Finally a real psycho horror

We haven’t really had to look forward to real horror games in recent years. With games like Dead Space, FEAR, Resident Evil and Aliens, we’ve often seen few scary shooters lately. However, The Evil Within surfaced last year when we attended GamesCom. At the time, we got to see the game’s first mission, and it caused mild nightmares afterward. In addition, we could already play the game in Cologne this year and this topper from Bethesda has finally been launched. However, can this game by Shinji Mikami live up to the high expectations?

In The Evil Within you play as detective Sebastien Castellanos. He and his partners arrive on the scene to solve a horrific mass murder. However, he immediately sees on camera that something is wrong with the environment and he and his partners are put in the most horrific situations. When you wake up, the horror really starts. And that start is also the highlight of the game, if you ask me. You wake up as you hang upside down in the air like a pig, ready to be slaughtered. You have to free yourself while you see that from 10 meters away someone is cutting human bodies aka Texas Chainsaw Massacre meat bites for the barbecue. From that moment on you will be sucked into the game and the fear sweat will start to slide into your buttocks. A chase soon follows, which leads to panic, running and playing hide and seek. We already got to see this mission in Cologne and it was even more impressive then, especially because it was new. Unfortunately, the game slows down a bit after that. The missions become less intense and only after mission 1 do you notice that the suspense is slipping. It is then more about shooting zombies, but you will almost always encounter a final boss that will make your life miserable. And it is mainly the bosses that occasionally appear during missions and provide a shivering end to a chapter.

It is what it is…

What is striking about the main character is that Sebastien is quite someone who can remain calm in extreme situations. Personally, I’d be more inclined to kill myself than face such traumatic bosses, but Sebastien is pretty level-headed about it. It’s as if he’s had this hack before, while a normal person would react completely panicked to such a situation he’s in. As a result, you don’t get that close bond with the main character that is needed in a horror game like this. You are more scared than the character. You only get a limited number of weapons in the game. A pistol, crossbow, shotgun and sniper are some examples. In addition, you get very limited amounts of ammo, so every bullet will count. You can also increase your ammo capacity with upgrades, just like improving the character. This can be done by improving your running capacity, increasing your maximum health level or improving weapons (clip size, accuracy etc.). These upgrades can be purchased in a hospital and there you will also find safes that you can open when you encounter keys to these along the way. In itself, the upgrades are an added value, although it does not add much to the experience of the game. Somehow you barely feel your abilities have improved, leaving you with the impression that you’re of the weaker race when you’re fighting enemies. It is therefore often tactical thinking about how you will come to a solution when fighting bosses. One minute you’re running, you have to blow up a barrel, then you have to turn off the gas or lock someone up. Because of these reservations, you sometimes have to try and pay the price a few times to find out exactly what to do. This can be quite frustrating.

The Evil Within is completely linear so you won’t get much freedom. The environments do vary from Saw-like, oppressive lofts to quite peaceful outdoor environments, but you always have a claustrophobic feeling. This in itself is also an advantage because you often have the feeling that you can’t escape, especially bosses, who keep running after you. The bosses are therefore what provides the frightening moments in the game, because they are indeed there. The game also feels quintessentially Japanese with occasional bizarre unrealistic moments, psycho elements and supernatural powers coming together. The story is almost obscured but still fairly intact. Every now and then you play with other characters that you have to free or who assist you in battles. But you won’t build a great relationship with them.

This is partly due to the graphical quality of the game. The characters look typically Japanese and are not very human, both in-game and in the movies. They walk around a bit, say something now and then, but otherwise you don’t care that someone coughs their lungs out and almost thinks they’re dead. Graphically, the characters don’t look realistic either. Graphically, The Evil Within isn’t the tip of the iceberg from what we’ve seen so far, especially for a game as linear as this one. Games like Destiny with an open world are therefore a lot higher quality. In addition, the black bars in your image so that a quarter of your screen will not be filled. Why these horizontal bars are necessary is a bit unclear to me, but they are annoying. The bosses and the oppressive environments do look good and get a good rating in my opinion. The ‘Clair de Lune’ soundtrack that you regularly encounter when you can transport via mirrors back to the hospital is nice and atmospheric, just like the ambient sounds and other sound effects. Bosses really scream through your speakers and the scares pop out of your bass, which is also part of a horror game like this one.

Japanese gameplay

In terms of gameplay, you also notice that it is typically a Japanese game. It all feels fine, the controls may be a bit cumbersome at times, but here and there it doesn’t work completely smoothly. The too much zooming in of the sniper, long loading times, constantly repeating zombie counterattacks, objects that show themselves in front of the camera, it are often minor annoyances to the gameplay and graphics that make the game a little less good. Also the running, which works fine in itself, sometimes seems a bit woodenly old-fashioned to feel. Explaining is difficult in that regard, but it just doesn’t feel completely fluid at times. In terms of puzzles, it’s not too impressive either. The booby traps are easy to disable and every now and then you come across an easy brain teaser that has little real challenge. With those minus points discussed you have to admit that the game plays away fine. Personally, I would have opted for a SAW-like approach, which would mainly bring more realism, but also be a bit more narrative, but that certainly doesn’t make the game less scary.

The Evil Within is not a game that you just play through again, with which the replayability value is low. The difficulty levels are all tough, and choosing a higher difficulty level is certainly possible, but that keeps the game as linear as it gets. In any case, the game has succeeded in forcing people to change their underpants, and I think that was the main goal of the maker. We take it for granted that the gameplay and story are not perfect. However, I think the transition from chapter 1 to the rest of the game is a bit big. From the real Texas Chainsaw Massacre feeling, the game turns to a kind of The Walking Dead atmosphere and every now and then those 2 feelings switch. Of course, keeping the game exciting for 15 hours is quite a task, but in the end, all in all, they succeeded well. Waiting for a sequel therefore seems a matter of time. The real horror fans can therefore assume a good buy when they bring this nightmare into their home.

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Author: Jeroen Janssen | Genre: Horror survival | Release: 17-10-2014 | Publisher: Bethesda Softworks | Developer: Tango GameworksGraphics: 8.0 † Sound: 9.0 † Gameplay: 8.0 † Controls: 7.5 † Playback: 6.0 8.2+ Chapter 1 and the bosses per level+ Great audio effects+ Changing environments and oppressive atmosphere- Horizontal black bars in your image- Little bond with the characters- Little to no good puzzles

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