Title: Evil Within
PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Review: Brock Johnson
I remember seeing the trailer for this game. It was an overdose of gore, and a big turn off. I love scary games, but I don’t particularly enjoy bloody scenes unless they are bloody for a good reason. But, I kept reading that it was supposed to be a spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4 (one of my favorite games of all time), so I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, that comparison couldn’t be further from the truth.
Since I have a lot of critiques for this game, I’ll start with some of the positives. Evil Within is a third person shooter in a drab atmosphere full of mutated and grotesque creatures. It plays like a blend of survival horror and action horror, in that in some situations ammo seems especially limited but in others you need to blast your way through. I appreciate having both of those aspects in a game, as it mixes the formula up in a way that (in other games at least) keep my interest. The game is beautiful, though it does have some framerate glitches here and there (I played on PS4), and the weapon inventory system generally seems sensible.
Unfortunately, the positives end there. While it shares a few similarities with the aforementioned Resident Evil 4, Evil Within completely misses the coherence that kept me coming back for additional playthroughs with RE4. All the pieces are there, but the way they are assembled is just…well, sloppy.
I appreciate a good challenge. I dislike games where you don’t die throughout the entire campaign, as I want my accomplishments to mean something at the end of the day. In fact, this is my main critic of my second favorite franchise of all time, the Zelda series – while the puzzles are often challenging and interesting, the gameplay and boss battles are just, without exception, too easy. However, Evil Within’s difficulty borders on madness, and not in the good way. I kept dying over and over in what seemed like a cruel experiment worthy of inclusion in the game itself. There’s an early scene where you need to limp past a large one-hit kill enemy, and I played it over and over until I managed to slip by undetected. What’s the point in making that so tedious? Does it actually make the game any better? The deaths in this game just aren’t fair.
I appreciate limited resources, and RPG elements where you need to level your character up. I generally dislike games where you can just come in guns blazing, as that quickly gets old. But when you only find a few bullets and it ends up taking four head shots (four head shots!) to bring down a single common enemy, that’s not fun. When you can only run for about three seconds before becoming winded and needing a break due to the game’s poorly utilized stamina system, that’s the opposite of fun. That’s pure frustration.
One of Evil Within’s main hooks is that is supposed to be a horror game. But the problem is, it’s not scary at all.
What makes a game scary? To me, number one on the list is atmosphere. Unfortunately, Evil Within’s atmosphere is so cliché that I found myself rolling my eyes rather than turning my stomach. Despite being a pixelated SNES game, Super Metroid was able to convey more uneasiness than this bland canvas of blood and grime. That’s because SM appreciated the value in simplicity – sometimes less is more. In Evil Within, when gore is trodden out over and over again in increasingly grotesque ways, it’s not terrifying in the least – it’s just plain silly. The game becomes comical instead of scary. When it’s not enough that the enemy is already dead and bloodied, but he needs to be wrapped in barbed wire with several 3-foot spikes through his body and head…c’mon, really? Is your idea of enemy variety to simply throw some spikes and blood on a person and call it a day. It’s downright laughable.
This game produced some of the most maddening hours I’ve spent with a game in recent memory. To say that it was a disappointment after hearing comparisons to Resident Evil 4 would be a gross understatement. Evil Within’s pretty graphics and big budget don’t save it from being a forgettable title that I’ll never pick up again. And I wouldn’t suggest you do either.