Shinji Mikami is famous as one of the creators of the popular Resident Evil series, but is probably best known as the man who brought the series back to life with Resident Evil 4. Now he’s back, and with his new development studio, Tango Gameworks, and new publisher Bethesda (Fallout, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), he’s unleashed a horror game unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You might want to make sure you have several changes of pants with you when you decide to play.
The Evil Within puts you behind the badge of Detective Sebastian Castellanos who investigates a mass murder at a mental hospital. Once he’s there though, nothing is what it seems and before you know it, Sebastian is whisked away to a nightmare landscape inhabited by the undead and ever-escalating grotesque monsters.
There’s very little in the way of story in The Evil Within, but like all good horror this is intentional - the less you know, the scarier it all is. But adding to the confusion is the idea that at any time, the game can switch on you. You might be in the basement of a village hut, but then as you go to leave you’ll suddenly find yourself in a long corridor in the mental hospital you visited at the start, with no understanding of how, or why, you got there. But there’s also very little time to ponder, because danger lurks around every corner in the game and in The Evil Within it’s sometimes best to run, rather than try and fight.
Ammo is scarce, too. Playing on Survival mode with as many aids turned off, we found the game a real challenge but you are given some pretty great tools to combat the dangers with. You’ll start the game off with a pistol, but eventually you’ll get yourself a sweet shotgun, sniper rifle and grenades. Adding to your arsenal though is the Agony Crossbow. This bad-boy can fire a variety of bolts such as electrical, freeze, explosive, flash and normal. You can also craft bolts on the go with the right tools. There are booby-traps laced throughout the game, but these can be disarmed and their parts used for bolt creation.
You’ll also find jars of green gel hidden around the game or dropped by enemies, and this stuff powers your own character progression. Periodically Sebastian will find himself in a different mental hospital with a friendly nurse, a series of unlockable lockers (just find hidden keys), newspapers and missing persons posters (to give a little context to this bizarre world), and a shock therapy machine. The machine is powered by the green gel you collect and administering yourself to the shocks is how you actually level up. You can make Sebastian stronger, or you can level up your individual weapons and ammo. It’s a creepy but clever way to have players craft at least something of themselves in a game that’s really only out to kill you.
Visually there isn’t much like this out in the world of gaming. For the most part you’re traversing creepy, dark and dank hallways and corridors, but you’ll also find yourself in more bizarre locations like a sunflower field (where the sunflowers are actually turned away from the sun). There’s a good mix of outdoor locations and interiors and even a very familiar mansion that is clearly a nod to Mikami’s past.
The Evil Within is beautifully paced, meticulously designed and creepy as all hell. Some of the larger enemies and bosses are terrifying and hard, and the game is constantly challenging your ability to fight and survive at the same time. It builds tension like no other game and actually gave us huge doses of anxiety while playing, but we couldn’t stop. This is very much the perfect horror gaming experience and one we thoroughly recommend.