Once I had learnt that the creator of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, was ready to make his first post-Resident Evil 4 title, I had high hopes that the grand daddy of survival horror had something new up his sleeve.
It’s clear that Resi 4 has been a large source of inspiration for The Evil Within, but it’s not without good reason. Having struck gold with the gameplay formula before, why change something that isn’t technically broken? Although true, sticking to old ground seems to have had both a positive and negative affect for The Evil Within.
Tasked as detective Sebastian Costellanos, you’re sent to investigate a disturbance at a nearby mental institute, but after you arrive, it appears that things are much worse than anticipated. What follows is a journey through a hellish world, as you and your two colleagues fight for survival against an elusive character named Ruvik. You only learn of his identity later in the game, but your main objective is to stay alive during the mind-bending fifteen chapters. Over the duration of the campaign you’ll have to solve puzzles and dispatch of zombie-like enemies which, in comparison to Resident Evil 4, are far less your average zombie and utilise an array of weapons to stop you in your tracks.
The similarities to Resi 4 don’t stop there. Everything from the movement of your character and item pickups also bear a close resemblance. Not to mention the graphics engine, which I feel has been held back due to being developed across older platforms as well. This game is essentially Resident Evil 4.5 and the gameplay feels solid, but compared to many other third-person titles such as Uncharted, it certainly feels outdated. The atmosphere often feels spot-on, however, and Mikami has done a good job of retaining a constant sense of threat.
Those issues aside, I did enjoy its overall presentation. As you progress through the story you have the ability to use safe houses to ‘transport’ you back to a ward in the mental institute. You don’t actually travel there, but get teleported whilst you look at a glowing mirror. Everything is basically one big schizophrenic moment. From there you can then save your game or upgrade your character, using a collection of a green liquid, which can be harvested from enemies or found in jars littered across each map. Everything from your health bar to the amount of damage a gun dispels, can be increased. I chose to increase my stamina and then focused on my pistol’s damage since running away was often a viable option, and with a larger amount of pistol ammo littered around you’ll be stocked up more frequently.
In terms of performance there were a few hiccups. Aside from the game crashing on me twice (I had a digital copy), the frame rate did have a few problems keeping up and the graphics engine seemed tired and, again, outdated. I played across both PS4 and Xbox One, but didn’t notice any major differences between the two. The addition of forcing the game into a 16:9 aspect ratio didn’t go down well with me, and I would’ve preferred to have the entire screen filled up to get the best out of my surroundings. I got used to the restrictive view after a few hours, but can easily see it being a big turn off for most players. Let’s hope there’s an update to toggle the feature off in a future update. Thankfully there’s no multiplayer, but there is a NewGame+, which will allow you to further upgrade your abilities and use all your items straight from the start of the game.
From a horror perspective I’d say The Evil Within has more tension filled moments and gore, than all-out jump scares. Perhaps for those who aren’t used to playing horror titles might find themselves screaming at times, but in a day and age where we have games such as Outlast or P.T. it will take a lot to beat there first-person adrenaline thrills. It’s therefore solid gameplay that wins the day, bringing you through all fifteen chapters with the old-school soul of Resident Evil 4, wrapped in an unfortunately tired format.
*The PS4 copy of the game was provided to use by Bethesda, whereas the Xbox One copy was provided by Microsoft.
- + Great tension-filled atmosphere
- + NewGame+ allows for more experimentation
- + The Keeper brings terror
- - Often clunky level design hampers the gameplay.
- - The graphics engine seems tired and old
- - Its story becomes a bit messy, with countless hallucination scenes