Hands-On With ‘The Evil Within’

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For horror fans, The Evil Within is a pretty big deal. This is because of a bunch of reasons, but a majority of it stems from some extremely high expectations for the team behind it, as well as the commonly held belief that AAA horror is either dead or dying, depending on who you ask.

With so few big budget horror games on the way and the remaining kings (Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Dead Space) either dying slow deaths or losing much of what made them special in the first place, The Evil Within stands out as a potential “savior” for the survival horror genre. Many hope the game will “bring back” survival horror, at least in the now depressingly desolate AAA space.

Looking at the gaming industry as a whole, you would think that horror, in all its myriad forms, is not only alive, but flourishing. And that’s because it is.

This is entirely thanks to a steadily increasing number of indie horror games from talented developers of various sizes and backgrounds. They range from passion projects from one and two-person teams (Neverending Nightmares, Homesick), to ambitious debuts from small studios (Among the Sleep, The Forest), to horror games from established developers (Daylight, Until Dawn).

I could go on, but that would probably be redundant.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that The Evil Within has a lot of people excited, that Mikami has a lot to prove, and that maybe, just maybe, we should all stop looking for a savior for the genre and instead enjoy games like this for what they are. Because you know what? While I wouldn’t go so far as to label Mikami’s return to horror as revolutionary, it’s still very much something that’s worth getting excited about.

For the uninitiated, The Evil Within is a survival horror game developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, the latter of which I still refer to as the House of Doom, partly because of the series of shooters, but mostly because it sounds cool.

It’s the first game from Tango, which was established by Shinji Mikami — a name Resident Evil fans might recognize as he’s largely credited for both creating the iconic series back in 1996 and rebooting it in 2005 with the gargantuan success that was Resident Evil 4. Mikami has spent a significant portion of his impressive career making Resident Evil games, and it shows in his work.

Earlier this month, Bethesda flew me and a bunch of writers out to Los Angeles to get some hands-on time with the game. Having been looking forward to The Evil Within since its reveal last April, it took me all of five seconds to throw my journalistic integrity out the window and accept the offer to fly out to L.A., stay in a swanky hotel, and play a game I’ve been dying to get my hands on for a little over a year. It sounds boastful, but I’m only being transparent. All that was on Bethesda’s dime, and while I don’t believe it had any impact on my opinion of the game, it’s still something you should know.

Enough foreplay, let’s talk about the game.

Once I was finally sitting comfortably in my seat, surrounded on three sides by a black curtain that separated me from the view of the other games journos, with a desk in front of me, I was ready. My body was ready.

The computer monitor was big enough to make me ache for one like it at home, the headset was top-notch, and while there was a mouse waiting for me, I instead elected to go with the controller. Shut up, PC master race.

There were two demos available to play, and after I chose the first one I was greeted with four difficulty options: Casual, Survival, Nightmare, and Akumu. Only the first two were available, so I went with Survival. When I was finished playing the game, I asked one of the random Bethesda badged passersby what it was. With an almost mischievous grin on his face, he told me it was nearly impossible to beat. I think I’ll be taking you up on that when October comes around, thankyouverymuch.

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The first demo starts off a few hours into the game and opens with Sebastian and Jiminez — the doctor seen tagging along in the above video (at the 1:29 mark) — who are searching for a boy named Leslie. After a brief cut-scene establishes that, I’m free to take over and seek out my first victim: a large, gurgling man who’s wrapped in chains like a dirty Christmas tree and entirely oblivious to my presence.

In an effort to get a look at his face, I cautiously creep up behind him, gun drawn, until he notices me and begins to slowly turns around. He looks like any of the many ‘villager’ type enemies we’ve seen scattered about all of the game’s trailers. A bulbous body covered in damaged flesh that’s clearly been dead for some time, as it lacks the color a living person would have.

There’s an underlying theme of pain that permeates The Evil Within’s selection of enemies. Every one of them looks like it had been tortured using chains, spikes, barbed wire, or some combination of the three. The body horror doesn’t end there, as all of them have also been mutilated and disfigured, with parts of their face having been removed, crushed, or torn.

It’s unsettling to say the least, and the creep factor is only elevated by their glowing eyes and the inhuman sounds each emits — including, but not limited to growling, wheezing, and howling.

Once I was sure the area was clear of enemies, I decided to start inspecting. The inventory wheel, which slows down — but doesn’t stop — time when accessed held dedicated spots for a number of items and weapons, many of which can be easily mapped to the d-pad for quick use while in combat.

The weapons I had available to me included a pistol, shotgun, combat knife, syringes, grenades, and a nifty weapon the game referred to as the Agony Crossbow (more on that in a bit).

