A few points to start on: I like Survival Horror. Just getting that out there. If you hate the Survival Horror genre, The Evil Within isn’t for you. I played The Evil Within on Xbox One, so this will be about my experience with that console exclusively.  I’ll be talking about the first hour or two of the game, so minor spoilers ahead. Now that I’ve said all that, let’s dive in.

I went into The Evil Within with very little knowledge of the game; I’d only seen a few trailers and a short gameplay demo. I knew that I was a detective named Sebastian Castellanos (Thanks to the box) and  that I would be spending some time in a warped insane asylum, but overall I was going into the experience knowing very little.

Story

The first thing I can say about the story is that it progresses quickly. I haven’t felt like any segment has dragged on for too long. The story itself is gripping, though I haven’t felt too strong of a connection to the characters yet. I like Sebastian, but the supporting cast wasn’t given much time to make you care. Still, you do care some, since they’re the only people who aren’t trying to kill you. The settings have an interesting range, with some seeming right out of a horror movie and others seemingly normal. Overall, the story is fast paced and enjoyable from what I’ve played so far, and while I wasn’t very attached to the characters when I took notes for this article, I’ve grown more interested in the characters as I’ve progressed in the story.

Below is a not too detailed look at the first chapter and the beginning of the second, if you are curious. So beware SPOILERS below. Skip to Gameplay if you want to know nothing.

Within minutes, I went from meeting Sebastian and his partners in a squad car to an insane asylum that was the scene of a multiple homicide. After a brief inspection of the scene, you awaken in a scene from a Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossover movie. This area was actually the one shown in early gameplay demos, so I won’t go into much detail, but you pretty much go through the bloody depths of this “asylum” being chased by some freak with a chainsaw. When you make your way outside, you witness the city falling apart and make your escape with your partners (except for the missing Joseph), a doctor and his patient. Suddenly, something appears to happen to the officer driving the ambulance, causing the car to fly off of a cliff.

When Sebastian comes to, you find that he’s in an insane asylum that seems to be a bit more functional. Also, it’s in black and white. Anyway, you go and get strapped to an electric chair and have your brain shocked. (This is important for later.) Afterwards, you come to at the scene of the car crash, finding yourself alone in a rocky countryside. This changes pretty quickly when you find Officer Friendly. But he’s not so friendly anymore, he’s twisted and somewhat zombie like. He charges you, forcing you to put him down, giving you the first taste of combat.

Gameplay

The Evil Within is surprisingly complex when it comes to gameplay. I feel the game handles pretty well, and I haven’t had any issue with movement in the game. It definitely feels like a Survival Horror game; all enemies are dangerous (some vastly more so than others), outnumber you vastly, resources aren’t in large supply (if you feel like you have a lot of ammo, you’re probably going to lose it soon), danger feels like it’s around every corner and there’s a perpetual sense of terror being evoked.

An element of the game makes it feel apparent that Shinji Mikami was involved, and that element is matches. If you’ve played the remake to the first Resident Evil game, you’re familiar with the Crimson Heads: defeated zombies that rise again, becoming faster and more dangerous. They also hiss, and it’s super creepy. To stop this process, players either had to kill zombies by destroying the head with a critical hit or burning the body of the zombie after defeating it. The Evil Within has a similar mechanic. When enemies go down, they don’t seem dead; they seem ready to spring back up at any time. Luckily, Sebastian knows how to strike a match, and you can use matches to burn the bodies of defeated enemies to prevent them from rising again. Of course, matches are in limited supply, so you have to pick and choose when you want to burn. A tip: matches can ignite multiple bodies at once if they are close to each other.

I do have one issue with aiming. Evil Within is played from the third person, and the reticle is mostly stationary (it has some wobble, but that’s on purpose). The issue is that since the reticle is fixed, when enemies are close it feels almost as if they are in a space between Sebastian and the reticle, and accurately aiming becomes quite difficult. I may be making this sound like more of a problem than it is. I had this issue when using the pistol, a precision weapon, and since I first noted the issue I’ve gotten better at shooting enemies at point blank. Also, there’s a melee button, so there are options for defending yourself up close.

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Though I think I’d prefer to keep these guys at a distance.

I’ve seen some complaints about stealth being a large emphasis of the game, and from the beginning I’m not entirely convinced. Sure, the first chapter is pretty much all stealth, but its not exactly lengthy. Afterwards, stealth has largely been something the player could utilize or not. Using stealth to kill enemies saves ammo and dispatches them silently, so it has advantages, but it’s not as if you HAVE to do it that way.

A big surprised to me when I began playing The Evil Within was the character progression. I had no idea that I would be leveling Sebastian as I played, and I definitely did not expect to be crafting ammunition. As you kill enemies, you collect a green gel that Sebastian uses while he shocks his brain into making him more awesome. I have no idea how that works. But it’s vital to making it through the game. I’ve put points into health, sprint duration, health returned by healing items, healing item and matches stock, as well as upgrading damage, fire rate, critical chance and excess ammo stock for my pistol and shotgun. I’ve also upgrade reload and range for the Agony Crossbow, which brings me to my next point.

Crafting! When moving through what seemed to be a farming village from the dark ages, I found that The Evil Within is littered with traps. The player has the option to disarm the traps, and when traps are disarmed, the player obtains parts. These parts are used to craft the numerous types of bolts for the Agony Crossbow. This adds some more personalization to the game, as bolts take 2-5 parts to make and traps only give 1 or 2 parts at best, so the player has to pick the bolts they find most useful. This is the only use I’ve found for parts so far, but I was surprised by crafting being in The Evil Within at all.

Appearance

I’m playing The Evil Within on an Xbox One, so naturally I expected it to look pretty. I don’t think it takes the award for “Prettiest Game”, but it is a very pretty game. Character models are quite detailed, especially faces. Sebastian’s face looks excellent in particular, and the detail of the creatures makes them all the more disturbing. Even better, the damage done to enemies is very visible, especially to their faces.

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Their ugly, ugly faces.

The cutscene at the end of the first chapter was pretty solid, as it wasn’t pre-rendered and had no drop in frame rate. One issue I’ve had is that some lip synching seems to be a bit off, and though it isn’t frequent, it did grab my attention.

Sound

The Evil Within has high quality sound for the most part. I enjoyed the music in the opening sequence, but for the most part the music is used to enhance the intensity of whatever situation you’re in. Sound effects are pretty great, though a certain more brutish enemy kind of annoyed me with his constant growling. And a certain enemy that has a few too many appendages has a scream that scared the crap out of me. The voice acting is pretty solid as well, Sebastian’s voice especially. Some of the others I wasn’t sold on right away but grew on me. I feel like I didn’t get a solid read early on as a lot was happening at the time.

Conclusion

The Evil Within is a solid game, a real return to Survival Horror games of the past. It’s not without flaws, but in my experience the good outweighs the bad by a pretty strong margin. It’s a scary game, but I’ve played scarier games, so don’t be too worried about the horror aspect if you’ve played games with horror elements before. I would say The Evil Within works more of the “disturbing” angle. So if you’re looking for a Survival Horror game that feels more like games from the past with a surprising amount of customization, The Evil Within may be well worth picking up.

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Matthew Boss

About Matthew Boss

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Co-Founder and Lead Editor. Just a big fan of gaming, anime, manga... I tend to like most everything. Which annoys some people. Sorry about that. Anyway, living the simple life and posting about this stuff is all that's on my menu.

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