Platforms: Playstation 3, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
The human psyche is all too fragile. The fact that most of us are just one traumatizing event away from completely breaking down and losing control is a terrifying thing to think about. The Evil Within uses this fear to craft one the better psychological survival horror experiences of recent memory.
In The Evil Within, you take on the role of police detective Sebastian Castellanos. As the game begins Sebastian is sent to a local mental hospital to investigate a series of brutal murders. Soon after, things take a turn and he ends up in a nightmare world filled with grotesque creatures and stunningly bizarre environments, all while being haunted by a man named Ruvik. As the game plays out you’ll learn about Ruvik and his motivations, as well as uncovering some of Sebastian’s own dark past.
The story is good enough to keep you entertained throughout, although it does lose a little steam towards the end. This is due in large part to the game abandoning suspense in favor of a heavier focus on action in the later chapters. That coupled with the feeling that they ran out of ideas, as you are faced with sequences that felt far too similar to ones already thrown at you, led to a bit of staleness by the end. Perhaps the biggest culprit in this lack of creativity is the final boss fight. Not only was it far easier than just about every other encounter leading up to it, but it also sort of felt like an afterthought. It was almost like they knew it was expected, so they just cobbled together something quickly to get you to the end of the story. All that said, the majority of the game does a great job of keeping you invested, as well as in a constant state of tension, which most survival horror fans should appreciate.
As far as gameplay goes, if you’ve played Resident Evil 4, 5, or 6 then you’ll feel right at home with The Evil Within as it’s a third-person shooter with light puzzle elements. The Evil Within does lean more on stealth than the Resident Evil games, sort of similarly to The Last of Us, but more often than not I found stealth to be useless. In the beginning it seemed to work better, but as the game progressed I felt better off just facing most enemies head-on. This was due to enemies apparently having some sort of supersonic hearing that made sneaking up on them nearly impossible or feeling like I needed x-ray vision to see hidden traps that would announce my presence. This is just a small gripe as the combat and overall feel of the game felt perfectly fine for a survival horror game and I had zero issues with the controls. There were times when the camera did get a little wonky and led to some unnecessary deaths when trying to avoid certain traps, but this wasn’t a constant occurrence.
With stealth not being the most viable option, a majority of your combat encounters will involve good, old-fashioned firearms. The Evil Within outfits you with a variety of guns including a revolver, a shotgun, and a sniper rifle. It’s all pretty standard stuff really. You will also get access to a more unique weapon in the form of the Agony Crossbow. This crossbow can be equipped with five different types of bolts ranging from explosive to freezing and, when used in combination with your other firearms, can get you through some tricky scenarios. Matches also play a pivotal role in The Evil Within as they can be used to set knocked down enemies on fire, which instantly kills them and saves you precious ammo. Being able to group up a horde of enemies, knock them down with a shotgun blast, and then set them all on fire is actually quite satisfying.
As you make your way through the game, you’ll pick up jars of green gel, which will allow you to upgrade a number of categories. You’ll be able to improve a variety of stats for each of your weapons, increase the amount of ammo, matches, and healing items you can carry, and improve Sebastian’s health and stamina, among other things. Being able to upgrade your stats and weapons adds a lot to the experience and even adds to the replayability of the game if you’re looking to max out each of the options.
Speaking of replayability, after you complete the game for the first time you’ll unlock New Game + which will allow you carry over all of your stats and weapons to completely new playthrough. You’ll also unlock an assortment of new items and an ultra hard difficulty option where all hits will instantly kill you. So there is plenty of incentive to play through at least a couple times, giving you a little more value for your money.
While I did feel that The Evil Within ran out of steam towards the end of its 12 hour campaign, it is still a game I’d fully recommend. Thanks to its similarities to the Resident Evil franchise in gameplay and how it handles upgrades, while also having a story unique enough to stand on its own, The Evil Within is a must play for fans of survival horror.