The syringes are used to heal Sebastian, with each use replenishing a portion of the health bar. There are also med packs that can be found and used to completely refill one’s health as well as offer a small increase to Sebastian’s maximum health. The only downside to using one of these is it renders Sebastian temporarily incapacitated, so you’ll want to use it in a safe place.

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Sebastian’s arsenal of weapons should be pretty familiar, assuming you’ve spent any real amount of time playing shooters. The one that differs from the rest is the Agony Crossbow, which offers a significant amount of strategy to the game’s combat.

If you have time, firing its many different types of bolts can be used as traps. For example, firing an electric bolt at a wall turns it into a proximity trap, which electrically immobilizes the first passersby (not including Sebastian). If you don’t have time, the crossbow can also be used like any other weapon, though firing shots requires a short charge to increase its efficacy.

If you’re feeling creative, the crossbow’s ammunition comes in a plethora of flavors, including flash bolts, explosive bolts, freeze bolts, harpoons, and the aforementioned electric bolts.

It’s easily my favorite weapon.

A few minutes into the first demo introduces me to a large bloody room filled with corpses, rusty walls, and so much blood. It looks like a scene out of Silent Hill’s Otherworld. It’s also covered in various tripwire traps, that Sebastian can either duck and walk under, evade entirely, or take the time to disarm them for supplies.

Just be warned that in choosing the latter option, failure can seriously injure Sebastian.

When I tried to go for the exit — because I’m weird and bloody, corpse laden rooms creep me out — Ruvik (the hooded bad guy we’ve seen in a few of the game’s trailers) appears and summons some a horde of the bad guys.

I dispatch them, though not without some effort (and at least one death). When I make my way through to the next level, I see something that sends the hairs on the back of my neck tingling. It’s the room where RE-Bone Laura — the four-armed blood witch — crawls screaming out of a puddle of blood. I am so no ready for this.

And of course, once I draw near enough, she comes. Knowing I won’t survive a close encounter, I immediately run in the other direction, which turns into a long and ridiculously intense — though strangely easy — chase scene. The most unsettling part about the whole thing were the sounds she made as she slowly creeped up behind me. It was bizarre.

That marked the end of the first demo. Sweaty and anxious, I booted up the next.

The second demo starts off in Chapter 8, with a very brief dream-like sequence that has Sebastian walking through a dark wooded area, blurred somewhat by a hefty noise filter. Ruvik appears, as he does, then it’s back to the “normal” world.

This would become the first of many times I’d get to see Ruvik, one of my least favorite things about an other wise incredibly promising horror game.

Chapter 8 starts off in the woods outside of a large mansion, lead by an expansive, albeit untidy, courtyard. I was almost immediately reminded of the Spencer estate from the original Resident Evil, and that feeling was only heightened when I went inside.

The layout is almost like a homage to that mansion. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was deliberate, seeing as it’s been done it before in the Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares and again in Resident Evil 6.

The two-story mansion is almost completely open to exploration, with its many wings and elaborately detailed rooms marked with the glimmer of the occasional collectible item. I came across a piano in one, and as I passed it I half expected ghostly fingers to start playing “Moonlight Sonata”.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The goal isn’t immediately apparent, but it becomes so after some exploration. I liked this level a lot. It was creepy, brimming with atmosphere, and there aren’t too many enemies.

What there is, is a fun room with huge double doors that suddenly open, revealing massive spinning blades, that drag Sebastian into their screaming maw, forcing an extremely quick response from the player. This thing killed me twice.

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This is the first are with a series of puzzles that make you think. They’re not terribly difficult, but they are gruesome.

The goal of this level is to get through this big metal door that has three locks, with each corresponding to a puzzle that’s been hidden at a different part of the mansion. Naturally.

I won’t spoil anything, but the puzzles themselves revolve around discovering what part of a brain needs to be poked with a needle. The only thing is this brain is very much attached to a living head that squirms and makes facial expressions as you poke and prod your way to the puzzle. I found myself apologizing more than once after making a mistake.

Getting through the mansion is easy enough — it’s the annoying, and seemingly random, appearances of Ruvik, who’s either a an interdimensional being or a (dangerous) spirit. He’ll randomly appear, begin walking toward you Jason Voorhees style, and if he manages to catch up, he’ll sap all of your health. If you manage to avoid him for 15 seconds, he just disappears. It’s annoying, cheap, and entirely unscary.

I can tell Ruvik is almost definitely going to be the main baddie in this game, and that really bums me out. I’ve never been a big fan of enemies in games that A., can’t be killed, B., chase you every-goddamn-where, and C., kill you instantly or deal an unfair amount of damage. This guy has all of the above. Let’s get rid of that.

