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Review: The Evil Within

BY CONOR MCBRIEN | OCTOBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Evil Within may very well be the return of mainstream horror games. Nearly a decade of combat and gunfire over haunting locales and frightening enemies have tainted even the sacred cows of the genre such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil. In the meantime, indie developers have entered the scene to keep the values of horror rooted in chilling atmosphere and miring players in trepidation with each new area discovered.

Not only that, but giving players vulnerability — a key element of these games — is important. Someone decked out such as John Rambo is not an effective horror protagonist. If you can take anything, what’s there to be frightened of? I was pleased with Zombi U, one of the Wii U’s launch titles and an unexpected horror offering from Nintendo. That was the last real “mainstream” horror game done right, until the Evil Within showed up, that is.

Directed by Resident Evil’s own Shinji Mikami, the game places square-jawed hero Detective Sebastian Castellanos in the middle of a mysterious hospital massacre that quickly takes an otherworldly turn.

The game’s visuals are presented in a cinematic, letter-boxed format, with occasional use of film grain and color shifting as though the game were running on a film reel. The camera tends to remain behind Sebastian’s shoulders (a technique first used in Resident Evil and later borrowed by many other games, horror and shooters alike). 

At times the cinematic camera may zoom a little too much and obscure much of the environment with Sebastian’s manly visage. Otherwise, it cooperates during enemy encounters and functions remarkably well during moments thath stealth is key.

In the first hour, the game isn’t shy about pushing that last bit. Survival-horror itself seems to move into what would be more aptly called stealth horror. Recent offerings such as Outlast, and older ones such as Haunting Ground and Clock Tower 3, used this mechanic better because of the vulnerability of the players’ characters. Sebastian, on the other hand, has a mean right hook and a trusty service revolver just in case the player blows his cover.

Not all problems can be solved with violence, however. The game’s first major enemy is yet another belligerent man with a chain saw, an enemy that Resident Evil made a habit of overly using so much that the most recent game made an enemy that was basically half-man, half-chain saw.

Enemies such as that can only be avoided initially and not actually fought. Then, suddenly zombies are introduced (in a loving homage to the iconic “first zombie” scene from the very first Resident Evil). These zombies are less of a threat but can attract more zombies with shrieks of pain if you’re forced to fight them. Alternatively, the game has traps set for Sebastian that he can use against his aggressors while remaining out of sight.

But the game is savvy enough to punish missteps, even if a player guesses that fighting back is the best option. One stealthy kill from behind only attracted a swarm of the undead, forcing me to sprint through a dark and deadly forest until I made my way to safety.

Overall, the game is a must for any fan of horror in general and definitely worth checking out for fans of the Resident Evil franchise.

The Evil Within is out now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC for $59.99.


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