Calling The Evil Within the best survival-horror game I’ve played in years is no exaggeration. It’s been too long since I played a game that stuck to the traditional roots of the older classics, while instilling a new sense of mixed horror from all cultures and modern gameplay mechanics to create a horror game that has been missed for several years. Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks delivered. Horror master Mikami brought back his skills to dust off the aging genre, reviving what survival-horror is suppose to be about – survival.
The Evil Within takes place in the fictional Krimson City, where detective Sebastian Castellanos and his team of partners are called in to respond to an incident at Beacon Mental Asylum. Upon setting foot in the empty hospital, Sebastian awakes to a world of hell, where all of his nightmares come to life as he battles different types of macabre horrors. With nowhere to go, Sebastian must travel the world to find his partners and escape.
Story is the one area where The Evil Within begins to weaken. While the story isn’t incomprehensible or awful, its pacing can be off and appear convoluted. Some of the mysteries are explained through documents and badges that explore Sebastian’s back story in more detail. By the end of the game you will be satisfied, but there are questions that feel left open.
Gameplay is one place The Evil Within shines. Mikami took the classic over-the-shoulder third-person view and Resident Evil 4 controls and added a modern spin, making the battles quick and visceral. The mechanics of the gun always have a satisfying weight as you pull the trigger and land a successful blow on the head of one of the monsters or bosses.
Each time you discover a new weapon, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. My favorite weapon was the Magnum, which any Resident Evil fan will remember. The agony bow also adds a fun mix of gameplay with the different type of bolts that can be created for different situations; from flash bolts to electric, managing these will be an important part of the game.
Speaking of management, players will want to familiarize themselves with the term, as the Evil Within will hammer it in. Throughout the game ammo is scarce, supplies limited, and only searching crates and dead bodies will produce results. Traps are spread around the levels, and by dismantling them a player can earn parts to create agony bolts.
I found myself several times in the game with not enough ammo, making my sprint button a great friend in times of panic. The enemies are strong, and only with firepower will they die, but even shooting them does not mean they will stay dead. Players will also have to collect matches to burn bodies, to ensure they won’t rise in a more than unfavorable situation.
Another collectable in the game is gel, a substance that you must collect to upgrade Sebastian’s skills and weapons. Upgrades range from sprint duration, to health and damage multipliers. Gel is also scarce in the game, but destroying pots and boxes will sometimes carry results. Player can also find keys hidden in statues that they can open up safes with to find hidden gems.
Expect all types of different monsters to chase Sebastian in the game. Many of these creatures will need to be approached with stealth or direct assault. Creatures from zombies with barbed wire wrapped around their heads, to the bloody Laura crawling through the halls, or the Keeper and his constant menacing presence. I won’t spoil what else lies within to scare you.
The genre of survival-horror needed revival, and Shinji Mikami took his last calling by creating The Evil Within, following his roots and taking the concept to the next level. Long have fans waited for a resource management game where they don’t feel safe and the walls close in. Confusion and fear will riddle the minds of players as they navigate through the warped minds of Sebastian and the others, with over 20 hours of horror to enjoy. Each difficulty will up the ante for Sebastian, and I recommend playing on survivor mode for a real horror experience. New game plus is also included for replayability with new weapons and abilities.
Reviewed on Xbox One, review copy provided by Bethesda.