-Exploration yields fruitful rewards
-Vague storyline and plot
-Excruciatingly limited resources
-Occasionally unresponsive and slow
-Camera can prove frustrating
Verdict: 5.5 (out of 10)
This year’s Destiny had a lot of hype, but after completion of the short campaign, what remained was a series of frequently repetitive occurrences that made about as much sense as an ashtray on a motorbike. The Evil Within is not necessarily in the same boat, but it certainly originates from the same dock. After watching several astounding trailers, and reading the verdicts of professional gaming companies online (Ausgamers gave the Evil Within a 10), I was expecting something considerably more entertaining. Australia’s newspaper The Age noted how The Evil Within was ‘a grand rebirth for survival horror’, and had this been 1998, or 2002, I probably wouldn’t bother voicing an argument. Today however, I would presume gamers want a little more from their games than relentless chase scenes and inexplicable gore, with an almost non-existent plot. For me, on the most part, I found the Evil Within annoying, for reasons I will explore in this post, the scariest part about the game quite possibly being its price.
Perhaps I might have found more enjoyment if the protagonist was someone a little different than Sebastian Castellanos. Although I won’t deny, I’m sure he’d make a great detective, but the lead in a horror game? He is out of his league in this alternate universe. Although he proves himself courageous in a fight, his delicate body is quite the contradiction to his character, and the fact that he, at the beginning, cannot run more than a couple dozen feet without becoming crippled with exhaustion, is frustrating. He doesn’t just stop running though – usually he has to bend over, panting like someone who just ran a marathon, all the while, whatever thing you were running from, draws ever closer, and when battling boss monsters, who can kill you with a single hit, the distance between you and the bad guys, is precious.
Moving on, throughout the game, a majority of the levels are an incoherent mass of hysteria, and reminded me a fair bit of Painkiller, in that one level does not exactly continue on from the other, and you rather find yourself going from one random location to the next, and this similarly occurs during levels as well. Often in games, locations are meant to yield information on the plot itself, but such is forfeited by this peculiar technique. Again, like Painkiller, the environments are rather drab, with a mixture of browns, blacks, grays and (of course) reds, making up a quantity of the environment, and although everything is well constructed, the lack of any lively color makes the game look and feel like a graveyard, which does nothing to exploit the power of the new systems (I myself played this title on the XBOX One).
While exploring these strange environments however, you are able to find news clippings, audio and doctoral files from other individuals, and a back-story regarding Sebastian, and from chapter five onwards, you begin to piece together the kind of life that Sebastian has experienced. It is sub-plots like these that make you want to continue, in order to alleviate your quest for answers, however the slow pace the answers are provided means there is a lot of trekking through strange territory, that on more than one occasion seems to have no real pertinence to the shadowy storyline.
The most hectic part about the game though, is the lack of resources. This is where upgrading becomes most paramount. At the beginning of the game, the amount of reserve ammo or health-packs your character can carry is pitifully low, and you are forced to choose between making your character’s life line stronger, or upgrading the number of resources you can hold. Upgrading is done by acquiring glop from around not only the environment, but from the bodies of deceased enemies, who (rarely) drop something you can use. During each level, you may hear the sweet melody of music serenading your eardrums, which means that by walking through a mirror, you are able to enter a safe haven, which seems to exist between not only the game’s worlds, but time itself. Here, you can save the game, find information on certain back stories, restock on supplies (during the Evil Within you may find small statues which internally contain keys, that then unlock cabinets containing goods), or upgrade your character by shocking yourself in an electric chair (yes, you read that right).
Continuing on with regards to the lackluster resources, I have no problem with a challenge, as long as I receive a reward afterwards that will incentivize me to persist with the unending struggle. The reward that is received however is hardly agreeable compensation – often, a collection of new antagonistic monsters appear, sometimes even in areas previously cleansed of enemy combatants. As previously noted, enemies drop very little in the way of loot once deceased, and been forced to waste valuable resources dispatching these new creatures is a frustrating hindrance. What is most annoying though, is that you receive, early on in fact, an arsenal of powerful weapons, but you can hardly ever use them, and rather, your character seems to spend more time running from the enemy in a vain attempt to avoid as many encounters as possible, rather than using the weapons for the reason they were made. The frequency of these chase sequences reminded me somewhat of Prince of Persia, Warrior Within, in which a great portion of the game is spent running away from the monstrous Dahaka.
The addendum that enemies don’t normally stay dead unless set alight is another conundrum faced, and since matches are even more scarce than ammo, you are forced to choose who you purge with fire delicately, as you never know what lies around the next corner. That is even if Sebastian lights the enemy up at all. On several moments, the game refused to let me set an enemy alight unless I stood in a certain position, and by that time, the target had already begun to drag its gory remains to its feet, forcing me to repeat the entire process all over again. If you happen to die moreover, upon returning to the game (there is a checkpoint system, alongside the opportunity to manually save your progress), resources will either be different, or not available at all. There was one moment when I uncovered several bullets from inside a container, but when I returned after having died, it was completely vacant.
