The Evil Within  Review

The Evil Within Review

Note: the embargo for media that received The Evil Within from Bethesda is on October 14th, the day of release. As Bethesda declined to send us a review copy of the game (presumably due to the score we gave Wolfenstein: The New Order) we bought our own copy. As such said embargo does not apply, hence why the review is live now.

One of the most interesting things about famed Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami's latest is how much it feels like Silent Hill. While the influence of past Capcom classics is obvious - it plays like a cross between Resi remake's slow-burn horror and resource management while effortlessly slipping gears into the slasher-terror of Resi 4's action - The Evil Within's paranormal setting gives the director free reign to play with notions of reality in a way that resembles Team Silent's best. Crumbling hospitals, dilapidated prisons, the odd, dreamlike feeling that none of the spaces you inhabit bear much relation to any real-world rules: you wouldn't be surprised to bump into James Sunderland.

Does the combination work? It does, even if The Evil Within doesn't hit the heights of Mikami's previous work. It's a game that expertly sustains a feeling of dread, and knows when to ratchet up the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed, first slowly then suddenly in a way that induces sheer panic, much like Resi 4 before it. But detective Sebastian Castellanos is no Leon S. Kennedy: there are no suplexes or diving out of windows here. Instead Castellanos is a man who struggles, who limps, who, like the player, has to fight tooth and nail to prevent the next enemy encounter being the last.

The game is divided into distinct chapters, each beautifully presented in 2.35:1 ratio and backed up by superb, grisly art direction as well as technical grunt, before pulling players out to a menu when each is completed. It seems an odd, momentum-breaking decision at first, but later reveals itself as an effective way of letting players simply breathe again. Beyond mere survival The Evil Within's chapter objectives (find a key, flip a switch, etc) are simple, and for good reason: they serve as effective ways of focusing the terror.

From the word go the game is about survival in its basest form: there's a lot of action, but none of it is macho or glorious, and most of it is in the service of getting the fuck out of town. Your foes - whose tactics are essentially the same as the ganados in Resi 4 - work perfectly in these dreamscape worlds: they just keep coming.

Mikami, more than perhaps anyone, understands that the secret to gunplay and enemy encounters is crafting weapons that are actually tools, with specific functions, not just bang-bang power fantasies. The Evil Within's environments are cramped, dangerous, and oppressive. But they're also that to your enemies. Best laid plans will often go wrong, but the maxim remains: use your weapons and items wisely.

Failure to do so will result in death, and you'll probably die a few times anyway as a matter of course. Enemies are tough and intelligent, moving in packs and swarming the player, using melee and ranged weapons to box Sebastian in. Their resilience - a well-placed shotgun shell to the face sometimes isn't enough - is at the heart of their danger. In a nod to Resi remake's Crimson Heads, one of the few times players will feel safe is after burning downed foes. Even then, matches are at a premium.

There's a satisfaction to combat that feels distinctly Mikami - every encounter is a test, a potential last stand, and it takes true skill to come out alive. Choices have to be made - do you use the various tricks and traps against your enemy, or break them down into ammo for your multi-purpose bow? It's up to you, which makes combat so much fun.

It's these elements that drag you through a game that is, on the face of it, exhausting to play. Even when it isn't at its best, you'll want to press on. It sags considerably in the middle, unable to match Resi 4's superb pacing and letting some rather uninspired environments get in the way. Sometimes you'll be killed cheaply, which given the Herculean effort needed to survive at all can grate.

At times it feels like a Mikami megamix: it has the village with the chainsaw-wielding dude, another mansion, etc. But Mikami does this so well it's difficult to get annoyed. It's not unusual for directors in either film or games to recall past glories, and few do it better than Mikami. Even though this isn't his best, The Evil Within has enough magic to make it a worthy investment.

Version Tested: PlayStation 4

Merchant of Menace

evil within box out -

The Evil Within is one of the few action games I've played where, despite the comprehensive selection of firearms on offer, you feel close to powerless. The only way to survive is to keep a constant eye out for jars of green goo, which function as a currency for upgrading Sebastian's various attributes.

Thankfully said goo is fairly prevalent, found on dead enemies and in the environment like the Pesetas in Resi 4. Unlike that game, however, The Evil Within takes upgrades as an opportunity to pull the player out of the main game and into a small hub (to say more is to spoil it). It's a welcome breather in a tremendously bleak game, and the added wrinkle of various story elements taking place here means you'll want to visit often.

