Almost twenty years ago, Resident Evil released on the PlayStation and quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed horror games of all time. That franchise has become so popular that sometimes it's easy to overlook the mastermind behind the great series of games. Shinji Mikami, along with his new studio Tango Gameworks, makes his triumph return to the horror genre with The Evil Within. One word can describe a horror game directed by such a creative mind as Mikami's – terrifying.
The Evil Within takes place in the fictional Krimson City. The protagonist, Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his team, are tasked to investigate a multiple homicide that has taken place at Beacon Mental Hospital. This horrendous crime is believed to be the work of a serial killer. Once he arrives at the crime scene, Sebastian and the crew are attacked by supernatural powers and are transported to a sick, demented world. From there on, Sebastian is determined to unravel the mystery of the world he is in and find a way to survive and escape his current predicament.
The narrative starts off compelling and seems to have promise, but as I progressed through The Evil Within's 15 chapter adventure, I was disappointed by how unfocused the plot had become. The game takes you through tons of different areas but the story fails to properly convey why I was in these areas or what was going on in the world around me. There are journal pages and newspapers clippings that helped fill in some plot holes but unfortunately some of them seem to be more back-story than any concrete information to help advance the plot. I hoped maybe the ending would fill in some of the gaps, but again I was disappointed and left with even more unanswered questions.
Even with the less-than-stellar story, The Evil Within's shines in the gameplay department. Tango Gameworks does not hold back with the horror at all. Fans of Resident Evil 4 wll find familiar territory here as The Evil Within feels the same. The similarities come to a drastic halt however when it comes to the setting. I've lost count of how many horror games I've played, but none of them has put me in such unsettling surroundings. Creepy mansions, spine-chilling sewers, and petrifying mental hospitals are only a few of the many nerve-wrecking environments The Evil Within forces you to traverse through.
The monster design is flawless. Tango Gameworks have developed some of the most imaginable, blood curdling creatures to every appear in the genre. From start to finish, every chapter introduced some new abomination that forced me to find a way to defeat it. Chief among these frightening creatures being "The Keeper" and "Laura". Each time I had to deal with one of these two fiends, gruesome deaths followed by a plethora of profane words became the norm. That is part of what makes The Evil Within so much fun to play. Continually failing makes your eventual triumph feel that much better. The Evil Within is not forgiving by any means. On the survival difficulty enemies are brutal and every encounter could very well end with Sebastian being decapitated or his body being brutally dismembered. Checkpoints are few and between, so moving slowly and carefully is your best option.
The difficulty of The Evil Within is amplified even more thanks to the scarcity of resources. This is the epitome of a survival horror game from the start to the credits. Every bullet you miss can come back and haunt you later in the game. I loved how creative this forced me to be. Forcing enemies into a big group so I could shoot them all with one single shotgun round or aiming at their legs to force them to the ground allowing me to set them on fire, are just some of the tactics I had to resort to because of the lack of ammunition.
While resources are short, weapons are not. The Evil Within does a great job with giving you a diverse set of weapons that all excel for different situations. You begin with a handgun but eventually find more lethal options such as a shotgun, sniper rifle and grenades. Of all the weapons Sebastian has at his disposal, none prove to be more useful than "Agony Crossbow". This crossbow is armed with different tips such as fire, ice, electricity, and poison. This weapon easily became my favorite and helped me get through some of the game's harder areas. Freezing enemies then quickly using my melee attack to watch them shatter into dozens of pieces, or setting them ablaze never gets old.
Tango Gameworks also implements an upgrade system. Killing enemies can sometimes net you green gel which can be traded for upgrades. Stamina, health, clip capacity, and gun damage are a few of the many upgrades available. Like ammunition, green gel is also scarce. This system is simple but efficient. Each upgrade is important to your survival so choosing one over the other proves to be difficult. The survival aspect of the game made simple choices such as upgrading my health or carrying more ammunition a process that made me think about what would suite my playstyle better.
Visually, The Evil Within won't necessarily wow you, but by there are a few aspects that are well done. Lighting and character models are nearly flawless. The dark theme of the game and daunting music that plays just adds more to the experience and immersed me into the world. The soundwork is among the best I've seen in the genre. Seeing dark shadows while sneaking through hallways and hearing enemies skulking around corners brought chills down my spine.
While the games overall graphics are good, unfortunately The Evil Within is not without technical issues. The game suffers from texture pop-ups, clipping and framerate stutters. I noticed the texture pop-ups issues frequently happened during the cutscenes and not during gameplay so that portion of the game seems to be unaffected. Clipping however was more abundant during gameplay. Sometimes character models would walk through each other or parts of their bodies would clip through a wall. Thankfully, this wasn't always the case and the majority of the game doesn't seem to have those problems. The game runs at 30 frames-per-second but occasional the framerate drops. Fortunately the framerate quickly recovers from these stutters and runs pretty smooth for the most part.
I was pleased with the length of the game as well. My initial playthrough almost took me 16 hours. For the trophy hunters out there, be prepared to spend dozens of hours in the game in pursuit of that shiny new platinum. Replay value is also high. After completion of the game you are awarded with a huge amount of green gel but more importantly you are granted new weapons, difficulties, and a new game plus mode. The "Nightmare" difficulty is just a harder version of Survival but the "AKUMA" mode is where your resiliency is put to the test. In "AKUMA" mode the enemy AI is relentless and one single hit to Sebastian will instantly kill him. Needless to say this is the ultimate test of your survival horror skills.
The Evil Within is a game that the survival horror genre desperately needed. Recent horror games have seem to forgotten simple mechanics that makes the genre so unique. The Evil Within is the perfect example of the old cliche "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks does just that. Even with a plot that never meets its potential, the beautifully designed enemies, superb gameplay and terrifying environments all come together to give horror fans a fascinating, memorable experience.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09