Horrors and thrillers are somewhat Marmite genres. Beyond the hate it or love it motif – who am I, the Game? – the analogy relates more to whether the genre works for you or not.
For me, Alien: Isolation was a game that exercised tension. For others, it was a game that tested a player’s bowel controls. For some reason scary games struggle to scare me. Bear this in mind when reading the following.
Shinji Mikami is considered a legend in videogame circles, and with Resident Evil and Vanquish under his belt how could he not? Sadly, for those hoping a return to what made the now flailing Resident Evil series exciting, The Evil Within is not it. It is not scary. It is a slightly broken, kind of alright game with an absolutely dog-shit narrative. It opens to a very weak first hour but quickly finds its mediocre size 8 feet.
It charts the tale of Detective Castellanos, where the player is left to question just how crazy the protagonist is. It isn’t particularly exciting. Castellanos’ dialogue is appalling. Within the first hour of the game, he comes out with these beauties: ‘Smells like blood,’ ‘Smells like medicine,’ and, painstakingly, ‘Junior detective Kidman, any thoughts?’ I shit you not. Castellanos says this in a car with three other people. Only one of them is called Kidman. Videogames.
There are others, including doctors, police men, said junior detective, and a hooded guy that has raided the wardrobe of Alex Mercer or any Assassins’ Creed hero. But none of this matters. Honestly, the story is not worth caring about
The control scheme is practically identical to The Last of Us. However, be it for lack of polish or deliberate hindrance too the sake of terror, the mechanics are slow, clunky and somewhat broken. Whereas the Last of Us is fluid and functional, the most panicked moment in The Evil Within is attempting to jump through a window. Sod the chainsaw wielding butcher – the Sadist – chasing you, overly finicky context‑sensitive obstacles are the true horror on show.
For good measure there are some RPG-light elements, such as upgrading your ammo capacity, increasing your melee attack or improving the length of time you can sprint. The latter should be of upmost importance; if you run for too long Castellanos does not only slow to a regular walk or jog, he just stops. He is very unfit and prone to a crippling stitch. It is a mechanic that causes the player to act with caution and consider escape options, but it is also very annoying and incredibly jarring. Of course, when a set piece requires you to sprint, Castellanos can suddenly run for longer than 10 seconds. Again, videogames.
I do not know why The Evil Within did not click as I thought it would, but everything just seemed a little off. Maybe I was expecting too much going in, but after genuinely enjoying a horror game recently, I had high hopes. The most shocking part of the game was when the picture frame behind my TV inexplicably fell from the wall. Yet, I was so underwhelmed and unengaged by The Evil Within that this was met with a shrug and groan rather than a scream.
The Evil Within is not a horror game. It’s an action game with needless limitations in place of challenge. It’s not clever and it’s not cool.
Well Done – Edible, but flavourless and hard to chew.
Please consult the rating guide.