October is usually a month for scary things. There are scary movies, scary games, and scary amounts of candy. Sadly, the only thing scary about The Evil Within is how mediocre it is.
Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, The Evil Within is an action-survival-horror game that was supposed to capture the feel of Resident Evil 4 in a whole new series. Sadly, it seems that veteran director Shinji Mikami didn’t take enough notes from that game. Everything about this game has something wrong with it. Whether it’s severe or minor, problems plague the game in all aspects.
First of all, the plot of the game is thin, poorly explained, and just generally uninteresting. You start the game as Detective Sebastian Castellanos who, with his partners, gets called to a multiple homicide at a mental hospital. Upon arriving, you’re quickly sucked into a nightmare world of shifting geography and horrible monsters. Your goal is…well, your goal isn’t really identified until several chapters into the game. The protagonists just seem to accept their fate without really questioning what’s going on and meander along a linear path. Also, no reason is ever given for why the characters are going through this.
Throughout the game, you find documents that “expand” the story, but most of the time they’re vague or have little relevance. Some documents are directly related to Sebastian, but the history contained within the documents is never mentioned by characters in-game. None of the other characters really have their history explored, leading to them being flat, uninteresting bodies that just serve as temporary goals.
Second, the graphics and graphical presentation of the game are just sub-par. Many times there were texture loading delays when entering new places or during cutscenes, the frame rate would drop drastically if too many enemies got close, and the world was just a little bland. Gray concrete or rusty metal seemed to be the two ideas that the designers settled upon to paste over the world. Locations feel repetitive, dull, and uninspired on the whole and even the monster design is lackluster.
The simple fact is the monsters are not scary. The basic mutants are just people wrapped in barbed wire or skewered by railroad spikes, no scarier than a zombie. The bosses all follow the same gray color palette and usually look like fleshy blobs of random body parts, with just the overall shape of the stitched bodies changing. Anyone who’s played a Resident Evil game in the past nine years will recognize the recycled, stiff animations of the enemies.
Finally, the gameplay cannot really decide what it wants to be. While previously the game touted itself as having stealth elements, those can be abandoned about a third of the way through the game. I never really felt there was a time that sneaking was preferable to a shotgun blast except when the stealth was forced upon me.
The enemies are also needlessly tough. In the “kill-box” situations in the game, you’re forced to fight waves of enemies that take whole clips to put down. Headshots are barely effective and the most efficient way to kill is to set foes on fire with your limited supply of matches. Extremely small ammo supplies lead to situations where you run in circles trying to find anything to load in a gun. Oh, and all the bosses, along with several environmental elements, can one-hit-kill you. Basically, the game introduces difficulty through lots of one-hit-kills.
Combat is made even harder by the inaccurate aiming system. The camera pulls directly to Sebastian’s right hand when drawing a weapon, leading to situations where your reticule is directly on an enemy, but your shots still miss. It’s way too close.
The game has some RPG elements in the form of upgrading Sebastian. For some reason, Sebastian cannot be trusted to carry more than 3 matches until his brain has been upgraded. Weapons, health, and ammo stocks can all be upgraded while in your “safe room” area.
Additionally, I encountered a frustrating glitch during my review play-through that forced me to restart Chapter 14 multiple times until the level would load. Otherwise, I could not progress as the stage just cut off and allowed me to fall through the map.
The game does do a couple of things right, though. Boss fights may be uninspired design-wise, but they often have clever tricks you can pull to deal lots of damage at one time. Traps are well-placed, tricky, and can be used to your advantage as well, adding a tiny bit of spice to some encounters. Also, there is a great sense of satisfaction when you explode the head off an enemy. So, I had some amount of fun while playing, but not a whole lot.
The Evil Within stumbles into 4/10.
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