I loved survival horror, and I say ‘loved’ because the genre has seen quite a decline in recent years. But as the creator of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, is making a comeback with his next game The Evil Within, I’ve had high hopes.
Upon my first viewing of the game during E3 2013, I was drawn in by its chilling atmosphere and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the title. A year later and I’ve been lucky enough to do just that, but I came away with mixed feelings, looking towards its release later this year with hope and trepidation. Starting up the demo I was given the choice between two chapters, one of which would be an easier route and another that would present a harder path, requiring me to use more brain cells. Picking up a controller on one of the pods, I found that I was playing the harder chapter, but relished the opportunity and anticipated the horror that awaited me.
Taking lead as murder investigator Sebastian Costellanos, you’re led alongside your colleagues into a twisted world, filled with terrifying visions and plenty of the undead. After experiencing a small hallucination, I found myself on a forest path leading towards a mansion. From the offset it’s that The Evil Within’s controls and looks borrow largely from Mikami’s experience on Resident Evil 4. Even though I was playing on Xbox One, it didn’t feel particularly Next-Gen, with clunky animations letting the side down.
Making my way into the mansion ahead, I ventured through the front door and was confronted by a staircase. Directly in front of me sat a large steel door with a brain insignia in the middle and three syringe-like objects aimed towards it. Since I was playing on a harder difficulty, I had no hints available to me, so I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my journey a little frustrating. I eventually figured out that filling each of the three syringes on the door would open it, so I made my way through the nearest door and continued forward.
Even with slightly clunky controls I certainly experienced a good sense of atmosphere, being met by countless dark hallways and multiple paintings of death on the walls. It wasn’t long until I encountered a few enemies, and after spending some of my precious ammo, I took out a match and burnt them. It’s worth noting that if you don’t burn your enemies after getting them down to the ground, they could come back, so be sure to finish each enemy off and keep an eye on your supplies.
The undead aren’t the only threats that pave your way. Be weary of proximity mines and remember to crouch and approach them slowly. You’ll have the chance to disarm them if you’re brave enough, but bear in mind that if you fail it’ll explode. In regards to health, there are syringes to be found, as well as large health packs, but they will be used up quickly if you’re not careful of the threats surrounding you. After making my way through a labyrinth of doors, I finally made it to the first puzzle. Being presented with a human head in the middle of a diagnoses, it was up to me to look at the chart next to it, listen to the automatic audio recording and successfully implant the syringe into the correct part of the brain, before I could move on. Failure to hit the correct part would result in a loss of health, so I had to think carefully.
With one head down I continued through the mansion, encountering traps and coming face-to-face, at times, with a supernatural being that watches over your every move. Initially seen in the first trailer for the game, I guess you could think of him as an underlying threat such as Albert Wesker was in Resident Evil. Only making himself present just before each puzzle, I wanted to be scared of him, but as he moved slowly towards me and I walked around in a circle to avoid him, the fear felt lost. For an enemy that is supposed to instill a terrifying loss of control, I felt pretty steady. At the end of each of the puzzles, I was shown a small hologram playing dialogue between a young boy and a doctor. For all intents and purposes I presume the boy is the very same man who stalks you throughout the story, and it doesn’t seem as though he had the best of childhoods. After finding all three brains and injecting the blood into each of the syringes I finally got through the door and my demo ended shortly after.
There’s a lot that I like about The Evil Within. With a creepy atmosphere and an underlying sense of fear, no matter where you walk, it’s nice to feel like I’m back in an old-school horror game. The only trouble is that with its older sensibilities, I’m worried the controls will let the side down and that the level design might feel outdated. Then again, we’ve still got four months until its release, so here’s hoping there’s something Shinji Mikami isn’t telling us.