A SLOW burning survival horror inspired by the old school
The Evil Within
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
Score: 8.5 / 10
IF the wayward nature of recent games in the Resident Evil series has given some cause to mourn the tense and gripping genre that is survival horror, The Evil Within is the ideal remedy. This is a decidedly retro reboot of the gameplay with which celebrated Japanese designers Shinji Mikami made his name. Eighteen years on from the first Resident Evil, it does not veer far from its template, a cause for celebration among those who cherish its daunting, slow-paced, blood splattered action.
The Evil Within does not bring anything notably new to survival horror, instead it acts as a glorified best of of all the moments and ideas that Mikami and his imitators have created down the years. Long, claustrophobic hospital corridors? Check. Fiendish puzzle elements with which to punctuate the bloodshed? Check. A taut third person control system, where veering from a stealthy approach nearly always results in a nightmarish demise? Check. Cynics may view it as fan service, but Mikami has clearly been around long enough to know what works and what is superfluous.
A lack of ammunition encourages strategic thought
Whereas the recent Alien: Isolation instills a feeling of dread in the player, the overriding emotional response triggered by The Evil Within is one of panic. In true Resident Evil fashion, resources are scant, meaning that every misplaced gunshot feels like unpardonable folly. It is an approach which inspires lateral thinking, a frame of mind aided by the various environmental hazards scattered around the game world with which you can dispatch the undead.
Not every aspect of the game is so well honed. The protagonist, Sebastian, moves too slowly even for a Mikami title, and occasionally, the texture of the graphics can feel sparse. Similarly, the frame rate dropped too often for our liking on the Xbox One version, hardly ideal when the game tries to hard to pull you into its gory world of shadows and sinews. Others who have played the game on Playstation 4 have made similar complaints, suggesting the problem is not confined to any one platform.
On the whole, however, The Evil Within is a highly entertaining example of the oppressive design and mechanics that made series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill best sellers. Younger generations may balk at its pared back gameplay and lack of pace, but if you are looking for an unashamedly old school adventure which poses a stiff challenge and moments that will cause your heart to skip a beat, there is nothing else quite like it.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) A slow, stealthy approach is crucial around enemies, but equally taking things at a gentle pace can help Sebastian navigate his way around environmental traps.
2) Retrain your brain to avoid relying on guns. Ammunition is rare in The Evil Within, so you will need to look at other ways of killing your foes. Fire in particular is your ally in this game, with a single match often as lethal as a bullet if used properly.
3) Taking the game at a leisurely pace should also encourage you to explore your surroundings with a detective’s eye for thoroughness. The various crates and barrels can contain some much needed supplies, so don’t ignore them.