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All it Needed was Leon

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    The Evil Within

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    All it Needed was Leon

    I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “spiritual successor.” It’s a little highfalutin for my taste. What authority classifies a project as such? Does one simply decide his or her work deserves this classification, and with the wave of a hand it is so? It’s all very arbitrary to me. But when a new game makes me euphorically nostalgic for an unrelated classic, I’ll admit, I don’t know what else to call it.

    That’s exactly what The Evil Within does for those familiar with Resident Evil 4. Now don’t get me wrong: it’s not quite that good, but it’s far and away the closest a game has come to mimicking what was so special about RE4’s atmosphere. The jump-scares, the dark secrets and the downright disturbing bosses — they’re all here. And they’re here in a way that they haven’t been in Resident Evil’s own installments since director of Resident Evil 4, Shinji Mikami, parted ways with Capcom. Mikami, now CEO of Tango Gameworks, also directed The Evil Within, which explains where much of the game’s inspiration was derived.

    There’s an unmistakable international flavor to The Evil Within, which takes place in the United States – but much like RE4 – displays obvious European and Asian influences throughout the entire journey. This provides a feeling of wonder that simply isn’t attainable in contemporary settings. There’s a harmonious mystery to playing through levels that feel like they’re set in rural Spain or gothic France.

    The game isn’t without its conceptual flaws, though. For instance, one chapter takes place on the streets of a collapsing first-world city, an out-of-place set-piece for a game otherwise steeped in darkness. While this does break up the monotony of the more clandestine settings, this atmospheric departure ripped me out of the moment and reminded me I was playing a game. There were a handful of environments that made me feel this way; though, apart from this one, they were all very brief. Despite these missteps, the majority of the game’s levels were great, taking place in dark dungeons and abandoned mansions – you feel immersed in a fascinating and terrifying world.

    But while it manages to capture RE4’s atmosphere so well, The Evil Within takes a few steps back when it comes to game mechanics. There are some improvements, sure, such as semi-real-time access to your inventory and custom hotkeys on the d-pad — but for a game that launched ten years after its spiritual predecessor (it just feels so pretentious), these upgrades are rather mundane. The biggest problems I encountered with the game’s controls were a significant hindrance to my experience; I found it challenging to peek around walls without exposing myself, awkward to pick up items off the ground and occasionally frustrating to aim with the handgun as well as the crossbow. Clumsy AI helps to mitigate these problems, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

    I found neither the game’s visual fidelity nor its score to be particularly remarkable. They are both adequate if not good, but neither are memorable. There are a few ugly models, your character’s body has a tendency to penetrate solid objects and more than one sound effect felt ill-timed. Eerie background noises, such as bodiless laughter and screams, are the highlights of the soundtrack. Effects such as smoke, floating particle matter and artificial lighting play a similar role in making otherwise unpolished graphics look much more impressive.

    The game’s story helps inspire you to play through a few of its tougher chapters, often due to its difficult enemies, of which there are several. On more than one occasion I felt as if I was playing Dark Souls or Bloodborne, as there are some seriously badass bosses who take a lot of effort and patience to vanquish. The mystery keeps you dedicated to pushing beyond these irritations, and your accomplishments are frequently rewarded with entertaining cut scenes. The game’s early narrative is cryptic and bewildering, which makes for a twisted tale that keeps you guessing, and just about the time the novelty of being confused begins to wear off, things start making sense.

    Unlike RE4’s linear timeline, there is constant disruption in The Evil Within’s world. You are frequently thrust back and forth through time, teleported to other locations and even experience gravity literally turn on its head, all without the subtlest explanation. This makes for a dizzying but invigorating lack of perception of place and time that fits seamlessly with the erratic nature of the story.

    It took me 19 hours to finish the game on its standard difficulty and I enjoyed almost every second of it. While The Evil Within does little to revolutionize horror games, it’s a memorable introduction to a new franchise: one which has the opportunity to fill a void in the games marketplace. With or without Resident Evil 4 as a frame of reference, The Evil Within is a welcome addition to a genre that currently lacks quality titles.

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