Video Game Review: “The Evil Within”

Horror in gaming has faced a lot of calamity and harrowing disappointment over the last couple of years. While Resident Evil once reined dominant as the lead-act in a wide cast strongly supported by Silent Hill, things eventually started to change. I’ll fight tooth-and-nail by saying Resident Evil 5 was a terrific experience but the end result was a terrific action experience that started a dissolution of the desolate, dreary, and more horrifying components that once made up the franchise. If Resident Evil 5 was the beginning of the end, however, then Resident Evil 6 was full-blown murder. (I’ll hopefully have my opportunity to review Resident Evil 4-6 and Revelations before the end of the month) Meanwhile, Silent Hill has struggled to find its footing since the Sixth Generation installments in the franchise. Homecoming and Downpour weren’t completely terrible and they didn’t lose their roots, but something in the controls and overall experience really left a lot to be desired. BioShock and Dead Space both helped carry the genre but they have since moved on as well leaving horror looking frail and weak.

The Evil Within represented hope for a return to form and with a strong marketing effort that will likely lead to high sales, a strong survival horror experience. Shinji Mikami’s name brought a lot of attention, the director of the well-acclaimed Resident Evil 4, as well as the creator of the franchise entirely, his name felt like a symbol representing what so many loyal fans wanted to see come back for the genre. His disapproval of recent horror relying too much on action as well as the marketing made it seem definite that he was willing to let everyone have what they wanted. And so, a lot of attentive gaming fans awaited for its arrival.

I was one of them, in-fact. Evil Within has been without a doubt the most anticipated video-game for me since Batman: Arkham City and considering that I don’t often play video-games right as they are released, it should say a lot that I took the time to get my hands on this within four days of its release. I was extremely excited and after beating the entire video-game with a game-play time of eighteen hours, I can finally share my thoughts with all of you.

For starters, let’s take care of some of the basics: The Evil Within is a 2014 survival horror video game developed by Tango Gameworks and released by Bethesda Softworks for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. 

The story follows the main-character Sebastian Castellanos, a detective investigating the scene of a very gruesome mass murder. While doing so, he and his partners encounter a mysterious and powerful force that drastically changes the tides for their lives. Sebastian is ambushed and knocked out of consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a deranged world filled with hideous creatures and unimaginable terror that leaves him fighting for survival and trying to unravel whatever is behind this hellish world. 

If there is anything that can really be taken from The Evil Within, I think that it’s the absolute atmosphere of it all. The plot might have been a little too ambitious for its own good but I liked it to some extent. When I say that it was too ambitious, I speak more about some of the calamity that eventually begins to occur. In a lot of ways, it represents something that I disliked about Resident Evil 6 in that it feels like there is too much happening. I don’t mean to draw that comparison as a means to start fires or worry eventual players, but more to say that it doesn’t necessarily come across in the same light as one of the simpler Resident Evil video-games. I don’t think anybody can really accurately make much comparisons between the two though. The Evil Within has a lot more emphasis on characters and cut-scenes then any of the earlier Resident Evil’s and obviously carries more horror elements than future installments did. They might have been a little overzealous with everything happening and therefore feeling cluttered. The main-protagonist has to be one of the calmest fellows ever given the circumstances and the other human characters don’t really add a whole lot either. All in all though, the antagonists more than make up for that, even if the story itself is overtly convoluted. 

The atmosphere is absolutely terrific, and honestly, I think I might even refer to this as being the best horror experience that I have ever come across. I might also even refer to this as some of the best camera-work and directing that I have seen in a video-game. I remember a ton of scenes where the atmosphere and the music completely built the environment without any flaw whatsoever. The demented imagery and some of the enticing visuals alone are enough to make me recommend this to anybody that enjoys horror. The lighting and how they depict this world, I really can’t say enough about how tremendous everything came across.

Unfortunately, the animations and graphics themselves aren’t exactly up to code. I remember a number of times when I was playing that my bullets would actually go through enemies or part of my body would stick out through walls. The character models are outdated and if you look for it you’ll find a lot of unpolished mistakes that have been rendered as archaic by current technological advancements. 

As far as the controls and game-play itself is concerned, I would call it a success. Some of it had me thinking back to The Last of Us or, of course, to Resident Evil, I know that I hated the melee, however. I realize that they wanted to capture a feeling of weakness and encouraging running away but it doesn’t really offer anything more than an unneeded frustration. Some of the technical issues might have damaged the overall experience with it more than any one specific flaw.

I feel like I might have scared a lot of readers, and so, I’ll say this to further summarize my experience:

When I was playing The Evil Within, for the first four or five hours, I was terrified about writing this review. I was terrified because I was absolutely certain that I would have to not only critique one of my most anticipated games ever but I would also have to offer it a negative review. Surprisingly though, somewhere after the halfway point, everything really started to sink in, or it apparently went into a second-gear. Not only did it become a lot more fun but the fun in the game play finally started to match the imagery. Before, it had been more repetitive and so-so than anything else, but it started to become tense and suspenseful in a high amplitude.

The boss-battles became more mind-numbing and I started to appreciate everything else more as well. I suppose that it’s comparable to a slow-burn horror film. It might take a long time to start up, but when it does, I think it works to fulfill everyone’s excitement. The Keeper has to be one of the best brute antagonists that I have seen in a long time, I think that I might even like him more than Pyramid Head. And while the story is a little too much to completely do him justice, Ruvik has so much suspense and build surround him that he has to become one of the most memorable villains I’ve ever seen.

In the end, The Evil Within has a lot of flaws and a lot of frustrations but it’s worth the hype when I look back at it. The antagonists have a presence that is worth being afraid of, and I feel like I walked away from that experience with plenty of memorable moments to fondly look back on.

Thanks for reading…

Rating: – 4.0 out of 5.0