Fashionably Late Reviews
The Evil Within

By Malcolm Inglis - December 7th, 2014

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The latest survival horror game to hit current generation consoles is directed by none other than the original creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami, considered by many to be the father of the survival horror game genre. With his name attached there is a lot of hype and high expectations around this game since the last title in this genre he was involved with was the critically acclaimed and fan favourite, Resident Evil 4, which was released just under a decade ago. With a new studio and team, Tango Gameworks, can Shinji create another horror masterpiece in The Evil Within? We were sent a PS4 copy to determine the answer to this question.

The game begins with a cut-scene of the title character, Detective Sebastian Castellanos, speeding in a police cruiser with his colleagues (Julie Kidman and Joseph Oda) to the scene of a mass murder at the Beacon Mental Hospital. Upon arrival, as the site is being secured by police forces, they begin to investigate the scene of the murders when they are attacked by a mysterious figure (seemingly with super-powers) and Sebastian is knocked unconscious. He awakens to find himself being hung upside down in a blood soaked room covered in viscera – with a mutilated psychotic butchering the remains of other unfortunate victims. From here it’s up to you to guide Sebastian out of the predicament that he is in, by sneaking away from the maniac and going farther into the hospital to try and find your colleagues (and find out the secrets of what has happened at the hospital and what evil force is now taking over the rest of Krimson City).

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Sebastian is about to lose his first game or rock-paper-scissors-axe-chainsaw.

Sebastian starts off unarmed, and the only immediate option is to sneak around or outrun enemies; you do have a melee attack, but this only knocks the enemy back and buys you some time – which is sometimes not enough. And so, you will begin the process of crouching and moving slowly through the hospital, running when you are sure that you are outside of the enemies’ field of view. On the easier difficulty setting, an icon appears on the screen (in the shape of an eye) that shows when you are in range of an enemy (but they haven’t spotted you yet). If they do manage to catch you in their sight, the eye widens and you have to run and try to hide in a designate area (lockers, closets, under beds, etc.); but even if you find a space to take cover, it’s not a guarantee you won’t be found.

The enemies in the game are mostly variations of the disfigured and mutilated humans that have been affected by the evil forces. As you progress through the game you not only eventually acquire a knife and lantern to light your way, but also other weapons: a revolver, shotgun, sniper rifle, and the less traditional “agony crossbow”, which uses various bolts for impaling, electrocuting and blowing apart enemies. Even after attaining a fully armed status, it’s still a struggle for Sebastian; ammo is scarce and must be used sparingly. Luckily, bolts for the agony crossbow can be crafted with parts found lying about (and from dismantling explosive traps and trip wires that have been laid out for our unsuspecting protagonist).

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

Even if an enemy is downed (after taking several bullets or crossbow bolts), it doesn’t necessarily mean that Sebastian is safe; if they haven’t been blown up there is a chance that they can get back up and chase after him again. This is where finding and collecting matches comes in handy; once a foe is down you can light them on fire to finish them off. Other collectible items found throughout the game are a strange green gel that Sebastian can use to upgrade abilities and weapons, and keys that are used to unlock morgue lockers in the Asylum, which is a safe area Sebastian can temporarily escape to. In each level, whenever Sebastian finds a mirror, he can use it to travel to the Asylum. It is in the Asylum where the game can be saved (with assistance of nurse Tatiana), and abilities can be upgraded. Collected green gel can enhance Sebastian (sprinting and aiming), but can also be used to upgrade weapons (clip size and critical hit). The aforementioned morgue lockers can contain ammo and health, increasing the value of travelling back and forth. As well, while wandering around the Asylum, you can find newspaper clippings and other items that reveal further details of the events that occurred in Krimson City leading up to the evil force being unleashed.

The game leads Sebastian through a diverse range of locations, including the hospital, a forest, and a mansion. Each area contains different variations of enemies, with the end of the level usually culminating in a boss fight. These epic battles provided the most interesting and grotesque enemies for Sebastian to overcome – including the horrific “Keeper” (aka Boxhead): a giant humanoid figure with a safe on his head, a large hammer and a sack filled with the heads of his victims.

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This is the most secure safe deposit box that I have ever seen.

The Evil Within can be said to look pretty good on the current generation of consoles. As I mentioned in my preview of the game at E3, it is displayed in an anamorphic resolution with film grain and lens effects that give the game a “filmic” look. These effects add to the atmosphere and try to make the visuals more realistic-looking. However, many of the backgrounds and textures in the game are rough and jagged, ending up looking too “low-res”. Furthermore, the main characters are highly-detailed, but the animation is stiff. The game also takes a hit from time to time when there is too much happening on-screen, causing the game to chug along at sub-30fps. The sound effects and music add a lot to the scares in the game, including loud noises when an enemy surprises you and a tense musical score which begins to rise when danger is approaching. Unfortunately, some of the voice acting and dialogue leave much to be desired, with clumsy lines and a flat delivery even with a few big names in Hollywood providing the voice overs.

The Evil Within has a lot of content and will take the average player at least 15-20hrs to complete. During this time the game does offer up lots of new locales and enemies, but it can start to become a bit repetitive after a while. At times it can also become very frustrating, as there will be times where you will repeat whole sections after dying a cheap death due to clunky controls and a lack of save points. However, the intriguing story and cool boss fights will keep you pushing forward to see what happens next. Overall, as a survival horror game, The Evil Within may disappoint (even though it has some decent scares). It is definitely more action-oriented and has a strong focus on combat, rather than the actual survival aspect, and with bland visuals and repetitive game-play, it isn’t quite the masterpiece this generation is looking for.

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