There is something special about a horror game that can create genuine moments of terror but still have a strong character capable of defending themselves. It feels like there’s been an abundance of indie games that only give you the chance to run and hide from opponents but now we’ve been blessed with The Evil Within. It gives you an arsenal of weapons with intelligent enemies that will keep your stomach tossing and turning the entire 15 hours of gameplay.
The game begins with an overused premise present in nearly every horror story; an asylum. You’re detective Sebastian Castellanos and it’s your job to investigate what’s happening in an abandoned asylum in the middle of town. You encounter bodies lying everywhere, blood splashed across the rooms and a mysterious hooded character, Ruvik, who serves as the games antagonist. It doesn’t take long for the game to becomes a tad confusing sending you off to various locations, seeing weird visions and sending cryptic messages that will plague you for the first six hours or so. After pulling through to the end of chapter eight you will start to see this story enfold, learning about the eccentric characters, understanding what’s happening to you and giving you a sense of purpose to continue on this creepy adventure. The story isn’t the strongest point in the game however I found it interesting enough to keep myself engaged and get to the terrifying stuff.
The Evil Within’s world is constructed perfectly with a variety of settings that all have an exquisite mise-en-scene. The colour scheme, objects, sounds and lighting work in harmony to terrify you and keep yourself on edge the entire time you’re playing. What’s unusual about the presentation of this game is the use of a letterbox. Some might see this a ploy to block your view and prevent you from seeing enemies or items but I thoroughly enjoyed how cinematic it feels. It may be a small thing but having a letterbox transformed how the game looks and it is definitely a great creative decision.
I also have to applaud how stunning the lighting is.
There is a perfect balance between light and shadow that can either help or hinder you, adding to the unsettling atmosphere.
Something noticeable in the game is the music or lack there of. Mostly you will only hear organic sounds such as chainsaws roaring, doors creaking and monsters growling with an absence of instrumentals. There is the exception of an unnerving score during boss battles but the music is mostly used as an indicator to tell the player that there is a mirror nearby. A mirror transports the player to a hub that works as a safe haven, giving you a chance to save, upgrade and most of all take a breather. This hub is essential in most levels just for the sake of saving your progress since the game can be somewhat cruel with its checkpoint system. There are plenty of moments where you’ll be forced to replay entire sections and this gets tedious quickly. This is mostly due to the time spent waiting and planning whilst playing in stealth.
Stealth is a not a mechanic used in most AAA horror games such as Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Dead Space but in The Evil Within it plays a large part in your survival. Whilst traversing areas there’s an indicator at the top of the screen notifying you if an enemy either has you in sight or is searching for you. Whenever you are not in their sights you have a small window of opportunity to get a one-hit kill and these stealth finishers are important in keeping a solid amount of ammo. You don’t always have the chance to sneak around the place and there are quite a lot of times where the game forces you into it’s combat through shoot outs, alarms being raised or encountering bosses or special enemies.
During combat you have a wide array of weapons to use as you see fit including a pistol, shotgun and crossbow. Each weapon is effective in different areas and the game limits the amount of ammo you carry, which encourages the player to try out new things and develop your own fighting style. I enjoyed headshots the most with my little pistol, mostly because headshots weren’t a guaranteed death and occasionally you’d get to see chunks of their head blown off. Also whenever you headshot an enemy they didn’t just stand there waiting to die, instead they run right at you, struggling to take you down.
All the enemies are relentless and they have some of the strongest AI I have ever seen in a horror game. They are never forgiving and won’t let you get a chance to attack them. You’ll be constantly moving around, area-to-area, trying to stop these creative and varied opponents which all have different weapons, sizes and strength. The bosses are designed magnificently and you’ll have plenty of fights struggling to keep calm and survive.
One of the most terrifying creatures you’ll come across are invisible, truly invisible, and you will have to use the environment to figure out where they are and successfully take them down.
One of the most important ways to subdue the enemy is the use of fire and in particular matches. Fire is most enemies’ strongest weakness and if you can manage to knock them over and light your match, you can take out enemies with one bullet. It’s also important to burn most bodies lying around because enemies will play dead and rise from the ground whenever you’re back is turned. You can also use matches to burn oil or haystacks to aid you and these environmental elements are extremely helpful.
Scattered around most areas are bombs or tripwires which provides easy kills for you and you’re opponent as well as other sharp traps and poison gases. These things can be found pretty easy as well if you just take the time to explore each and every area, searching each nook and cranny. By exploring you can normally find quite a lot of resources to use to your advantage and find lots and lots of your upgrading tool; green goo.
Upgrading works in your hub area where you can a creepy looking chair that sends needles into your brain every time you select a new upgrade. There is an enormous amount of choice whilst upgrading including health, stamina, gun abilities and the amount of ammo or healing items you can hold. With such variety it really gives you a chance to create your own unique Detective Castellanos.
If only the game gave you the ability to change Castellanos’s personality because it got quite boring at times. I felt like he had quite a small vocabulary, using “shit” a lot, and he seemed disconnected from what was happening. He was cool and collected, refraining from reacting to the world around him and sometimes I felt like I mimicked his behaviour. It also doesn’t help having some horrendous voice acting.
The Evil Within does a perfect job of keeping you tense and on edge. My stomach would literally hurt after playing since the gaming experience would be too intense at times. It really does an amazing job with its creative and ever changing world and intelligent, diverse enemies giving you always something new to try out.
The Evil Within is a creative survival horror game that has some of the most impressive opponents you can ever face. Combine this with its spooky and unsettling atmosphere obtained through the exquisite sound, lights and setting and you have one tense adventure that will keep you entranced for hours. Despite a somewhat dull story The Evil Within is an amazing game and a must play for survival horror fans.
+ Intelligent and creative enemies
+ A tense atmosphere achieved through its design
+ A great upgrading system catering to the player
– An alright story
-bad voice acting