With all the amazing games that came out this year, there was one highly anticipated horror that combined strategic thinking, conservative survival, and jump-scares galore. The Evil Within was developed by Tango Gameworks and Shinji Mikami, the creator of the Resident Evil series. It was produced by Bethesda Softworks, a leader in interactive gameplay and creator of the Elder Scrolls series.
The Evil Within has garnered mixed reviews since its release on October 14, 2014. The game was given an 8.7/10 by IGN’s Lucy O’Brien for “fantastic survival gameplay” and “terrifying enemies” but for also having a “convoluted story” and “boring protagonist.” However, Joystiq’s Susan Arendt gave it 2.5/5 stars because “the plot is largely irrelevant,” “the controls are sluggish,” and there are “generic, gruesome enemies.” Despite the odd poor review and notably poor controls, the game has been praised by many famed reviewers for its creativity and fear factor.
The game follows the story of Sebastian Castellanos, a detective investigating a mass murder scene with his partners Juli Kidman and Joseph Oda. Bizarre things occur when a teleporting assailant, Ruvik, renders Sebastian unconscious. This is the beginning of Sebastian’s absurd adventure through fantastical landscapes full of disturbing monsters. The player controls Sebastian as he fights demented zombie-like creatures in search of his colleagues, Ruvik, and a deranged child named Leslie who seems to be the key to escaping the nightmarish world.
Sebastian is often forced to enter different settings either by Ruvik or through his own venturing from abandoned castles to dark caves. The graphics and animation are of high quality and the cutscenes show off the game’s beautiful visuals. There are a few glitches that appear in the game (i.e. objects float in the air, monsters move through walls) that could be fixed. The crazy gore physics are very unrealistic with blood flying everywhere, but this is a trademark of the Resident Evil-esque gameplay. The characters are also well designed as each one has a distinct appearance, tailored clothes, animated facial features, and gestures that occur in real time. It’s great to see the human characters actually blinking and having moving hair rather than solid, immovable spikes. Notable voice actors appear in this game with a lineup including Jennifer Carpenter voicing Juli and Yuri Lowenthal voicing Joseph. Along with the high-quality visuals, the accompanying audio is astounding and of amazing quality.
There’s an abundance of enemies roaming the area that are usually hiding, waiting to scare the pants off the player. Every so often, some uniquely grotesque beings appear; these include a giant, mutant dog and sprinting zombies with long, mouth-like appendages. The boss stages are usually lengthy and require the completion of many mini-tasks, such as closing all of the valves in the area or shooting the boss a ridiculous amount of times. This can sometimes be frustrating or plain boring as the game asks the player to repeat the same actions for extended periods of time. However, the tedium of combat is balanced by the collection of classic and creative weapons. Each chapter usually introduces at least one new weapon that tries to generate some new material in combat. Exploding crossbow bolts and giant harpoons seem to be fun and inventive at first, but soon become useless in most combat due to their difficult handling and impracticality compared to other simpler weapons. Minimal ammunition adds more challenges as the player must ensure they do not deplete their inventory so as to have enough to make it through the level.
This game is truly a Bethesda game as it has many elements of a typical role-playing game. It uses an upgrade system that relies on points collected by the player after killing a monster. The player has a choice of upgrading different aspects including character stamina and weapon strength depending on the amount of points collected. There are also collectible items the player can pick up to unlock different aspects of the game: keys are used to open lockers filled with different usable items and map pieces are collected by players who want to fully complete the game. There are portals placed throughout the maps that allow the player to return back to the home map to upgrade their equipment, open lockers, or save their progress, but they are also given a chance between chapters to do this. The game doesn’t require the player to fully upgrade all aspects of the character or collect all items, but it’s encouraged as they benefit the player.
The setting can change abruptly in a flash or it can do so gradually like a scene from the movie Inception. It could be vibrant and colourful, but suddenly turn into a dark, monochromatic world. The player gets pulled from one location to another and is often separated from allies without warning. The isolation creates a sense of vulnerability as players can never truly think they’re safe. This keeps them on edge, adding to the horror aspect of the game.
Overall, the game has fantastic audio and is extravagantly designed with a great combination of horror, survival, and RPG features. The interesting plot and unique story aspects balance out the sometimes boring combat and frustrating strategic planning. Though the game has its flaws and is definitely not bug-free, the player still experiences a great adventure, delving into the background of Sebastian, fear in the human mind, and the evil that dwells in everyone.
-contributed by Elizabeth Lau