The trouble with survival horror nowadays is that it doesn’t sell half as much as your average action blockbuster, which is a shame, because I miss it greatly. It was to my excitement then, that Shinji Mikami (the creator of Resident Evil), announced he was returning to survival horror, after he left the genre upon the release of Resident Evil 4. A game which was arguably the best survival horror game I had ever experienced. Now, though, I think my statement might be put to the test.
The Evil Within is one of those titles that just by its promotional imagery – a brain wrapped in barbwire – gives the distinct impression that it means business when it comes to its horror. Fortunate for me, I managed to grab a thirty minute hands-off preview of the game, which was introduced by Shinji Mikami himself. As this is his first title since Resident Evil 4, you’d be forgiven for expecting something special, but don’t worry, as I believe he’s going to deliver on all accounts.
Before the demo started, Mikami-san (with the help of his translator), decided to give a little back-story behind the idea of Evil Within, explaining that this title is “survival horror coming back to its roots” and that the scare factor is the most important part of his vision. He also exaggerated that this is “pure survival horror”. Mikami continued that the triumph is about “overcoming the fears you encounter”. It was also made clear that there would be no Quick Time events.
You play as police officer Sebastian Castellanos, who at the beginning of the game is called to the scene of a blood bath, but it’s not until you arrive that you realise the true terror that waits. You’re not alone on this journey, however, as two colleagues join you, but it’s not long until you’re separated. Once you rock up to the building, the front lot is full of police cars, but everything is empty. The start immediately reminded me of Resident Evil 4 and its overall atmosphere; as the rain battered down on the abandoned police cars and you slowly made your way towards the large, gothic-style building ahead. Graphically the game looked great as well, with the police sirens’ light bouncing off nearby puddles of water and the rain soaking Sebastian’s clothes.
In typical fashion you get one of your colleagues to wait outside as you enter the building, which is laden with dead patients and workers, along with blood smeared across the floor. Everything is quiet, but your partner manages to find one survivor who dozes in and out of consciousness. One quick look over the CCTV footage opposite provides us with an image of a certain entity making mince meat of three policemen. In no time at all you’re knocked unconscious and wake up somewhere uncomfortable to say the least.
Dripping with blood and hanging upside down, you appear to be a little worse for wear, as you slowly scan the environment and notice more than a handful of bodies lining the ceiling. Suddenly, a large figure with an intimidating metal mask drifts past your screen, machete in hand, followed by a loud, uncomfortable chocking sound. What happens next is not for those who have a light stomach. The chocking is then replaced by a loud hacking, followed by a harsh splatter. An ominous figure emerges from the darkness with the top half of a mans’ torso, dragging it across the floor with blood gushing from the bottom half and slamming him onto his granite work surface, only to hack away at him.
Clearly Shinji Mikami is not afraid to shock his fans, and neither should he be, especially if he intends to pursue the ultimate depths of survival horror. What follows is an escape mission, as you cut yourself down using a knife stuck inside a corpse hanging next to you, and continue by sneaking around the dark, dingy maze of a basement. It’s certainly refreshing to see horror make an impactful return and I believe that, even based on this small segment, Mikami and his team will propel the horror genre back into the spotlight. After you exit the room and plan your escape, it isn’t long until your large friend finds out you have escaped and decides to fire up his chainsaw. One thing’s for sure, and that’s if he gets his hands on you you’re more than likely ending up on his work table too.
Luckily you find a room and hide in one of the lockers. Shortly after, the brute then uses his chainsaw to crash through the door and bursts into rage, as he swings his chainsaw furiously around the room in anger of losing you. After a tense and dramatic escape you manage to fine the main door you came through, but as you exit you notice that the parking lot is nothing but rubble and you have nowhere else to go. The great thing about the stealthy piece that was showcased was that despite the explicit gore, it wasn’t the main focus. The blood and guts merely ‘complimented’ the tense and frightening atmosphere. Horror isn’t plainly about the graphical nature of the game, it’s about building up the tension and keeping it there. Something I believe this game does incredibly well.
Aside from showing the stealthy scenes of the game I also got to see the combat. Showcasing the ability to booby trap windows, enemies whom were all decorated with spikes, alongside metal piercing their face, ended up exploding after setting one off. But as the enemy overwhelmed Sebastian, he decided to venture back down the stairs he appeared from and instead ended up into more trouble than expected. Before our demo ended we were given a glimpse of yet another enemy you’ll encounter and it appears that Sebastian’s night will just keep getting worse.
I was extremely impressed with what was shown, and couldn’t be more excited for the return of survival horror. With the likes of the Dead Space and Resident Evil game series approaching an action-orientated style more than ever, it’s nice to know that a true horror genre isn’t dead in the water. So how about you join me in excitement to plug in my headphones, turn off the lights and grab some adult sized diapers. This game’s going to rock – my pants that is.