The lights are on
Former Capcom developer Shinji Mikami is the father of the
legendary Resident Evil franchise. Resident Evil has changed dramatically over
the years, along with Capcom itself. Mikami has since left Capcom to form Tango
Gameworks, but the spirit of Resident Evil's intense survival horror is still
with him. Free of the Capcom franchise's existing characters and conventions,
Mikami is at liberty to play sinister tricks on players, ratchet up the gore to
new levels, and continue delivering the third-person horror gameplay he excels
at. I played through a harrowing section of The Evil Within during E3, and I'm
convinced this is the Resident Evil 4-style follow-up we've been waiting
Before I dive into how scary The Evil Within is, it's
important to describe how the game plays. At a glance the over-the-shoulder
third-person perspective looks like Resident Evil 4, and the gameplay backs up
that sensation. Enemy undead can be targeted in the leg to cause them to topple
over, or shot in the head for a potential decapitation. The controls are
slicker and more responsive than the Resident Evil series, but don't feel as
twitchy as other third-person shooters.
In the demo, I had a shotgun, crossbow, pistol, grenades,
and knife at my disposal. Ammo was scarce, forcing me to frequently switch
between weapons via the quick-select d-pad. A great technique for save ammo is
to light a match and burn a zombie's body to ensure they don't get up again.
The engaging mechanic reminds me of the Resident Evil remake on GameCube.
Immolating a body can save you precious ammo, and even potentially light a
nearby enemy on fire. The shotgun,
pistol, and grenades all feel similar to their respective roles' in Mikami's
Resident Evil 4. I like how the crossbow trajectory becomes truer the longer
you hold down the fire button. Being able to craft bolts out of found objects
is a cool too, and entices players to explore the spooky environments.
Speaking of the environment, The Evil Within is one of the
creepiest third-person shooters I've played since the first Dead Space. An
unwavering sense of dread pervades every moment I spent in the game. One
section takes place in a rustic village reminiscent of the Los Ganados' town in
Resident Evil 4. Doors creek, enemies growl in the shadows, and a demented
doctor mumbles to himself from somewhere far away. I jumped when an enemy
started beating on a door I passed. At first I thought this might be a one-off jump
scare, but instead the enemy beat on the door until it exploded into splinters
and came after me. Low on ammo, I had to pray my last shotgun shell found
purchase in its head or risk a game over. Other scares are more subtle,
including passageways that inexplicably disappear, an invulnerable ghost that
stalks you periodically, and a crawling, multi-limbed woman that's vaguely reminiscent
of Samara from The Ring.
Further upping the terrifying ante is the fragility of life
in The Evil Within. Not only are the enemies powerful and numerous, but a few
solid hits and you're dead. The chapter I played during my demo was a ways into
the game, which puts me at a disadvantage out of the gate. That said, I have a
lot of experience playing survival horror games and died very quickly even with
the familiar control scheme. I had to bump the difficulty down to easy pretty
quickly. So rest assured, The Evil Within is true to the genre's roots. Save
rooms further raise the stakes, since don't think you'll can be lazy and simply
restart from a checkpoint. Also, you can level up weapon efficiencies, running
stamina, and other stats at during the save rooms.
My time with The Evil Within was heartening as a fan of
horror games. I feared polished triple-A horror games were a thing of the past
after the financial failure of Dead Space 3. I've loved indie horror games like
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Slender, and Outlast, but those titles don't scratch
the itch of blowing a zombie's head off or finding that last bit of ammo you've
been praying for. The Evil Within feels like an alternate reality where the
Resident Evil franchise doubled down on tense combat, scares, and creepy
environments rather than fun, over-the-top action. I'm a big fan of Capcom's
horror franchise, but The Evil Within could take the formula to new heights hit it hits PS3, 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 21.
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