Showing posts with label The Evil Within. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Evil Within. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Review - The Evil Within

The Evil Within
Available on: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4 and Xbox One

The Evil Within (also known as Psycho Break in Japan) is a third-person Survival Horror game, directed by the creator of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami. Produced by Bethesda Softworks, known primarily for RPG franchises such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, the game focuses on protagonist Sebastian Castellanos as he finds himself pulled through a world filled with nightmarish locations and horrific creatures, as he struggles to unlock the secret behind the mysterious hooded figure known as Ruvik.

Immediately, it is evident that this game is heavily influenced by the two Survival Horror heavyweights, Resident Evil and Silent Hill, in both tone and gameplay elements. The sequences set within the European village recalls elements of Mikami’s own work on Resident Evil 4, with the possessed villagers resembling the zombie-like Ganados, even going as far to include a chainsaw wielding boss character. Aside from the more action-packed elements borrowing from the later Resident Evil games, Mikami also includes a more psychological horror element with the inclusion of the unstoppable multi-limbed Laura who crawls after the player, ready to land a one hit kill; or The Keeper, whose ‘safe for a head’ design recalls memories of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head.

The comparisons to Silent Hill continue with the game’s dream-like quality and constant shifting of locations from a remote village in the woods, to a ruined urban environment and the sterile environment of an abandoned mental hospital, which is also used as a “checkpoint hub” for players to save their progress and upgrade their skills. Gameplay-wise, the game owes much of its style to Resident Evil 4, to the point where specific chapters feel like ‘deleted scenes’ from the previous games. Obviously, being one of the biggest-selling survival horror games, this isn't a true detriment to The Evil Within, but it does leave it feeling somewhat derivative of its survival horror ‘parents’.

As with all survival horror games, initially the player is made to feel powerless and the game implements a heavy ‘stealth’ strategy in early chapters to increase the tension and give the players the sense that every battle counts, but eventually the game leans towards a more action-focused stance towards the end with bigger boss battles and more powerful weapons. The game also allows players to upgrade skills such as, weapon efficiency and ammo stock, enabling players to tailor their character to their strengths and increase power to specific weapon load-outs. Also, hidden keys littered about the levels allows the player to unlock safety deposit boxes and earn bonus “brain juice” (the currency of the game) or ammunition.

Story-wise, the game has a distinct tone and flavour that briefly allows it to step out from the shadow of its more-established predecessors, constantly challenging the player’s perception of what is real and what isn't. The plot is clearly influenced by both Japanese and American horror movies, blending the two genres together to bring something interesting and fresh to gamers. As Sebastian unravels more of the mystery behind events, the seemingly disparate threads established at the start of the game begin to become clear and it manages to tie together in a fairly satisfying manner. While the developers manage to craft a strong and engaging antagonist in the mysterious Ruvik, they do falter somewhat in creating an equally engaging hero with Sebastian.

I don't suspect this is the start of a new franchise, but as a stand-alone oddity, The Evil Within is a nice excursion away from the worlds of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, whilst remaining comfortably familiar. With both of those franchises yet to release a “next-gen” outing for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it seems The Evil Within is free to bask alone in the survival horror pool until a more established game comes along. Interestingly, DLC has been released for the title, expanding its story to focus on one of the supporting characters (Juli Kidman) and even allowing players to play as recurring enemy, The Keeper. This single-player DLC is a great touch and suits the game better than a tacked on multi-player, such as Resident Evil's “Mercenaries” mode.

Graphics - As expected, having played this game on the PlayStation 4, the graphics are fantastic and offer some really crisp visuals, particularly the vast ruined city-scape on the urban levels. Once again, comparisons can be made with its survival-horror “parents” of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, with the graphics imbuing the game with a gritty and grimy feel, perhaps not to the same extent as Silent Hill’s rust-filled other-world. It’s truly a great looking game, managing to bring each of its varied locales to life in a realistic manner.

Gameplay - As discussed above, The Evil Within owes a lot of its gameplay style to Resident Evil 4, using the familiar over-the-shoulder view implemented in all of the Resident Evil games since that release. The game blends elements of stealth into proceedings, particularly in the opening chapters, but this is largely optional and those wishing to go in with guns-blazing can do so with little consequence.

Achievements / Trophies - Most of the trophies are focused on standard chapter progression throughout the game with a handful of “secret” trophies awarded to those who complete certain criteria within the chapters, such as avoiding being seen during Chapter 2, or not using firearms during Chapter 8. There’s also the obligatory ultra-hard mode achievement, inviting gamers to complete the game in “Akuma mode”, which weakens your character so one hit from anything will kill him. Good luck with that!

Longevity - With its episodic nature, the game feels more apt for replay value than other survival horror games which have a more traditional long-form narrative. Upon completion, New Game+ is unlocked; allowing gamers to replay any chapter with existing weaponry earned in the previous play through including bonus weapons such as the Rocket Launcher and Sub-Machine Gun. The only gripe is that the difficulties are fixed, meaning that you can’t use this experience and more powerful weaponry to tackle the game on a harder difficulty.

As one would expect with the frequent comparisons made to Resident Evil and Silent Hill, The Evil Within doesn't bring innovation to the genre of Survival Horror, but that isn't necessarily a negative trait. Fans of the genre will find plenty to enjoy here, picking up on the riffs and homages to its predecessors, but anyone picking up this game for a fresh take on the Survival Horror genre will be disappointed. The only advances made here are graphically, and the game is beautiful. Personally, I was on the fence during the initial levels, unsure of the stealth elements but mid-way through the game, I found myself hooked and eagerly working through the chapters to get to the conclusion.

Score - 9.4 out of 10

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