The Evil Within is the latest and reportedly last ever game from horror maestro Shinji Mikami, the creator of the Resident Evil franchise and the godfather of survival horror. Having split from Capcom, Mikami founded his own studio, Tango Gameworks, in 2010, and The Evil Within is the studio’s first endeavour, released just in time for Halloween 2014.
Developers: Tango Gameworks
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows
Having diversified by working in recent years on projects such as Vanquish and Shadows of the Damned, Mikami decided to return to the survival horror genre after becoming disappointed by the direction which it had taken since he left the field. The resulting work not only draws on the roots of the genre but also combines this with more recent developments in horror.
The Evil Within’satmosphere is tense and genuinely foreboding, taking place in surreal environments with sinister lighting effects, populated by grotesque enemies with distinctive appearances such as the multi-limbed abomination Laura. The sound design is equally effective, with enemies having distinctive audio cues that will put you on edge before you even see the lurking horrors, and the soundtrack utilises classical music to create an unsettling feeling. You won’t listen to Bach’s ‘Air on a G String’ or Debussy’s ‘Clair De Lune’ the same way again.
The game’s plot is intriguing; you play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos investigating a massacre at a psychiatric institution before being transported into a hellish otherworld, but exposition takes place in an oblique and enigmatic manner, with no certainty about what events are real and which ones are not.
In terms of mechanics, the controls are quite straightforward and easy to work out, with the exception of the inventory button which could be better placed. Thankfully Mikami decided not to resurrect the infamous ‘tank controls’ of the early years of survival horror. The game features inventory management, ammo crafting, well implemented stealth mechanics and marks a return of the feature of the GameCube Resident Evil remake whereby the bodies of fallen enemies would need to be burnt to prevent them from reanimating.
The early stages are also well structured to teach you the basic mechanics of the game. There are a variety of methods for approaching a given situation, whether this is through stealthy assassinations, running and gunning, setting traps and using environmental hazards against your enemies. The game also has a rewardingly hard learning curve and doesn’t mollycoddle the player. Learning is done by trial and error, with error meaning death more often than not.
This game is by no means perfect however; the camera can at times be awkward to position and lead to irritation while visually The Evil Within has some frame rate and texture clipping issues. If you can overlook these minor technical issues though, you’ll enjoy an unnerving and exhilarating horror experience.
Overall, The Evil Within is the true spiritual successor to the survival horror masterpiece, Resident Evil 4. However, there are also clear influences from some of the other best horror games of roughly the last decade. In the style of Dead Space, gameplay continues while you use the inventory screen, and similarly to Amnesia: The Dark Descent Sebastian also carries a lantern which provides illumination but also serves to attract enemies.
The chase scenes and sections where you are forced to hide from enemies are reminiscent of Outlast and the game’s throwing mechanic works like that featured in The Last of Us. If you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned titles or are a Resident Evil fan disappointed with how the series has lost its way, then The Evil Within should prove to be a worthwhile purchase.