HORRORATHON Game Review: The Evil Within (2014,X360)

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What do you get when you mix two parts Resident Evil with a dash of Silent Hill and Hellraiser? A gory, demented survival horror made of the stitched together corpses of several other franchises that have been struggling for awhile. Maybe it was time to give them some shock treatment to make a new beastie, and that was director Shinji Mikami’s goal. To bring the survival horror genre back from the large spell of terribleness to mediocrity. So… did he catch lightning in a body and re-animate the genre or do I need to call cleanup to get rid of that burnt corpse smell?

Luckily, it’s the first. I don’t nearly have enough air fresheners to combat that smell.

The game’s basic style is actually really easy to describe and well implemented throughout. I actually nailed it by talking about my thoughts on the first few levels on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 10.25.45 PM

You play as Sebastian Castellanos, a cop investigating a recent situation that has claimed the lives of several other officers at Beacon Mental Hospital. When he, his partner, and a new rookie (voiced by Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter fame) check it out, they’re sucked into a demented landscape featuring a mad menagerie of gory creatures. Every time it looks like they’ve got another clue to figure out what is going on, the entire worldscape shifts, as do the creatures and the mysterious and deadly hooded man called Ruvik, who gets closer the nearer they seem to get to figuring things out…

But you probably didn’t come to this review looking for a 12 page plot synopsis filled with spoilers, so I’m going to cut the major details to a minimum from here on out. The game experience itself is interesting, because it clearly takes a lot from past games, especially Resident Evil 1 and 4 (Mikami also directed the first, so it’s not a surprise). The general 3rd-person perspective is similar to the modern Resident Evil games, though surprisingly the game is nowhere near as run-and-gun as you’d think. Ammo is limited, and unless you’re crazy stubborn, some enemies are much better suited to using the flight instinct for.

Like this lovely creature... you better start running now.
Like this lovely creature… you better start running now.

Even creatures that aren’t bosses and mini-bosses can still provide a major threat if you don’t take advantage of the game’s fire mechanics. There are booby-traps everywhere in the game, and some of them are incendiary, but 9 out of 10 times, you should always light your fallen foe’s body with a match, otherwise, they could get right back up 30 seconds after you’ve knocked ’em down. Some take more than one match or critical hit, adding to the intensity of any given situation.

Luckily the mannequins don't do anything besides look creepy... yet.
Luckily the mannequins don’t do anything besides look creepy… yet.

That being said, death is a frequent customer on pretty much any difficulty. I played the Survivalist difficulty, the hardest mode originally available when you play the game and even for someone who is massively familiar with the RE4 controls and mechanics, I died a ton. In my 15 or so hour playthrough, I died 115 times, meaning I died about every 8 minutes. That’s how difficult the game is on what I later found out is the Medium setting, since when you beat the game you unlock two new modes, a Hard setting and what is essentially a secret nightmare “Akumu” setting. It’s rough going, but I’d love to eventually 100% this game.

Without getting into huge spoilers, the game’s story is interesting, but overall a little bit confusing and/or sloppy, and the protagonist we as a player is not especially interesting. Sure, throughout, you can pick up files and other collectibles that fill us in on some of the cast’s tragic backstories, including that of the main villain Ruvik, but none of what we actually see in the mandatory game really comes off as compelling.

Gore: 10/10. This is Evil Dead remake levels of gore. Viscera aplenty in this game.

Fright Factor: 8.5/10. There are plenty of moments of tension of fear, but sometimes difficulty and needing so many replays turns that into frustration. 

BEWARE!: Gore, body horror, imprisonment, asylums, fire, nightmare scenarios. 

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

Great

A worthy successor to one of my all-time favorite games (Resident Evil 4) in spirit, and absolutely worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the franchises I mentioned in the beginning.

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