Within I’ve played — two differing chapters spread across a predominantly outdoor village and the confines of a booby-trapped mansion — I encountered some terrifyingly deadly foes with a skerrick of ammo and impromptu weapons, but it was the unknown around the next corner that was deeply unnerving.

The Evil Within is survival horror in its truest form, and the return of a once great genre I feared was lost to the mass market addicted to relentless action.

The loud screams and deafening creatures launching out of unexpected darkness were startling, but the quietness amidst is almost as ominous.

With extremely limited resources, and an inherent need to craft ambitious weapons from whatever can be found, wasting a bullet on an enemy that isn’t going to be killed isn’t an option. You’ll need to think your way through tense combat, with little time to do so, and ensure the inventory is never unforgivably depleted.

When not engaging ravaged enemies, most of Sebastian’s time is consumed by mind-bending puzzles. During the mansion chapter, I had to open a suspicious bolted door, locked behind three horrifying mechanisms. There were traps to avoid, numbers to solve and surprising correlations to make — with the best having me figuratively jumping for joy, desperate to gloat of my genius at solving an impeding obstacle (that had to be solved to progress).

It’s these types of puzzles that are often forgotten as a key ingredient in survival horror. They push the fine line between ingenuity and sheer frustration. A line that when crossed requires a momentary break to avoid circling in a self-imposed pit of disorientation that can only be escaped by a fresh perspective. That’s when it all compounds to overload problem-solving skills, but when it’s all going to plan, solving the conundrums leave you feeling on top of the world — but only for a moment, as much of the joy from success is generated by the knowledge a partly solved mystery can be unraveled by unexpected death at any time, reverting progress back to square one.

It’s this blend that makes The Evil Within so compelling, and a true survival horror game. It’s not all combat, as there are plenty of mysteries to solve, not least the disconcerting nature of events. When you do have a brush with death, an early decision between fighting or fleeing is imperative, and even then, success will largely depend on how wasteful you were with shotgun shells in the last encounter.

It's the blend of challenging combat, stingy survival, genuine horror and inspiring puzzles I never found on the PS3 or Xbox 360 generation.

The Evil Within is survival horror in its truest form, and the return of a once great genre I feared was lost to the mass market addicted to relentless action.

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Having played it, The Evil Within is 2014’s most promising title (as a survival horror tragic) Comments

  • Patrick812 87 XP 28/05/2014
    At this stage The Evil Within is poised to take my personal Game of the Year, unless a few other IP's have something to say that is.

    I love my survival horror, and even though games of the genre have been somewhat lacking both survival or horror of late, they still hold a somewhat special place memory in my hard drives. So, what most seem to be describing of late as a true survival horror experience like that of the past, well... *_*

    Also, October is going to be hell on wallets everywhere; it's the new and more expensive November :*(
  • Gryllis 338292 XP 28/05/2014

    @Patrick812 said: At this stage The Evil Within is poised to take my personal Game of the Year, unless a few other IP's have something to say that is.
    I love my survival horror, and even though games of the genre have been somewhat lacking both survival or horror of late, they still hold a somewhat special place memory in my hard drives. So, what most seem to be describing of late as a true survival horror experience like that of the past, well...
    Also, October is going to be hell on wallets everywhere; it's the new and more expensive November



    I think they've been very lacking of late. We've had some cool survival games, like The Last of Us, but not really survival and horror - horror for some reason has become action horror.

    This is a return to what made survival horror great in RE4 and before it, but modernised.

    Shinji *_*
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  • Arthur979 61 XP 28/05/2014
    wow I didn't know the guy who made resident evil is making this. Now I am excite :D
  • stonecold 32397 XP 28/05/2014

    Patrick812 said: The Evil Within is poised to take my personal Game of the Year,


    Same. Now its delayed, what am I gonna play intil then :(
    Was soo looking forward to it. It is my number 1 most anticipated game of the year
  • Olly 32485 XP 29/05/2014

    @Gryllis said:
    This is a return to what made survival horror great in RE4 and before it, but modernised.



    You gave me some faith in the preview that this would be good and then you put great survival horror and RE4 in the same sentence in your post...

    Other previews I have read have painted doubts so i'm not so sure about this title anymore.
  • espi_band 167 XP 01/06/2014
    It would still be worth the wait. I am really looking forward to this game, i dont mind a few more months of development if it means improving the game :)
  • coeboose3 5576 XP 02/06/2014
    yeah be too cant wait [Derp]

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