The Evil Within Review
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Tango Gameworks
It’s raining, dark clouds fill the sky, the merciless cold tightens its grip. With uneasy steps you make your way to the entrance of Beacon Mental Hospital, the scene of a reported multiple murder. Playing as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, you have been sent here to investigate the scene; it’s dark and mysterious past haunting your every step. With great unease you slowly push the great wooden doors, pausing as the smell of death welcomes you. Mutilated bodies are scattered across the grand entrance hall, their blood has covered every surface. The uncomfortable silence is broken with a feint cry for help, someone has survived.
Bound by your feet and hung from the ceiling, your eyes slowly open as you wake. Blood trickles from an open wound, running down your arm and dripping onto the tiled floor. A substantial man stands in front of you, his beaten face partially obscured by a makeshift metal mask, his clothes are drenched in blood. Turning away he approaches one of the neighbouring bodies, your can’t quite move your head enough to witness the barbarism, but the sound of metal as it slices through flesh is enough to send a wave of panic running through you. The muffled screams fall silent, paying you no attention, this butcher walks past carrying a dripping torso into the adjoining room. You notice a knife protruding out of the chest of another nearby victim, it promises the hope of survival.
The opening minutes of Shinji Mikami’s latest offering, The Evil Within, are horrific, frightening and a little confusing, setting the tone for perfectly as we follow Sebastian through this nightmarish world. Each section is played out in the form of chapters and until later on in the story, it is often unclear exactly what is happening. It is an interesting idea as you’re kept constantly on your toes, you never know what is going to transpire or indeed where. You can be safe in the knowledge however that is it going to be gruesome.
The environments created here are in equal measure beautiful and disturbing: Devastated buildings, blood soaked sewers, abandoned villages, all speak of horrifying torment and are genuinely unsettling places to be. Couple this with masterful use of lighting and you will find yourself within a world that offers very little comfort. Adding further to the distressing surroundings are the convincing sound effects. Crackling fire, heavy footsteps, grinding metal, tortuous screams are all expertly handled and likely to live long in the memory.
Mutilated creatures, known as the Haunted, will hunt you mercilessly. These human-like creatures are harrowing in appearance, from their faces stricken with barbwire, to the rudimentary weapons all suggest a death that will be swift and violent. Thankfully there are various ways to dispose of our would-be slayers and this will change depending on the scene. Guns blazing is an obvious choice but, with limited resources that’s not always the best option. The Haunted are capable of absorbing a considerable amount of damage and a steady hand is required if you are going to take them down. One headshot is often not enough, a well-placed shot may indeed scatter parts of their brain, but this won’t stop them, their pursuit is relentless; this can lead to very tense and unnerving encounters, praying you have enough ammunition to stop the onslaught.
With this is mind a stealthier approach maybe your best chance of survival. Most unaware enemies can be killed instantly with a sharp shiv delivered swiftly to the base of the skull. Their unpredictable movements will make this challenging, they twitch, seemingly uncontrollably and will quite often turn quickly as if they sense your presence. Bottles can be thrown to distract them or lure them into well placed traps, but with a limited throwing arm this is not easy. This does nullify the use of stealth somewhat and you will find that you will rely on your shooting skills, no matter how nerve shredding this might be.
Your arsenal of weapons steadily increases as you progress. Early on you will find a fairly weak pistol, thankfully it’s not too long before your firepower increases. Worthy of special mention is the crossbow, capable of firing various types of bolts it is easily the most diverse weapon you will find and the most satisfying to use. You can set traps using the proximity mines or simply freeze the Haunted in place and shatter their ice-covered bodies into tiny pieces. Let’s not forget the matches: All enemies are susceptible to fire, find a corpse and you should set it ablaze before it reanimates and hunts you down. Careful timing and a steady nerve and it’s possible to burn a host of undead with a single flame.
Scattered amongst the ruins is a substance simply called ‘green gel’. You are able to use this at various stages to upgrade your equipment or abilities. Do you want more health or extra stamina? Perhaps your weapons need to be more powerful or you may need to increase the amount of munitions you can carry. Careful management is needed as it can make the between life and death.
Sadly, The Evil Within is not without its flaws. The wonderfully dark plot loses its way at times and some of themes are not fully explored. Sebastian himself is a little wooden as the lead character, he seems undisturbed by horrors he is witnesses which can detract a little. The cut scenes don’t quite have the graphical splendour that they deserve and the daunting level of difficulty will no doubt alienate some. If you can get past these faults however what you will find is another example of why Shinji Mikami is considered one the finest architects of survival horror. This is not a masterpiece, but with extraordinary levels of butchery, disgustingly beautiful presentation and wicked storytelling, it’s not far off.
Score – 9/10
Reviewer – Ian