Review: The Evil Within

A lot of hopes and expectations were piling on The Evil Within when Shinji Mikami first announced back in 2013. However it didn’t quite turn out to be quite well according to the series of mixed reviews from gaming sites. You may not be so sure on whether you’d still want to try this game, so here’s my honest opinion on this game.

First of all Shinji Mikami was serious when he said that he will be going back to old roots with The Evil Within. Unlike games like Outlast and Amnesia The Evil Within doesn’t rely too much on jump scares. Much of the horror in this game is from the environment itself. Throughout the course you’ll find yourself wandering through a zombie-infested village, an abandoned hospital, a church, unexplored catacombs and much more. There’s always a great deal of tension in the air. But then there’s another hidden horror within this game and that is horror of the technical variety.

The game has an outstanding environment design but sadly the ugly textures really kill the look of the game. Choosing the Idtech 5 engine to run this game was a bad decision in the first place. Each individual frame looks like as if its been made up of a patchwork of ugly outdated low-res textures upon shiny high-res texture and there are also some objects which are entirely made up of low-res textures. As a result it looks as if someone smeared some grease on each individual frame. The awful letter-boxing aspect ratio places disorienting black bars which considerably reduces your line of site. Its particularly annoying when you are playing on a 21.5 inch monitor. Then there’s the annoying 30 fps cap which basically doesn’t allow your GPU to render more than 30 frames per second while playing this game. Luckily for us PC gamers, there is an unofficial fix available to remove both the black bars and the 30 fps cap as well as to fix the zoomed in FOV. Bethesda also announced an official patch to fix these issues. But there’s nothing that can be done about the textures as there is no option to change the textures from low to high or ultra. Meaning its almost the same as in the PS4 version. All these shortcomings set aside, The Evil Within manages to pack some excellent gameplay which kept me excited till the end.

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One thing you should know about the game is that it plays a lot like the Resident Evil games from the past. More specifically it feels a lot like Resident Evil 4. Enemy encounters can be very tense. If you are lucky,you can catch them unprepared, sneaking behind them for a stealth kill, well that’s something you’ve never done in RE 4. But most enemy confrontations are quite akin to that in RE 4. Your enemies are really powerful and can seriously injure or kill the protagonist  Detective Castellano even if its just one of them. The zombie-ish enemies referred to as “The Haunted”, greatly resemble the Ganados from RE 4 in the manner they behave. Some of them carry weapons like axes and pitchforks and some of them even carry guns. Later on you will also encounter some of the Haunted who can turn invisible. Apart from the haunted there are other enemy types like the alter-ego, which are like really gross two headed monsters that can spit acid and the Trauma, tall humanoid fiends who carry an enormous gauntlet.

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Awkward as it may seem, I rarely found the more common enemies to be frightening. But they were aggressive alright .As such direct confrontations can be challenging but at the same time watching your enemies head’s exploding due to the impact caused by a perfect head shot is simply satisfying. However there are often many risks involved in taking your enemies head-on. Availability of ammo and other crucial resources like health regenerating syringes and matchsticks to burn weakened foes often is the deciding factor on how you should proceed. The thing about resources is that not only are they scarce but at the same time you can’t carry too many items of each type. Thus ammo conservation does become the key focus of the survival-style gameplay. But if you pay close attention to your environment, you fill find out that there are other ways of swiftly taking care of your enemies without wasting a single bullet on them. However the environment also contains several unpleasant surprises as well.

