It's only fair I preface all this with the fact that I love horror. Rest assured, I am completely suited for reviewing a survival horror game.
Survival horror is a genre label that has been the point of a fair amount of contention the last few years or so. Purists maintain it simply doesn't exist anymore, mostly because the evolution of modern games has left little room for it to propagate. It's not like they're popping out Resident Evil 4s every year, right?
Well, that's why The Evil Within caught my eye when I first saw it at E3 2013. The game is the first product from Tango Softworks, a development team led by Shinji Mikami, the guy who actually created the Resident Evil series. Mikami has a resume that is beyond intimidating: Resident Evil 1-4, Devil May Cry, Shadows of the Damned -- and that's just the mature stuff. He's also had a hand in Viewtiful Joe, God Hand -- hell, he's even got a credit on Aladdin for the SNES.
I have always adored the Resident Evil series and consider Resident Evil 4 to be one of my all-time favorite games. So to say I was excited for the thoroughly accomplished Mikami's next creation was an understatement. The Evil Within is the next chapter in Mikami's legacy, and it's a love letter to any horror junkie's psyche. It's strange, demented, twisted and like classic survival horror, maddeningly unforgiving.
I've always found that horror games tend to get unfair leniency when it comes to telling a lucid story, mostly because the atmosphere and enemy design is where the meat of the attention is drawn. The Evil Within suffers from a similar shortcoming, too. It's just that the story wasn't necessarily my main reason for my trudging through the campaign.
Check out GameSpot for more on The Evil Within
In The Evil Within you play as Sebastian Castellanos, a detective who gets a first-hand account of the destruction of a city and wakes up to find himself in a disastrous world where the undead stalk him relentlessly.
The Evil Within is visually striking, making great use of new-gen hardware and PC horsepower. It's presented in an ultra-widescreen fashion that appears to be in the anamorphic 2.39:1 ratio, so you'll be playing with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. (On a side note, The Order: 1886 will feature something similar. It's officially a trend.)
My gut reaction to seeing this was assuming it was a move to increase the game's frame rate and performance. And while that might be a beneficial product of the stylistic choice, it also creates a bizarre uneasiness during play sessions. It actually induces a claustrophobic feeling, handcuffing you as you squirm in your chair to rotate the camera so the sources of the unknown offscreen sounds can come into view.
The Evil Within's grainy, lantern-lit visuals and eerie sound design do an excellent job of setting the mood, and the grotesque abominations that inhabit this world will turn your stomach. It's the perfect game to play for the Halloween season (in addition to Alien: Isolation) and likely something you'll feel apprehensive about playing at night. But now that you have the basic specs and know the tone, is The Evil Within any fun to play?
All that will depend on the type of player you are. Are you forgiving? Do you have patience? Do you like to explore? These habits are all rewarded.
That said, The Evil Within does not do a thorough job of explaining its many idiosyncrasies, so some of the time you'll be guessing your way through. To what I'm sure will be the chagrin of many, that includes a fair amount of trial and error, especially within the game's first five hours or so. This is basically a fancy way of me saying you're going to die an awful lot.