The Evil Within Review – A Terrifying Tale

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Developers: Tango Gameworks

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One (Reviewed)

Release Date: October 14th

There hasn’t been many times that I’ve played a game where I actually lost count at how often I would nearly jump out of my chair. However, I had never played The Evil Within. I can’t remember ever having had this much anxiety while playing a video game. The recent Tango Gameworks release The Evil Within is a Survival horror extravaganza, filled with a buffet line of blood, guts and terrifying enemies. It comes from the Survival horror master Shinji Mikami, whom you may recognize as also being responsible for the hugely popular Resident Evil franchise. The game has all the looks and feels of one of the more masterful depictions in the genre.

The Evil Within wastes no time in thrusting the protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, his partner Joseph Oda and rookie detective Julie Kidman into a gruesome scene at the Beacon Mental Hospital. A call goes out over your police radio requesting assistance at the Beacon Mental Hospital and upon arrival you are propelled immediately into the horrifying story. As you make your way inside the front door, you are greeted by a massacre of epic proportions. Whatever has happened here appears to have killed all the staff and patients. Upon further inspecting you make your way to the security room and this is where your nightmare begins. I say “your” because not only do I mean Sebastian, but quite literally you the player. As you watch the security camera replay the murderous events leading up to your arrival, you are attacked (by what you later learn is the main villain) and are knocked unconscious.

The game follows the protagonist’s attempts at escaping the hospital and of course the harder he tries the more he becomes inundated in it. He not only wants to free himself, but also his partner and their rookie. In doing this, he must use all means necessary to thwart the evil powers that constantly berate him.

As you work through the game, using the typical Survival horror genre style stealth as your best option, you encounter numerous enemies that stop at nothing to kill you. Thankfully, The Evil Within provides some opportunities to get the upper hand. In the beginning all you have is your wits and fists to make your way out of the hospital. This proves to be quite difficult and requires the utmost use of stealth. As is with most games in this genre you are almost always better off playing slowly, thus allowing for stealth kills as opposed to an all-out assault. The more Rambo approach, will most assuredly cause for a quick end to your life.

Fear not, because The Evil Within doesn’t leave you helpless for very long and you quickly find a pistol to help you even the odds. Now, again just because you have a weapon your best option will still be with the stealth mode, but at least now you have some defense when you alert them. Armed with your new weapon, you should consider conserving your ammo because like all survival games, you are doing just that, trying to survive. In other words, there isn’t going to be huge ammo caches littering your levels so make your shots count. Speaking of making them count, aim for the heads. Head shots will greatly increase your chances of making a critical hit, which of course explodes the enemies heads and in the process reduces how many shots it takes to kill them.

As you carefully move throughout the game you will notice, what appear to be little medicine bottles behind walls, or in cabinets, or in puddles after you kill some of the enemies. These bottles contain elixir, (for lack of a better term) that you will use to level up your characters abilities.  In each bottle there are varying amounts of elixir that you can use to buy different upgrades.  Whether that be to carry more ammo, have more health, or increase odds of critical hits, just to name a few. The leveling system is quite nice and you can use your best judgement to employee a leveling strategy. I chose to level my weapons first, but that by no means is the best way. With each newly acquired skill, you increase the odds of surviving.

The story is fairly entertaining, but it by no means is the shining gem about the game. There are many times throughout the game that I found myself caring less and less about the story and seemingly more about just surviving. That is not to say I didn’t want to help save Sebastian and his partners, but that it was not my focus. Call it what you will, but the stress and intensity in the game is as such that it leaves little else to care about. As in most Survival horror games, there was a story within a story being told by collecting pieces of evidence. Unfortunately, it too garnered little interest from me. Let me make sure I say that it is not a bad story, but that I am not sure the story is ever the biggest draw with a game like this. For me, the lure is in the horror aspects. Whether that be from the gore, the adrenaline rush from being chased by heinous creatures, or the jumpy scares that are prevalent throughout. It is a personal preference, but I would venture to say I won’t be alone in that thinking.

The game mechanics were well thought out and easily adjusted. You can assign four quick actions with the D-pad and those make for easily swapping out weapons or giving yourself a shot of health. Assigning the right combination is important because unlike other games when you go into your weapon menu the game doesn’t pause. Thankfully it does slow time down a bit, but needless to say you are still feeling the pressure. Since time is of the essence I would try to always craft arrows ahead of an ensuing battle because it was difficult to make them during the fight. Everything else was pretty straight forward and the mechanics resulted in a pretty smooth experience.

Tango did a magnificent job with the sounds and songs in the game. The music is both creepy as well as psychotic. Exactly what should be expected in such a game. The music propagates feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and suspense all while pushing the pace whenever it wants. If it wanted you to hurry or rush through an area, the music would adjust accordingly and I constantly found myself playing right with it.  A truly great musical experience that was executed to near perfection.

After many hours of playing through the campaign and taking some time to reflect on my evaluations, I think the game does a lot of things right. I couldn’t tell you how many times I jumped out of my chair when being attacked, (or more accurately) chased by one of the many terrifying boss battles.

a Survival horror extravaganza, filled with a buffet line of blood, guts and terrifying enemies

They aren’t so much as “scary”, (for lack of a better word) I mean they are that, but they are more intense. The music, the way the controller vibrates and the feeling that you just can’t get away, make for quite an adrenaline rush. In fact, there were several times that I wanted to beat a boss so badly just to get up and walk away from the game for a few minutes. It was a sensory overload.