Game Review: The Evil Within

The Evil Within is the latest brainchild of game designer Shinji Mikami, best known for creating the original Resident Evil. The evil within has been dubbed as something of a return to the roots of the Survival Horror genre by some, but is it really?

The Evil Within is the just to the left of nonsensical story of police detective Sebastian Castellanos and his investigation of a grisly murder at a mental hospital that leads him down a path dotted by a shadowy conspiracy that has been responsible for a long string of disappearances, arsons, and murders. In the story department, the game falls flat. Seemingly an attempt to cross Resident Evil, the Matrix, and various mind control conspiracy theories, things get so convoluted that eventually you just start tuning the story line out. In the actual gameplay department, The Evil Within is definitely something of a mixed bag. The game is divided into various chapters, which are themselves divided into smaller chunks. From the dim lighting, ominous soundtrack, and grotesque monster designs to the distinct lack of ammo, The Evil Within does a good job of creating a tense and sometimes unnerving atmosphere. It is in the first 10 to 12 chapters that the game really shines. Some of the early boss encounters, in particular, are quite unsettling. The tense flight from the spider woman and attempting to vent a cellar of gas while avoiding a deranged goliath wielding an oversized meat tenderizer were a pair of the most unnerving experiences I’ve had whilst gaming in a long time. It is in these early chapters of eerily silent villages and cramped hospital corridors that The Evil Within really sells itself well. Unfortunately, things start to break down around Chapter 12 when the game devolves into garden variety zombie apocalypse trash. One section that stood out as particularly deal breaking was when the player is tasked with sneaking past a group of zombies on a ramshackle overpass to fetch some bandages for an injured companion. Upon the completion of this objective, a small cutscene greeted me showing the arrival of a Hummer loaded with zombies that then proceeded to fire upon me with a 50 caliber machine gun. It was so out of character with what the game had been up to that point, and so in line with recent Hollywood zombie fare like the Resident Evil flicks that I was half expecting Mila Jovovich or Rhona Mitra to make a sudden cameo just as a final, flippant middle finger to the player. Another little detail that must be mentioned is the ridiculous annoyance provided by the game’s shooting system. Sebastian seems like he wouldn’t be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a watermelon. This is a police detective of some years experience we’re talking about here, and the player is expected to believe that he’s never been able to make it down to the shooting range for even five seconds of his life? Graphically, the game is quite well done. Especially for a cross generational title. The animation is good, the clipping is kept to a minimum, the gore is well rendered, and the textures rarely get muddy. There were, however, some minimal issues with tearing and texture pop in (which can likely be blamed on the use of the id tech engine).

After playing the first ten or so chapters of this game, I wanted so badly to give it a high score. Unfortunately, it never quite recovers from the devolution into a bland zombie apocalypse action game. If this is to be a series, Tango Gameworks would do well to leave out such tripe in future installments.

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