The return of survival horror.
Shinji Mikami is still considered the father of survival horror. While some titles came before, and plenty after, Resident Evil is still the touchstone of when the genre took shape. Now, almost 20 years later Mikami returns to the classic style for his latest project. A lot of gamers feel like survival horror has been stagnant. While the Dead Space series is close to rekindling my love for the genre, it still failed to deliver on several levels. In comes The Evil Within. From start to finish it feels like classic Mikami. The pacing is fantastic, the sense of dread and lack of ammunition is in abundance. This is the best the genre has been in years.
The story in Evil Within is a twisted tale that follows detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners as they investigate a mental hospital. Upon arriving they discover there is a lot more going on, and the game weaves an interesting tale before all is said and done. There is a lot of confusion, and the voice acting is not stellar by any means, but it remains interesting. There is also a lot of world building through collectibles, which has certainly become a trope in gaming these days.
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC, 360, PS3
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Time to Beat: 15-20 hours
Evil Within embodies old-school survival horror in a way games seem to have forgotten. The lack of ammo and combat puzzles really kept the tension high in every level. I loved the pacing of the game. One level may be a shorter, endeavor focused more on telling the story, while the next would be a combat puzzle trying to figure out how to take down a set of enemies with limited supplies. Others had me spending time solving puzzles, and then there are the boss fights – enemies that could wipe me out in one hit, and required me figuring out creative ways to take them down.
There is never a dull moment. From the beginning of this 15+ hour adventure each chapter kept me interested. The only reason I stopped playing was because of the tension it delivers. I found myself having to put it down to take a break and play something a little less intense. I loved that. I always wanted to come back, and outside a partially frustrating encounter two thirds of the way through, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Combat plays out like a standard third-person shooter. Weapons are commonplace, featuring a pistol, shotgun and sniper rifle. The unique addition is the crossbow, which uses various types of ammo. Explosive, incendiary and freeze arrows can all be collected or created using the simplistic crafting system. These are easily the most effective tools to take down enemies. Freezing a boss while I ran around setting up traps to lure them into is both effective and satisfying.
There is also an upgrade system that helps keep our protagonist from being overrun. Collecting green juice that can then be used to modify Sebastian’s abilities becomes imperative. Typical upgrades include increasing health, being able to carry more ammo, sprint longer and deliver more damage. By the end of the game I still felt vulnerable, but I definitely had more of an advantage against my foes. The balance is finely tuned.
I wish everything was great about Evil Within, but there are a few nagging issues that really stood out. The first is the letterbox presentation. Now, I understand that it is designed to create tension. Limiting the view of the environment keeps certain things from view, but Evil Within takes it a bit too far. The space removed from the viewing area is about 40%, which can really deliver a claustrophobic setting. It also creates some weird camera movements and caused death more often than I care to count. It also hinders finding collectibles and just being able to see the fantastic environments. I wish there was a way to simply turn it off.
Another issue I ran into was frame rate. The game can definitely chug at times, especially when there is a lot of action onscreen. There are moments when the game simply stuns, while other times it looks like a higher resolution game from last gen. I was shocked how often the frame rate dipped below the standard 30fps mark.
Even with these issues I still enjoyed the lengthy adventure Evil Within delivers. It has been a long time coming, but Mikami has definitely delivered classic survival horror. Fans of the genre should not miss this. While it is plagued with visual problems, the pacing is almost perfect, and the tension is unmatched. There is a lot to love with Mikami’s latest title, and I cannot wait to see where he goes next.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.