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One of the best aspects of this game is the focus on exploration. The game world has a lot surprises around every nook and cranny which can be either of the pleasant and welcoming type or the not so-pleasant and welcoming type. A lot of goodies like ammunition,health kits,green gels and other collectibles are often scattered throughout the environment either in boxes and crates or simply hidden in plain sight. Green gels are usually found inside jars of varying sizes or are even left behind some enemies after they are defeated. These gooey green things act almost like in-game currency to purchase several useful upgrades at the Asylum (a.k.a. Safe house) where you save your progress manually, which is also inhabited by this creepy nurse called Tatiana who also grants to a morgue filled with lockers that contain some random resources. The keys to these lockers are often scattered throughout the environment,hidden inside tiny Goddess figurines. However the environment also contains several unpleasant surprises as well. You’ll always be on the constant lookout for trip mines,bear traps,proximity mines and other horrible contraptions of death. But at the same time, if you are being clever enough you can use some these traps to your advantage. You can lure several enemies, bosses included, to these traps and have them blown up or skewered. You can also disarm these traps to gain mechanical parts in order to craft some bolts for your Agony Crossbow,a powerful weapon which can shoot a variety of bolts including explosive,freeze and shock bolts.

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Much of the story revolves around Detective Castellano and his partners getting captured by a mysterious assailant responsible for a mass murder at a certain Beacon hospital in Krimson City. Castellano then finds himself trapped in a hostile and disturbing world that is apparently created by Ruvik, the twisted and disturbed antagonist with a dark past who was responsible for the massacre as well as for trapping Castellano in his twisted and dark world that is constantly fueled by his desire for vengeance.

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Though the plot might seem interesting,its actually quite convoluted and messy. Much of the plot begins to unravel somewhere close to the end of the game. Till then Castellano will be pretty much wondering around trying to find his partners and mentally disabled boy named Leslie. Jackie Earle Hayley managed to put an overall enthralling performance as the voice of Ruvik. Ruvik is apparently the only character who seems to be somewhat interesting. At times his character becomes quite sympathetic.You often feel sorry for all of the tragedies that shook him and turned him into the monster he’s become. But at the same time he can be quite evil and sadistic,taking pleasure in torturing his victims and turning them into mindless creatures.

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Another notable thing about the game is that being mostly inspired from games from the past, it lets you to figure a lot of things on your own rather than holding your hands till the end of the game. This can at times lead to some frustrating moments involving a series of trial and error (i.e. repeated deaths) to figure what really must be done. I encountered one of these annoying situations which presented itself in the form of a QTE. A trap would somehow get a hold of my feet and drag me towards this huge human meat grinder hidden by a wall. Many a times I tried to shoot the rope that was tied to one of my feet but then nothing would happen and Castellano would end up becoming minced meat. After dying at least four times I figured out that I had to aim elsewhere to stop the trap. The same thing can also happen in several boss battles as well.

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The boss battles can be both frustrating and fun. Some of the boss battles can end with some generous consumption of ammunition others require some clever thinking and doing a lot of stuff. Some enemies are nearly invincible and can take a hell lot of damage. You must either run away from them or use some of the traps to your advantage. At times you need to the same thing over and over again just to end the battle. For instance there’s this battle with Reborn Laura (the creepy female monster with extra limbs,covered with long hair and blood) where you have lure her into a furnace and torch her and do the same thing about four times. Boss battles could also have used some variety. Most of the bosses in the game are the one’s whom you have already defeated. They show up at least three times throughout the course of the game. As such none of them are comparable to the monsters like Pyramid Head and Tyrant.

Conclusion

The Evil Within is a really good survival game but at times it feels like its missing some of the horror from the older games. If you want a truly terrifying and graphically impressive experience,I’d definitely recommend that you should go for Alien:Isolation instead. However, when it comes to superior gameplay that promises of over 15-17 hours tense battles and exploration with a lot of nods to the Resident Evil games of the past then I’d recommend this game anytime over Alien:Isolation.

Pros

  • Excellent gameplay
  • Plenty of nods to the old Resident Evil games
  • Creepy and beautiful environments
  • Tense battles
  • Great emphasis on exploration
  • Superb upgrade system
  • Well crafted survival mechanics

Cons

  • Poor engine and poor programming
  • Clunky animations
  • Graphical and other technical issues
  • Not everyone may find it to be scary

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