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Plenty of Evil Within This Game

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    The Evil Within

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Plenty of Evil Within This Game

    A group of undead villagers chase me into a house I have not entered before. I close the door behind me and set up a quick trap while taking care of the enemies inside the house. The villagers eventually break through the door and I fire my last couple of rounds from my revolver that miss their mark as I flee upstairs. I hear the explosive trap I set go off and hope it took care of my undead pursuers. As I cower in an upstairs bedroom a couple of the survivors’ glowing white eyes glance my direction and I throw a grenade into the hallway as my last chance to survive the encounter.

    Heart-pounding moments like this are frequent in Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s newest foray into the survival horror genre, The Evil Within. The Evil Within is Mikami’s first game while working with his new development studio Tango Gameworks. It is also his first survival horror game since the release of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 4 in 2005. Nine years later, Mikami combines the excellent gameplay he is known for, gruesome monsters and a horrifying atmosphere to produce a memorable and truly terrifying entry in the survival horror genre.

    The Evil Within’s narrative is initially incredibly confusing and mysterious in all the right ways. The story follows Detective Sebastian Castellanos of the Krimson City Police Department as he and his partners investigate a multiple homicide case at Beacon Mental Hospital. After being captured by a mysterious hooded figure, Sebastian struggles to not only escape the asylum, but to get a grip on reality itself. Throughout the game, I struggled to figure out if what I was seeing was real or if I was witnessing Sebastian slip into insanity. The lack of information on Beacon Mental Hospital and Sebastian from the onset made me more interested in closely investigating clues to the truth by searching through my surroundings. Unfortunately, I feel the game falls a bit short on creating a strong enough story line for the background of Sebastian.

    Sebastian Castellanos serves as a great unflinching protagonist to push the story forward, accompanied by interesting supporting characters with their own unique backstories. Sebastian does not shy away in the face of the horrors the hospital throws at him. While it may seem unrealistic that a man could keep his cool in the midst of the monstrosities he faces, I believe it speaks to his character. He is a man with nothing to lose who must have seen his fair share of terrible things working as a homicide detective.

    One of the best ways of discovering answers to the many questions of The Evil Within is by finding the many hidden collectibles scattered throughout the game. Whether its journal entries in Sebastian’s personal documents, audio tapes of the horrors that occurred in the asylum or mysterious newspaper clippings, every collectible gives a little more insight on the backstory of the hospital and leads the player closer to the truth.

    Shinji Mikami throws the player immediately into survival mode right out of the gates. After a short introduction to set up the story, Sebastian finds himself deep within the confines of Beacon Mental Hospital. I enjoyed this unconventional start to the game, as it sets the tone for the no-holds-barred death trap of a hospital that Sebastian finds himself in. The level of danger that was in the tutorial of The Evil Within was a welcome change to the generic intro that holds your hand through a few minor obstacles.

    One of The Evil Within’s strongest aspects is its pacing. There is a seamless transition from the horror filled stealth sections of the game to the action-packed, bullet fest portions of the story. The pacing allows for entertaining gameplay and an effective way to keep the narrative interesting. After defeating a horde of the undead, I started to feel like I could take on any of the horrors Beacon Mental Hospital had to offer. The game would then throw me into the frightening, resource-less corners of the asylum and I would remember how helpless and freaked out I actually was.

    The player’s ability to strategize is tested every time the undead appear. Enemy encounters need to be calculated. Constantly shooting enemies on sight is a quick way to see one of Sebastian’s many gruesome death animations. One wrong move or relying too heavily on firearms can easily mean death in The Evil Within. Multiple factors like the number and type of enemies, traps and your own ammunition must be taken into account in every fight with the undead. I appreciated how the game challenged me to think intelligently during these moments.

    The Evil Within gives the player the freedom to approach fights with the undead in multiple ways. Stealth is almost always the best option, but the run and gun approach is always available. The stealth in this game is some of the best stealth mechanics I have played. Sebastian is by no means a ninja, so the stealth system reflects that. Simply crouching in a dark corner will not cut it in this game. Sometimes the best strategy is a footrace to the nearest bed to cower under in an attempt to shake off pursuers and re-approach a situation.

    Trigger happy players will find themselves constantly looking for resources like ammunition and health, considering how uncommon these items are in The Evil Within. After one fight with the undead, my ammo could be completely depleted. While I was happy to see ammunition when I could find it, I was afraid of what I may have to use it for.

    The simplicity of Sebastian’s arsenal was a breath of fresh air in the sea of shooting games today with thousands of over-the-top weaponry. Sebastian carries a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle and crossbow as his main defense against the undead.

    The excellent upgrade system offers some customization options to upgrade your favorite weapon and attributes. By finding green gel scattered throughout the levels, you can acquire some much needed boosts to Sebastian’s firepower, heath and abilities with certain weapons.

    The twisted undead monstrosities are extremely intelligent and punishing when they get the chance. Enemies can use traps, easily open doors and will even duck while you are trying to land a headshot. They are able to swarm upon Sebastian from all directions, and their attacks do major damage. This allows one mistake to cause Sebastian’s demise, creating exhilarating encounters that had my heart racing.

    Placing well thought out shots is the key in The Evil Within. Common enemies can be staggered or knocked down by shooting the legs, arms or shoulders. Headshots are the best bet for an instant kill, but are difficult to pull off due to weapon sway and the enemy’s staggered movements. But the sight of the enemy’s head exploding after nailing a shot is awesomely satisfying.

    The monsters of The Evil Within are very well designed and many of them become characters that have their own personalities and stories to explore. The gruesome Keeper with a barbed wire entangled safe for a head and the creepy long-haired Grudge-esque creature are just a few of many memorable monsters Sebastian faces off with.

    The star of The Evil Within is the truly frightening atmosphere Shinji Mikami and his team at Tango Gameworks created. The many environments Sebastian finds himself in are littered with scares. The combination of effective lighting, creepy audio and grainy visuals all help establish the feeling that you are completely alone in your fight for survival. The rotting corpses that are scattered along the levels all appear, and have the ability, to suddenly spring into action. Bloody messages written on the walls and disturbing paintings add another level of chills. The Evil Within makes anything and everything a potential threat. I was even afraid of non-threatening objects like trashcans and wheelchairs throughout my time in Beacon Mental Hospital.

    Visuals are intelligently used to make players see things that may or may not be there. The environment is almost always dimly lit and the screen itself is purposely grainy. Objects can get knocked over by enemies and rats which can make the player do a double take. The implementation of invisible enemies made me see things that were not there. When the fear and tension built up, as it often does, The Evil Within had me shooting at non-existent foes.

    The sounds of the The Evil Within help create the atmospheric tension that the game excels in. Claire Debussy’s classical piano score, Clair de lune, is a very chilling piece that compliments the eeriness of The Evil Within perfectly. The footsteps and animalistic noises that enemies make while searching for your hiding spot adds a new level of anxiety to the game of hide and seek Sebastian plays with his undead pursuers. Objects being knocked over, doors opening in the hallways and ghostly voices all effectively scared the pants off me.

    The Evil Within blends horror and action perfectly to create one of the best entries in the survival horror genre. Tango Gameworks masterfully utilizes the grainy visuals, lighting and sounds to trick the mind and create a constant state of uneasiness for the player. The grisly monsters that stalk the halls of Beacon Mental Hospital and challenging gameplay produced some very memorable adrenaline pumping moments. The Evil Within produced a pit in my stomach that would not go away and made me fear trash cans. While in need of some stronger storytelling, this game intelligently creates the kind of horror experience that I will not soon forget.

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