“There is something wrong with this place” – Detective Sebastian Castellanos
The horror genre on consoles has been a bit, shall we say, lacking, over the past few years. There has been some good attempts, then there also has been some real duds. This newest IP from Tango Gameworks and Bethesda is aimed at changing all of this. How well did The Evil Within do? Did it accomplish what it was set out to do? Will you need new underwear from playing this? I shall answer those questions and much more as we move along here.
You play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos. You are called, with a few other NPC characters, to investigate a mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital. Upon arriving you witness a mass carnage of bodies lying around on the ground and the smell of blood in the air. After some light exploration you come across a doctor who is alive. He mentions a person named, Ruvik. After you view some security camera feed you see Ruvik quickly kill a few police officers with only a touch. The screen goes out and Ruvik appears behind you. As he is getting ready to touch you, your screen fades out and you wake up hanging upside down in a strange place. This is where the story starts to take place.
One of the first things the game makes you do is use the stealth system. At first I didn’t like it all that much. It felt a little clunky and strange. The camera was just slightly out of place looking over your shoulder. Which didn’t allow you to really look around or over short walls to see if the coast was clear. On the easier difficulty levels there is a symbol at the top center of your screen that resembles an eyeball. If it is slightly closed then no one has noticed you. If it grows and is wide open then something, or someone, has seen you. In the upper difficulty levels this is removed for a more intense gameplay affect. After playing the game multiple times and using it quite often, I have gotten more use to it. It still is not a perfect system but it does what it is meant to do.
Gameplay wise, the game is actually pretty solid. Combat is really good with an array of guns you can use. For example you have the typical pistol, a magnum, two different shot guns (double barrel and single barrel) sniper rifle and a cross bow. The ones I ended up using the most was the magnum and the cross bow. They can do some major damage, if you have the ammo. The crossbow you can actually make your own ammo as well as finding some laying around the different maps. You get supplies for the crossbow by disassembling wire traps, bombs and barb wire traps. The ammo for the other guns are really scarce, even on the lowest difficulty. You will find a lot of ammo boxes laying around but they only have a few rounds in each one. On the harder difficulty levels those ammo boxes get even scarcer with less ammo in them. The game forces you to strategize instead of just going in shooting everything that moves. It can make for quite a challenge in some fights. Especially the boss fights.
Graphical wise the game is really great looking. While we don’t get a large scale viewing area, what we do see on the screen is great looking. Unfortunate the graphics do have one major problem. That is the texture popping it does. It’s not in just an area or two but through most of the entire game. As environments look flat for a split second then the textures will start to just pop on the screen. Some will come layers at a time. You can really tell if you character is looking down at the ground or at something close to the camera. Other than that it is hard to see when it happens off into the distance.
The game is set in a third person perspective. While this is does a decent job it does of course cause some small problems. Every once in a while when you are looking around a corner, you’ll swing the camera to get a better look when a section of wall or a hanging cloth will just appear right in front of you blocking your line of vision. This only happens sporadically throughout the game. One other issue that bothered me a little bit is when you run to an area to hide behind a low wall, a pile of logs or whatever, you can’t have your character spin around to look in the direction the camera is facing. Your character will be directly facing a wall but the camera will be looking in the opposite way. This may not seem like a big deal but if you are sneaking up on something you have to turn your character around to continue forward or have him back out far enough to allow him to go towards the direction you need him to. This can cause you to lose precious seconds and have the enemy you are stalking turn around and spot you.
Like any game now a days, there are collectibles scatted about the maps. One of the unique things you get to collect is keys. You can get these by breaking small statues that are scattered throughout the game. What makes these unique is you can use these keys to open Morgue Lockers back in the hospital. Inside of these are items you can use in your game. They include ammo, Green Gel and even some more keys if you get lucky. The ammo is re really useful as we discussed earlier it is scare throughout your travels. The Green Gel is especially useful as you need this to increase your abilities such as the amount of time you can run before getting tired, accuracy, increase your life bar, amount of damage your guns do, reload speed and so forth. To fully upgrade everything you will need a couple of playthroughs. The good thing is, when you start a New Game+, all of your previous upgrades and collectables carry over.
Actually playing through the game is rewarding. You will run into many different enemies. While some are copy/paste, the variations in them make them feel fresh. The boss fights are very unique and rememberable. There are some maps that will allow you to explore around a small amount. The majority of the game itself is very linear. The maps can feel a little small as it can only take you about 15 minutes to go through some of the chapters. While other chapters can take you an hour or so to finish.
The controls in the game can be a little frustrating. Your view is set as a third person looking over the right shoulder of your character. To me the camera is set a little too close to your character. It would have been better if it was pulled back out just a little bit more to give you a wider range of the environment around you.
If you are squeamish about gore, then The Evil Within is not your type of game. While not all that scary, this game does provide you with plenty of gore to feast your eyes on. There is an option to turn the gory details off but that just makes the game feel weird and not quite right. During my first initial playthrough I only jumped once at something that happened in the game. The rest of the scare tactics you can feel as something is getting ready to happen. The death scenes are done really well. From being chainsawed into your spine out and out your sternum, your head being smashed into little pieces, to even your body blowing up in different directions, these death scenes are done really well. There have been times that I let myself die just to watch the death scene unfold.
So, in the end, is The Evil Within a game that you should play? I would say yes it is. It helps bring the survivor horror genre back into the mainstream of games again. Hopefully Tango Gameworks will see how well they did and create another game that will improve on the flaws this game currently has. I think they have a great new IP on their hands. The question for Tango is, will they extend this into a series or is this a one shot deal?