Review: The Evil Within (PS4)

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Title: The Evil Within
Format: Blu-Ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (34.6 GB)
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Evil Within is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.
PS Nation Review Policy

The creative director of The Evil Within, Shinji Mikami, is credited with delivering some of the best and earliest games in the survival horror genre-defining series that came to be known as Resident Evil. Fans of the original are looking to The Evil Within as a spiritual successor capable of providing the Resident Evil experience that was lost when the franchise turned down an action oriented path.  The Evil Within delivers on the hardcore survival horror front, but has the industry changed too much for this formula to work in modern gaming?

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Gameplay:
You are Sebastian Castellanos, a hardened homicide detective called to a murder scene that will ultimately lead him down a path of terrors both physical and psychological, the likes of which he’s never encountered. Sebastian is a bit stone faced and one-dimensional, perhaps to allow the player to project his/her own emotions onto the character.  The story begins in a mental hospital and Sebastian gets his first glimpse of the supernatural while investigating a murderous tableau consisting of dozens of maliciously ravaged bodies.  Blood, severed parts, and entrails paint the lobby red, setting the tone for the adventure.

From there, the frustrating cycle of repeated death and replaying sections between the infrequent checkpoints begins. Remaining unseen plays a vital role in survival but the best way to do it, using sneak mode, can be a little clumsy.  There is no handy corner-cover, no advantageous camera angles, no heightened senses.  Sneaking up on an enemy offers a one hit kill that is both difficult to pull off and satisfying to complete.  Sebastian’s sneak-kill knife is conveniently absent when melee attacking, which serves only to slow enemies down long enough for Sebastian to run and hide.  However, doing so will quickly deplete your puny stamina meter and force a seemingly infinite resting period, causing almost immediate and certain death.  Adding to the overwhelming feeling of an under-powered protagonist is the scarcity of ammunition, an attribute that is consistent among the best games of the genre.

‘Green Gel’, a mysterious substance found throughout the world in varying amounts, allows Sebastian to upgrade his capabilities, artillery, and other aspects of his repertoire that can relieve some of the stresses of the difficult gameplay. Players will be forced to carefully plot their path to the next checkpoint as the ‘run and gun’ approach is unwelcome and foreign to the pace and controls.  The linearity of the game does not detract at all from the exploratory nature of scavenging for any helpful scrap.  Players will need to disarm every bear trap, defuse every bomb, and open every chest to gain the resources necessary to craft bolts for the crossbow and upgrade their arsenal.

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Visuals:
The locales in The Evil Within run the gamut from creepy forestry to dilapidated shanty towns, both of which offer shacks, sheds, and homes to enter and fully explore. All characters are not however created equal as the level of detail jumps from excellent in Sebastian, to average in the other humans you meet and rushed in some of the enemy types.  Cinematic cutscenes gorgeously portray detailed faces, especially in an early scene where rainfall navigates its way through the ridges of Sebastian’s brow.

The horizontal black bars popularized by widescreen adaptation remain at the top and bottom of the screen throughout the game, adding a cinematic element to every fearful step taken. The motion blur can be a bit excessive when it becomes necessary to whip the camera around with the right stick and the capped verticality can cause limited visibility when trying to see around a corner or watch your back.

Audio:
The soundtrack of a game is usually its most underrated feature, remaining unnoticed in the background while the graphics and gameplay take all of the credit. In The Evil Within, as is the case with most horror based entertainment, the music plays a vital role complementing the experience.  The exploding crescendos that differentiate themselves from the slow and creepy melodies are as frightening as the open wound-bearing, chainsaw-brandishing sadist waiting quietly around the corner.

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Players can be given the sense of discerning production values with such awesome music and such average voice acting as many of the performances aren’t top notch by any means. There are times when it’s impossible to locate the origin of some inhuman breathing or growling and the fear induced by these occurrences is both fun and unsettling.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
The Evil Within is beautifully brutal, methodically menacing, and surprisingly stealthy throughout its lengthy campaign. The best chapters involve navigating a small area while scouring for precious resources.  There are no freebies, no hand-holding, and the overwhelming feeling of feebleness and under-powered inferiority in comparison to your enemies makes the entire experience tense and unnerving.  The game remains true to the genre’s roots and will likely receive the same criticisms leveled at the Souls games regarding difficulty and unforgiving checkpoint mechanics.  If you’re up for a challenge and you don’t shy away from games that exercise your mind while commanding your patience in its entirety, The Evil Within may be right up your dreadfully unlit alley.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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  • Keith Dunn

    Nice review, Emrah!

    • embelievable

      Thank you sir. Sorry I missed you at NYCC.