The Evil Within: Classical Haunting - Games Weekly

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Evil Within: Classical Haunting

To a Large extent,The Evil Within feels and plays like a game from a bygone era, a time when the term ‘survival horror’meant the provision of something grotesque and deplorable rather than truly scary. Given the involvement of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, such a nostalgia soaked romp should come as little surprise.F

Here you play as Sebastian Castellanos, a detective struggling to retain his sanity in the face of both the nightmarish events happening around him and a traumatic personal life that continues to haunt him. As far as hackneyed protagonists go, Sebastian is there towards the top of the pile, a conflicted persona of paranoia, confusion and bad dialogue. It’s these clichéd elements, however, that go a long
way to instilling the game with palpable charm and B-movie appeal.

There's little here that we've not seen before, but the skill and care with which it's presented makes for a 15 hour crawl that is never anything less than riveting. In a fashion typical for the genre, ammo is sparse, your health is a constant worry and stealth is your best friend.These problems are forcibly brought to the front of your mind thinks to powerful enemies that range from typical zombies to female shaped spider hybrid things and chainsaw wielding sadists.

Given just how over the top everything is, only the most sheltered of adults are going to feel legitimate fear as a result of these creatures’ involvement, but their presence does create genuine tension and panic. Knowing that death is just around the corner, and that your limited resources are unlikely going to see you through a prolonged encounter, forces you to constantly plan ahead and tread carefully. These actions, in and of themselves, effectively communicate suspense and impending doom.

More horrifying than the enemies themselves is the environment, a beautifully macabre, hellish vision that utilises every trick imaginable to distort any sense of calm or peace you might harbour abandon hope all ye who enter here.Areas lit by your meagre lantern cast ghoulish shadows, and muffled yells from untold sources are heard through walls. Camera graining and flickers make it seem as though the world is literally being torn apart and the use of classical music creates an unsettling juxtaposition of tones. All of these components are exaggerated by a camera positioned so
snugly against Sebastian’s shoulder that it’s frequently difficult to see exactly what dangers surround you. Mikami used the same information limiting trick in Resident Evil 4, but the tight corridors and confined spaces within which the bulk of The Evil Within takes place means it’s even more
effective here.
Some may be put off by the sense of claustrophobia the camera angle creates, artificially making things more difficult by preventing you from seeing what Sebastian blatantly can, but the result justifies the means. Not only are your resources limited, but your vision is too, strengthening and empowering those feelings of uncertainty and dread.

Undoubtedly, though, the camera can make things irritating, particularly during boss battles that are often utterly unforgiving. Such encounters are characterised by death after death until you’ve worked out exactly how you should approach them, with a carefully planned procedure taking precedence
over intuitiveness or quick reactions. That difficulty is the very thing that makes them satisfying once won, but only those with patience are going to make it through the toughest fights. In line with the rest of the offerings, the pacing and frequency of these tests firmly position the experience as one of old-fashioned design… a compliment rather than a rebuke.

And that’s exactly how you should think of The Evil Within: as a continuation of a wonderful framework that has all but disappeared from the modern gaming landscape. Remove the characters and the setting and you’ve got an experience that feels every bit like a PS2-era Resident Evil, albeit one with modern luxuries such as sharp HD visuals and rather generous checkpointing.

Here’s a game that realises virtually everything it sets out to achieve, proving once again that a focused design will always produce better results than one aimed at maximum accessibility. The Evil Within is not for everyone, but those with a taste for this kind of punishment will appreciate enormously what’s been accomplished here.

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