Players can upgrade Sebastian's health, weapons, and ammo-carrying capacities in a manner reminiscent of past Mikami action titles (although, sadly, briefcase Tetris is no more). Sebastien is tremendously weak in the early going, and so upgrading his health and sprint stamina is advised. Melee attacks, too, are near laughable in the opening stages (no roundhouse kicks here I'm afraid) and so upgrading weapons is a must. The Evil Within is a game where bullets are at a premium and the player must be economical with their resources, and adding more damage or a faster reload will often be the difference between life and death. Choose wisely.

8 / 10

  • Superb gunplay.
  • Wonderful environments.
  • Story never really gets going.
  • Sags in the middle.

Click above for enlarged The Evil Within Screenshots

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User Comments

EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist@ Bloodstorm

Crackers isn't it?

In my head I have a clear scale, but it's hard to work out how other sites and publications use theirs. Others will disagree with what I think should be the scale, but this is it:

1 - No. Just no.

2 - Really poor

3 - Poor, but there may be a good concept or moment in there that makes it worth a look if you must.

4 - Below average. Fans of the genre or developer will probably find something to like in there but should expect plenty to dislike

5 - Average, a few merits and some stuff that might be worth checking out

6 - Above average, worth a look and overall decent

7 - Good, a recommended purchase

8 - Great, a game that nearly everyone should consider buying (GOTY contender)

9 - Truly excellent, one of the best examples of it's genre and will continue to be highly praised in many years (GOTY contender)

10 - Outstanding, a rare example of a near-perfect game. Get it now. (GOTY contender)
Posted 23:44 on 15 October 2014
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

I remember seeing someone say "A 7? Oh man, i was looking forward to it", just because it's a 7 doesn't mean it's bad, infact, most 7 games are great.
Posted 23:18 on 15 October 2014
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

Wolfenstein was one of the best out-and-out shooters I've played in a while, but it's bullsh*t that VG have to pay for their own copy just because they didn't gush over it. VG are one of the few sites that use the review scale properly and a game that gets a 6 is very much worth playing in my view - it's above average. Unfortunately a lot of critics now only use the 7-10 scale, 7 being 'not that good'.
Posted 23:02 on 15 October 2014

Woodfella

This arrived today, a freebie from the smashing folks at videogamer.com, cant wait of play it, love mikami.


Crackin' words from BURNS.
Posted 20:02 on 15 October 2014
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

No, the biggest issues is the shocking misogynistic bile. The "gaming news outlets are becoming more and more shills" is a smokescreen for these people to spread their vile views.
Posted 14:15 on 15 October 2014
SebVonFappywank's Avatar

SebVonFappywank@ Bloodstorm

Why not? It's a serious problem in the gaming industry; gaming news outlets are becoming more and more shills.
Posted 19:35 on 14 October 2014
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm@ NM_Che56

Don't bring Gamergate here, it's not welcome.
Posted 14:25 on 14 October 2014

Neon-Soldier32

Don't double / triple post in immediate succession, there's no need. Also, tone it down a bit. You're coming across abusive and troll-y. I'm tempted to put a pound in you.
Posted 18:44 on 13 October 2014
alexlaird87's Avatar

alexlaird87

Can we get the gameplay video on the site instead since it was taken down by youtube?
Posted 17:44 on 13 October 2014
NM_Che56's Avatar

NM_Che56

"As Bethesda declined to send us a review copy of the game (presumably due to the score we gave Wolfenstein: The New Order) we bought our own copy". That's a pretty serious accusation in the age of "gamergate". I'd be interested to know what's behind the "presumably" qualification other than getting a 6.
Posted 16:40 on 13 October 2014

OnAClearDay@ Bloodstorm

Completely forgot about that.
Posted 16:16 on 13 October 2014
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm@ StoneKeeper

An 8.

And yes, FPS of the year. Destiny is far too Halo-y for me. The constant "The..." names are an absolute joke too.
Posted 12:07 on 13 October 2014
essex1212's Avatar

essex1212

Destiny for me.
Posted 11:17 on 13 October 2014
gonzalobot's Avatar

gonzalobot

Troll or no troll, you are a *****ing spanner.
Posted 11:11 on 13 October 2014

StoneKeeper@ Rhinothing

Did anybody else find that incredibly moving?
Posted 11:01 on 13 October 2014

Game Stats

The Evil Within
8
Out of 10
The Evil Within
  • Superb gunplay.
  • Wonderful environments.
  • Story never really gets going.
  • Sags in the middle.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 14/10/2014
Platforms: PS4 , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 655 106
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