The Evil Within: A master returns - Games Weekly

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Evil Within: A master returns

It’s impossible to approach The Evil Within without bringing A coffin load of expectations to the experience. Developed by Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil fame, the similarities between his earlier horror titles and The Evil Within are impossible to miss. It’s a double edged sword though; while this lord of the macabre obviously knows how to pucker gamers’ sphincters in fear, he often relies on archaic gameplay mechanics to do so.

The storyline is the first oldschool trope up for rehashing. Handsome cop gets called to the scene of a mass murder, yet another blood soaked Mental Asylum. Cue psychedelic insanity effects and the player is transported to another dimension, a nightmarish realm filled with undead shamblers and the occasional chainsaw wielding mini boss. Like any good horror game, the level design is one of the key characters in the game, with a nice variety of different locales all oozing a dark and spooky atmosphere.

Despite being ported from the consoles, the level of detail in these environs is impressive, especially the dynamic lighting used to pierce the black veil of darkness that cloaks most areas. The soundscape also plays a large part in building tension, whether it’s the moaning of a nearby zombie or the soggy footsteps of an invisible monster heading towards the player, this is a game that demands a quality surround sound system or headphones.
Cue psychedelic insanity effects and transport to another dimension
Unlike more recent horror games, there are very few jump scares to be found. Instead the focus is on maintaining a tense, suspenseful atmosphere throughout. Unfortunately the game also relies on a bunch outdated design decisions ripped straight from 2005 to raise stress levels, starting with clunky character control. It’s not quite as bad as the wonky shopping trolley of earlier Resident Evil games, but it’s bad enough that picking up items, running without getting hung up on the environment and accurately shooting your target becomes a chore. Even more annoying are the huge black borders on the top and bottom of the screen. When combined with a camera that is too close to the character, the player’s view is artificially limited. Games like Dead Space have shown that it’s possible to scare the faecal matter out of gamers without relying on such cheap tricks, and the result is a game that often feels archaic and outdated.

Thankfully one nod to the past that is appreciated is the severe lack of ammunition. This is a true survival horror game, where every encounter could be the player’s last, even when facing the simplest of enemies. It’s often better to avoid the meanies altogether, though the occasional shoot ‘em up sections make armed conflict inevitable. Clever environmental puzzles help spice up the variety, but rather than rebranded Rubik’s Cube conundrums, players must figure out how to use the environment to beat regular mini-bosses.

Despite the game’s reliance on outdated horror mechanics, The Evil Within still manages to scare the bejeesus out of the player at regular intervals.

Given how hard that is to pull off, it’s easy to forgive the nods to past survival horror games that haven’t passed the test of time.

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