As every long time reader knows, horror is a sacred genre to me. In fact my first piece of published creative writing was a short story in a horror magazine. Every year there is one game I review around the Halloween season as my “horror game for the horror month.” This year, The Evil Within wins that title hands down.
When my chief editor told me I was getting The Evil Within I knew this would be a title I put under the microscope. Another example of another failed attempt at a dying genre? Instead, this game raises a banner of victory where many games have fallen extremely short.
Some recent titles such as F.E.A.R. and Resident Evil Revelations have made small victories in keeping horror games alive. Leave it to Bethesda to take on an unbeatable challenge and blow it away. Most importantly, I want to spotlight developer Tango Games and their talented staff on what should be considered a game of the year nominee.
When I started playing, I was immediately annoyed I was forced to install the title. I own a very old Xbox 360 and installation took what was left of my hard drive space. While this angered me, it did not color my judgment. I made the needed deletions and started the game.
Let’s begin with the visual elements of the game, which is rather important when looking at horror. I want to start out by saying the graphics are flat out gorgeous. Well… gorgeous until there are bloody messes everywhere and creatures close enough to your face that you reach for your breath mints.
During the opening sequence, it looks pretty cut and dry in terms of what you are looking at. Only after you get stabbed in the head by a lobotomy spike does things go to hell…literary. You wake up next to some cocooned corpses as a giant with a safe on his head carves one of the adjacent bodies up. He stabs a knife in the body and leaves you to get your first task. In this case it’s swinging back and forth until you grab the knife. It wont be too much help in combat, but you can use it to get free. Free to delve deeper into this nightmare.
Once loose, you have to creep about two feet behind safe face and grab some keys for your escape. As you get through the door you hear a noise and safe face is suddenly on your tail. As you run away you get your calf nicked with a chain saw and you begin your one hundred meter limp toward salvation.
As you run like a sluggish Usain Bolt you dodge traps such as spikes, bladed fans and, oh yeah, THE PSYCHO CHASING YOU WITH A CHAINSAW!!! Eventually you fall through the floor and dodge some grinders only to land in a giant pool of blood and body parts. By the way, welcome to the first ten minutes of the horror part of the game.
The Evil Within follows up with more action, violence, palm sweats and horror. This is due to a combination of the stellar graphics and a well composed score. Bethesda and Tango set the lighting and mood right for a non-stop scare fest. Also, these enemies do not like to die and you are not exactly drowning in bullets yourself. This is a great way to have a horror game with guns, where they are effective, but you have to conserve your ammo for when you really and truly need it.
In terms of gameplay, The Evil Within seems to offer choices as to how to approach enemies. You can build traps to take them out while you are not even around. You can sneak up behind them and do a stealth kill, or you can go in guns blazing or axes chopping and do a straight run and gun. However, it seems like the game is weighted heavily into the third area. It’s not totally an action title, but it’s very difficult to take on enemies other ways. This is on top of the overall challenge, so if you think you can make it work, by all means, good luck.
But for most of us, fair warning, this game is really difficult. Not like that game that aggravates you and you have to take a fifteen minute break to cool down. No, The Evil Within will anger you to the point you want to beat your console to pieces with a shovel. If you play it straight up and don’t go for stealth or trap killing you might have a slightly easier time at it, but not by much. That is the only thing I found to deduct: the fact that this game seemed ungodly hard on way too many occasions.
All in all, this title is a must have for any system, unless, of course, you have a very weak stomach when it comes to horror or violence. Horror gamers need to play this game, and it should appeal to action gamers too, though not so much to those who enjoy pure stealth or even role-playing. The plot of the game is a little bit convoluted and nothing to write home about, but at least doesn’t really negatively affect the gameplay experience. The Evil Within is not for the faint of heart and should not be played by small children, or even people who can’t take a fright or two in their gameplay. Because this one is one long fright that will keep your heart racing like you were running a marathon the whole time. Let’s just say the M ESRB rating is there for a good reason.
The Evil Within earns a very respectable 4.5 GiN Gems and I personally recommend it as a great candidate for a game of the year award. Horror gamers, this one won’t let you down, even as it literally tears you limb from limb.