The Evil Persists
I am scared. No, I mean it. I’m on a show floor with tons of other people around me, clatter of conversations and footsteps flooding my ears, its broad daylight and I’m scared. I honestly think I’m having a panic attack, and it’s all because of Shinji Mikami’s new horror masterpiece, The Evil Within . I got a chance to try the game out at this year’s E3 and… well… it may have ruined the whole convention for me, because now I can’t stop looking over my shoulder at every turn.
The Evil Within successfully combines many different aspects of Resident Evil , Silent Hill , The Last of Us , and even Eternal Darkness into one humongous and awesome horror game. Your ammo is scarce and your firearms are weak, a lot like Silent Hill . Not even headshots will keep some enemies down. To be completely sure that your enemies are dead, you will have to burn their corpses with matches, torches, or oil. However, you can’t carry many of these at all. So you will have to be very picky and choosy about who to kill for good.
That’s the breakdown of what is promised to happen in The Evil Within . Now, without getting too much further into things, this game already looks awesome. It looks to me like someone has finally tapped into the very things that made survival horror games so popular and fun to play. I suppose that the genius of Shinji Mikami didn’t hurt any either. For those of you who don’t know who Shinji Mikami is, he is the one who created the Resident Evil franchise and inadvertently created the entire survival horror genre at the same time.
Then there are some enemies that can’t be killed at all. Shooting them might slow them down for a bit, but the only real way to avoid them is to run. You’ll find these at several points in the game, for several different reasons. Some might be horrifying bosses, sent to rip you apart limb from limb. Others might be figments of your imagination that can’t be battled because they aren’t really there. Some might be both.
There’s this subtle undercurrent of you going completely insane throughout the entire game. Everything starts really mundane, but soon things change quite a bit. Hallways morph as you walk down them before flooding with blood. People you were talking to a second ago suddenly aren’t there. Things you were shooting at suddenly fade out of existence like some glitch in a program.
Heck the games mechanics even make you think you are going insane. Even the simple process of leveling up involves getting into an electric chair and shocking yourself all to hell. The menu screen kind of looks like an MRI of a skull. Using med kits has some side effects that affect what your character sees and how he behaves. Even locked doors have these patterns on them that look like needles being pushed into a skull. The game tries really hard to make it uncertain whether or not you are trapped in a hellscape, or whether you are creating one with your own mind.
The Evil Within also successfully merges American and Japanese horror. That is to say they both manage to make the environment feel claustrophobic and oppressive while still putting in a good jump scare now and then. For example (and SPOILER WARNING for anyone who cares) one of the puzzles involves fighting against a doctor who keeps cutting into a corpse. After you have dispatched this doctor, you notice an X-Ray on the shelf that shows a key embedded into the corpse’s stomach. So you cut into the corpse and stick your hand in to pull out the keys only to find that it was actually still alive. It jumps to life gasping in pain until it finally dies. It wasn’t the doctor who killed this man. It was you.
Throughout The Evil Within you’ll come upon several different traps. There are bear trips, trip wires, grenades, mines and other horrific things built into the walls. If you simply run your way through every level, you’ll trigger each and every one and likely die because of it. You can sneak past them if you walk slowly, but you can also tinker with them, recalibrating them to trigger when an enemy passes over them. Of course, even trying to tinker with some will set them off.
If there was one thing that was frustrating about The Evil Within , it’s that it’s hard to get a sense of direction. Multiple times I was wandering lost, having absolutely no idea where to go next. This may have been because the demos were disconnected from the rest of the story, but at the same time there was no mini map, and no other indicators to point me toward where I needed to go next. This caused me to wander around in circles more often than not, and that sucked. There is also this mechanic where, if you wander around too much, this specter will chase you and if it touches you it drains your life down to a sliver. This might be truly terrifying in the full game, but when I was lost in the demo it was just frustrating.
But Shinji Mikami said that his entire purpose in The Evil Within was to make a game that was truly and honestly scary, and in that sense he succeeded. I walked away from the booth with a hollow panicked feeling. This isn’t the sort of horror that goes away with a laugh after you step away from it. This is the kind of horror that sticks with you, a muckey gorey horror that stays in the back of your mind, haunting your thoughts. Even now I find myself struggling to write this preview because I have to remember some of the things that happened in the game. Do not play this if you truly and honestly don’t like being scared, because The Evil Within won’t just scare you, it will shake you to your core.