I noticed a few new features during my time with the second demo that will likely appeal to fans of Resident Evil 4. In that game, when you’re low on ammo, you have options. In The Evil Within, you do too, and they’re a lot of fun.

Scattered about the game’s world are bottle, which can be thrown as distractions for enemies. They can also be thrown at an enemy’s stupid, malformed face, causing them to stagger, giving you a very small window off opportunity to walk up to them so Sebastian can proceed to ventilate their face with his combat knife.

That’s right, there are contextual executions, and they can be used on enemies that are either stunned or unaware of your existence behind them. You can even pick up an axe dropped by the guy who’s face you just poked a hole in to use it on his friends. It’s fantastic.

The Evil Within is a great horror game. It’s flawed, but it’s also a work-in-progress. I greatly enjoyed my time with it, even if to get a better grasp on its still very bizarre story. If you’ve been looking forward to this, keep doing that. It’s going to be good.

The Evil Within releases for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 21.

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  • hahaha

    I NEED THIS GAME

    • Adam Dodd

      ME TOO

      • Bloody-Rig

        In previous gameplay videos the collision and damage to enemies looked kinda dodgy. Was this evident in your play through? Also can the enemies be dismembered? I quiet enjoy lopping limbs.

        • Adam Dodd

          That’s not creepy at all! Enemies take damage similarly to the ones in Resident Evil 6. You can mess them up, but I never saw a limb fly off. As for collision, I didn’t notice any issues.

          • Bloody-Rig

            Hahaha not at all we all love Patrick Bateman and he is evidently like minded. Very reassuring can’t wait to play this thanks for the reply.

      • http://drsputnik.com/ Tetris911

        NO U

  • Nymfomania

    This does look pretty sick

  • Rukia Trap

    Sucks they delayed this game for october. -___-

    • UpAtTheStars

      It sucks but I try to consider game delays a GOOD thing. It, hopefully, means that they are taking their time to perfect it, discover and fix potential bugs and glitches and not rush it out just to meet a deadline.

    • http://drsputnik.com/ Tetris911

      sure it sucks BUT look on the bright side, this game will be even MORE polished and even better than ever! seriously these days there is just so many ridiculous amount of games coming out that I actually am ok with delays since my backlog of games is NUTS. Plus the fact that I have the playstation plus membership with all those free games is even more games added to the list. I can’t wait for this game but I would rather see it delayed than rush if you know what I mean.

  • Operation Zero

    “The layout is almost like a homage to that mansion. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was deliberate, seeing as Mikami has done it before in the Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares and again inResident Evil 6.”

    Shinji Mikami had nothing to do with the development of Resident Evil 5 or 6. He had left Capcom before development for those games began. Check your facts, Adam Dodd.

    • Adam Dodd

      This is a fact I’m very much aware of, it’s just a matter of poor wording. Mikami had a hand in the original game, so there’s a good chance the mansion in The Evil Within is an homage to the mansion in that game.

      • sonicboom

        Yes, the mansion in this game looks very much like the mansion in the first Resident Evil for sure. Same EXACT layout (at least from what we have seen so far lol)

        • Operation Zero

          it isnt the same layout. just some of it is meant to evoke memories of it. but they are different i assure you.

      • Operation Zero

        could you please make the appropriate edits to better reflect the truth about the games that Shinji Mikami actually worked on?

        and Shinji didnt just “have a hand” in the original game, he directed it… like how Stanley Kubrick didn’t just “have a hand” in making The Shining… he directed it.

        • Adam Dodd

          While I agree that Mikami had a lot to do with the original Resident Evil, video game development is not the same as movie production. With a movie, much of the film’s direction and style lies with the director, while for video games, it’s much more of a team effort, with multiple directors (Creative, Art, Design, Programming, Animation) all working together. I think the article is fine as is.

          • Operation Zero

            as someone involved in game development, i can assure you that game development is just as much as team effort as film. the roles that the medium require are different, but the principles are the same.

            you underestimate Mikami’s involvement and what it meant for the resident evil franchise, and how it affected the series when he was no longer involved. as the director he makes the creative choices and DIRECTS his team towards his vision.

            i do not understand why you are debating this with me…

            if you do not update your article to better reflect the truth, i can conclude two possibilities.

            1- you are lazy and cant be bothered to make the update to your article.

            2- you do not really care and have no journalistic integrity.

          • Adam Dodd

            Or 3 – you’re incorrect and my article is good as-is.

          • Operation Zero

            “it’s just a matter of poor wording.”

            good as is, huh? compounded by the fact that you reported that Shinji Mikami, worked on RE5 and 6, which is absolutely false.

            i would argue that there is quite a bit wrong with your article, as is… and you have the audacity to say i am incorrect?

