The horror genre is very, very subjective. Something that’s horrifying for one person may be be hilarious to another. Overall, finding things that scare everyone is difficult and no one has ever gotten it completely right.
However, a team should strive to create a creepy experience with deep atmosphere, and should work to put players in situations where everything comes together just right, to have them breathing slowly in their chair in suspense of the moments to come.
Does The Evil Within do that? Well, let’s just say the only thing creepy about this game is how excited we were for it.
The Evil Within was spawned in the mind of Shinji Mikami. The music composition is done by Masafumi Takada, and the publisher of the title is Bethesda. What a mix. Shinji Mikami, the father of Resident Evil, a man who composed music for Smash Bros, and Kid Icarus: Uprising, along with Bethesda, the studio that brought us Skyrim.
When you hear Bethesda is making a game, you come to expect a high quality product, something that we’ll be able to sink their teeth into and enjoy throughout. That is not the case here. The Evil Within unfortunately comes up short time and time again.
First, the story. You play as Sebastian Castellanos. Without spoiling major plot points, you run into some unnatural forces and then you’re thrown in a world that has little time for sense. With strange enemies and gore scattered throughout each level, you’ll make your way across this hellish, ever changing world until you reach the end of your adventure.
The idea for this game is actually a great one. An officer who has to escape this mysterious area, an area where things change randomly and zombies attack you left and right. At a moment’s notice you could be walking down a hallway, and all of a sudden you’re cast into the darkness of an entirely new frontier.
What this game tries to do is actually great. The execution is what doesn’t work. The game suffers from many, many issues so let’s take a look at all of them.
One of the first scenes has you walking in the rain. This scene would be pretty cool if the frame rate would stay smooth enough for you to enjoy it. Moving the camera to look around you even a little bit causes the frame rate to dip.
Any rational customer picks up a game now and expects it to have a smooth frame rate and high resolution textures. The game is supposedly locked at 30 FPS, even on the current gen consoles, but it constantly demonstrates that it’ll go lower than that at the worst possible moments.
This would almost be excusable if the game was somehow graphically impressive, but it isn’t. The textures look like they were ported from the PS3 and aren’t even upscaled. The character models are honestly the best looking thing in this game, and that doesn’t apply to most of them because at times it really feels like Sebastian was the only character to make the trip to current gen.
All of the cutscenes are done seemingly in-engine, as the graphics don’t change or improve much or if at all during their run. This is actually somewhat of a gift rather than a curse. It’s a gift because you get used to the graphics and textures due to how often you see them.
It’s not the old days of Final Fantasy, where you’d get this crazy CGI cutscene and then have gameplay that looks incredibily different. The Evil Within knows that it won’t be a winner for best looks, and it does its best to at least smoothen out the experience for you.
The game isn’t horrible, but one has to wonder where some of these design choices came from. The amount of traps is ridiculous. You’ll find yourself walking into Trip Mines and Bear Traps, then walking into rooms with bombs strapped to the wall that you can just walk under.
It makes no sense. If you’re walking around in an area filled with zombies that seem to only have enough intelligence to walk up to you and smack you, who sets up all of these traps — and why? If it was by humans, the infestation of enemies is too much for these traps to be effective against them. It really just becomes a part of the game that gets tedious, and feels like something the developers included solely to add a layer of difficulty in the game.
Another thing that makes the game annoying is the terrible, terrible camera during combat. For instance, this game takes the bottle mechanic from The Last of Us. It works the same way, and the way you throw the bottle and aim it works the same. You would think, that if you were to take any one element from another game, you would choose the best ones.
However, the camera during combat in this game just doesn’t want you to win. If I walk up to a zombie and punch him, why doesn’t the camera focus on that enemy? Why do I have to throw a few punches, stop for a second, turn the camera, try to avoid the enemy’s attack, and then do it all over? The game should have a camera that clips to the enemy that you’re attacking.
Couple these things with the loading screens. Oh lord the loading screens. There are loading screens between each chapter, however, instead of having something interactive or decent looking set up, it feels like they just slapped togther some screenshots and basic information and sent you on your way.
This was supposed to be a scary title but scary and corny don’t go well together, and especially not here. Whether it’s the teleporting enemy that gets tons of close ups or the dialogue shared by different characters, this game tries way too hard to be cool when it should be focusing the same amount of time to being true to its genre.
The game really isn’t a terrible at its roots. There are moments of genuine excitement and thrills scattered throughout the campaign, however, it’s hard to get into them when you just have this layer of cheesiness throughout the story.
Instead of being this new amazing experience, The Evil Within struggles to get off its own two feet. The story’s pacing is slow and never really arcs the way it should. The middle of the game feels like it goes on forever, and overall the gameplay doesn’t come across as fun or enjoyable. This really is a game that you play just to see what kind of cool things happen from time to time.