On this note, a number of the resources are hidden in boxes, containers and cabinets, and you are forced to demolish these, making unnecessary noise that alerts nearby foes. Occasionally, you are also required to work with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)), and their clumsiness in knocking over items is aggravatingly brutal. They might as well put up a neon sign. On the subject of lighting, Joseph is allowed to carry a lantern with an unending shelf-life, however the light is just as much a monster magnet as the unfortunate onset of sound, which can be triggered by bumping into a table, or stepping on some glass, which adds a good deal of realism to the game. Sounds can however, when properly employed, be used as devices of distraction, which can allow you the opportunity to sneak up on unsuspecting foes, and stealthily kill them without the use of ammo. Going into a fist fight with an enemy is seldom a recommendation judging by the amount of damage a single combatant can inflict, but stealth kills offer a solution to this quandary. Stealth kills are not impossible, but the chance that the enemy will turn and see you is very likely, so careful precision is always a requirement. Of course, the fact that the crouch button needs to be held down, alongside the addendum that Sebastian cannot use firearms while crouched, makes this all the more complex. Additionally, with regards to stealth, Sebastian can, rather than kicking a door open, slowly push it forward, the eerie squeak of the door being questionably loud. The point I’m making by including this assessment is with regards to the camera angle during this stealth tactic. As Sebastian opens the door, for several seconds, you have no control over the camera’s location, and instead of seeing what threat exists in the following area, you have to wait until Sebastian is in the room to regain control, putting the character at unnecessary risk.
Returning to the subject of checkpoints, occasionally, they fail to reboot the player where the checkpoint was received. There was one moment in particular, where I received a checkpoint behind a condemned building, but after having died, I rematerialized atop a flight of stairs, in plain sight of an enemy, who then proceeded to hurry after me. With regards to the enemy in general, although they are capable of detecting the player by sight and sound, they don’t appear largely intelligent. On one occasion, I was chased into a room by a cluster of creatures, who then proceeded to run amok, bumping into one another in a frenetic attempt to acquire me. Not only was I able to escape without taking any damage (which was a rare occurrence, I must say), but witnessing the creatures blindly bumping into one another like a gaggle of brainless bots was certainly something to behold.
In general, most enemies appear much the same; humans who have endured a wealth of torture, with bits and pieces hanging off their bodies. Although the graphics render their mutilated forms in vivid detail, which you cannot help but admire (when you are hidden, at least), most enemies are simply reminiscent of zombies, and after having seen one, you have, on the most part, seen them all. Although on occasion you find creatures that are very different, and the boss encounters are certainly reminiscent of this, such is rarely commonplace, rendering the excitement of been pursued by yet another zombie-like creature moot after it occurs for the sixteenth time that hour. Despite a lot of creatures requiring little more than a wealth of firepower in order to have their existence brought to a close, sometimes creatures require a degree of strategy. Not long into the game you encounter a certain enemy that has the habit of becoming invisible, and so you are required to watch the environment; if a puddle of blood is disturbed, or an item is inexplicably knocked over, the chance the creature is near is very high.
Besides enemies, there are also traps that players need to be on the look out for. One is unable to stroll confidently into a room, else the chance they will be turned into a pile of bloody innards from an unexpected device is quite likely, and these become all the more frustrating when you are been pursued. Bombs, bear traps, electric wires, retractable spikes, among other contraptions, await you in every single level, and unless you have your wits about you, a lot of cheap deaths await the novice traveler. Alongside traps though, there are also puzzles, the act of solving them moreover proving to be quite fun. Occasionally dire ramifications await those who, for instance, happen to incorrectly put things in the required order. Puzzles can involve applying knowledge found in a picture or diagram into a real world scenario (like looking at the picture of a body, and then cutting open the mutilated flesh of some poor sap in the location specified by the drawing).
Occasions like these, not to mention the inexplicable wealth of blood, appears to be the frightening scenarios players were promised upon purchasing this title. Unlike in Alien Isolation, where the terror is in your face, watching Sebastian being torn to shreds by creatures is hardly anything to become squeamish over, and for the most part, I found myself chuckling at the sight of limitless violence. When other ‘frightening’ scenarios are produced, they are normally cliched and predictable, and it is nothing you wouldn’t have seen before. In conclusion, as the title of this post suggests, the only ‘evil’ I found was my own, after becoming rather angry with myself for having bought this particular product. Although I won’t deny, there are some impressive moments, these are so fleeting and minor, that between the lacking resources, pathetically weak protagonist, and bland locations, they are unable to satisfactorily save the Evil Within from itself.