          • http://doomas10 doomas10

            Calm down mate. If you want a better article, go and perhaps write your own in a website of your choice? Jeez

          • Operation Zero

            i am calm. but why must i do Adam Dodd’s job for him? i care about survival horror, and i have a tremendous respect for Shinji Mikami… and all i ask is that this article make adjustments to reflect the truth, instead of misinform casual readers.

          • John

            Why are you being such a whiny bitch?

          • Operation Zero

            why are you such an asshole?

          • Operation Zero

            instead of me having to “make my own” article or news column, instead what i will do is follow the money for this website… i will get in contact with the advertisers for bloodydisgusting.com and i will complain.

            this is how much i care.

          • mwwillou

            It’s adorable that you think advertisers would care about one guy getting upset about something that, upon my reading through this article, is neither explicitly stated nor implied.

            Adam says that Mikami worked on the original RE through to RE4. He says that the homage to the Spencer Mansion is likely deliberate, as other games (RE5 and RE6) have similar homages. He’s not saying Mikami worked on those games at all. You’re reading into something that isn’t there because…I have no idea why you are. It’s like you’re being argumentative because you like the sound of your own voice.

  • Jocifer666

    Great hands on Adam! I’m so stoked for this game it’s not even funny….And now the game comes out a week before my birthday, so that’s giving me more reasons to be excited.

    • sonicboom

      Just wanted to make you aware that this game has been delayed til late October :) Cheers!

    • hahaha

      hey!!! TheEvilWithin.net guy :)

      • Jocifer666

        Yep, here I be!

  • sonicboom

    I love the enemies of this game. They just scream all kinds of familiar horror movies to me :D Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Ring, Evil Dead, House of 1,000 corpses, Human Centipede to name a few, they’re all there. Characters to resemble all of them and more. I am looking forward to this game, regardless of reviews I’ll still pick it up and love this lol

    • sonicboom

      Also the amount of detail in this game is ridiculously good. The blood, the character details, ect. Just awesome to me for a horror game like this. Kudos to Mishimi Oreo-San.

      • sonicboom

        ALSO the atmosphere and lighting… The screenshots don’t do this game justice. You need to see it in motion (in 1080p on a PS4/Xbox One/PC to actually appreciate the fine touches in the dynamic lighting. I mean, this game was made with the idTech5 engine that was made by the people who made Doom 3 and stuff. Heck… What the heck!! They were the first people to use true dynamic lighting in the history of gaming. People… GO PRE-ORDER IT NOW OR BE KNOWN AS A SALTY RESIDENT EVIL 6 LOVER!!!!! :F

  • MortisDux

    could anyone be nice enough to let me know what the AAA stands for? thank you!

    • Adam Dodd

      The term “AAA” is typically used to describe a video game with a large budget and a large development team behind it.

      • MortisDux

        thanks a lot,

  • Krug09

    Nice article i read the whole thing and watched the demo even though normally i like to go into a game as blind as possible… This looks like a period piece horror mixed into present day? Like two dimensions. The monsters, environments, and fights (especially the chase scenes) look very nerve racking and polished but i am concernedthe actual story, obviously we don’t know much but the setting could be a problem.

  • magnus dissmoll

    I’m VERY much excited for this. But i gotta agree that the Ruvik character seems a bit.. well. Unnecessary. I’ve always thought that to have a “main bad guy” always weakens the element of mystery, thus less creepiness, especially in games (with the exception of Pyramid Head/SH2). I guess it depends on what he’s really all about, but from the little I’ve seen and read this far, I’m not a fan. We’ll see! As for the rest, it sounds fucking awesome. Great article!

    • Adam Dodd

      Thanks! It also depends on how he’s used in the story, much of which has been kept secret by Bethesda.

      • Ende

        To me i whana see how the story gose To see the Flow of that Character

        But i cant wait when the Full Comes Out But i Gotta Say Gore Gore and More GORE!

  • Golic

    WOW this game looks old!

  • Taboo

    I can’t wait to play this! This game looks so good.

  • Bjork rebney

    dont buy into these reviews. I just finished final chapter 15 and the total times I died in the game was 135. This game is utter shite. the POV is more bizarre than its story and game play. Story? there is none, you just run and hide and kill zombi (like) shites over and over and over and overrrr again. its so repetitive it feels like a computer program stuck in a loop. Graphics are shite as you can see. Only ppl enjoying it who have nothing else to do but kill time bcos, hey, you can spend days playing this game bcos you just gonna keep on dying. Game doesnt give you chance to develop a strategy, understand its mechanics and have fun with it. its 6,5 out of 10 at best.