The Average Gamer

Hands-On The Evil Within: Macabre and Grotesque

The Evil Within - Brain
Jump scares bore me. I played through two hours of The Evil Within and am glad to report that they were few and far between. Shinji Mikami’s upcoming survival horror relies on a much tenser, creepier atmosphere. This pays off very well by continually unsettling me with disturbed mutterings, odd rustlings and some truly gruesome ideas.

Playing as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, my first task was a couple of hours into the game, where I was to find an asylum resident with the help of Doctor Jimenez. The good doctor has a rather unfortunate resemblance to Anthony Hopkins, meaning that I instantly assume he’s going to become the kind of guy who would wear your skin on his face. He didn’t during my preview, but I’m not ruling it out.

We shuffled our way through a wooden farming village at night, creeping past bloated and disfigured human figures to find his patient. The Evil Within is light on instructions and HUD, which all helps the atmosphere but if you’re as navigationally-challenged as I am, the lack of mini-map will pose a problem. All tiny wooden houses start to look the same in the dark, both inside and out, and you’re encouraged to fully explore. The game’s upgrade system needs you to collect jars of green fluid from all around the environments. I can only assume this is ectoplasm and you’ll trade them elsewhere for improvements.

The Evil Within - Escort Dr JimenezCastellanos can wield a lantern but it does attract nearby monsters so I was reluctant to use it in the open. You don’t have an arsenal of weapons and even if you did, your supernatural enemies aren’t easy to put down for good. In fact, they don’t even stay down for half a minute, if that. Killing with a headshot will result in a satisfyingly permanent decapitation but otherwise, you’ll need to burn the bodies to prevent them from rising again and there aren’t a whole lot of matches lying around.

That said, playing on Survival (i.e. normal) mode, I rarely found myself wanting for ammunition. In many cases, I was limited more by my inventory capacity than the items available. Castellanos doesn’t like carrying more than 5 matches at once.

As a result, instead of shooting monsters one-by-one and burning them, you’ll be scanning the environment for puddles of fuel, hay bales or explosive canisters. Time your attacks right and you’ll be able to burn entire groups at once. Or you could do what I do and go “Hmm, what is this shiny thing?” before setting fire to a puddle with not an enemy in sight and fiercely regretting it later. You can’t pick up bodies and throw them on an existing fire and given that the opening village featured a large bonfire of body parts, this quickly became annoying.

The Evil Within - Sebastian Castellanos Knife FightMost of the monsters I saw were mutilated humans; victims of gruesome science experiments and horrible murders. Farmers with spikes through their heads and villagers with grotesquely misshapen faces. One particularly chilling enemy I faced was a spider-like assemblage of limbs, centring on that staple of Japanese horror – a woman’s head with long, dark, unkempt hair. This nasty thing would follow me down corridors, dissipating into smoke if I tried to attack and rising from any nearby corpses. After half a dozen deaths, I saved my one match for a body in the elevator but otherwise, it was just run, run, run and hope to find a trap or distraction that I could use.

The version I played used checkpoints but I’ve been told by Bethesda’s PR representative that the final game will allow you to save whenever you want. It still clearly needs a lot of polishing before its October release but The Evil Within is on the right path for a truly macabre experience. I found a house with a mad doctor in the basement, muttering “Peel away, don’t you fret. Expose everything,” to himself. It’s chilling the first time but when you can hear it in every room in the house, repeated every 10 seconds, the horror quickly fades.

A section soon after this had me playing hunt-the-hotspot with a knife and a cadaver. I had found the X-Ray showing exactly where to cut but had to waft the knife around the body for minutes until I found the magic controller symbol that would let me cut. It was nowhere near the place on the X-Ray.

The Evil Within - SnaredThat aside, the environments posed some interesting challenges. I’m guessing Castellanos is somewhat of a weakling or recently broke his arm because he won’t reposition anything. In one small room, I faced five opponents, all with varying speeds and abilities. All I had was an explosive barrel at the top of one platform and a puddle of fuel at the stairs to another. A bit of creative panic had me climbing up to the barrel and waiting for them to almost touch me before jumping down and running to a point where I had a clear shot at the barrel.

Then I waited for the survivors to trot over to me before running up the stairs and setting fire to the petrol as they walked over to it. I applied a bit of extra damage as they burned and it was done. This room was a fun puzzle to solve but you do need to suspend your disbelief of not being able to move barrels or push bodies onto a fire.

The Evil Within really isn’t for the squeamish. You’ll be squelching through rivers of blood and faced with roaming horrors that float up and kill you with one hit. The world will twist itself around you and there’s nothing you can do about it. I was settled in a nice darkened room with headphones on and found myself twitching at every unexpected shadow or reflection in my glasses while playing the game. Horror fans will be thrilled.