Game Review: The Evil Within (Xbox One)
I can’t think of a game in recent memory that has been more overblown than The Evil Within, at least in the survival horror genre. Tango Gameworks took cues from just about every other horror game out there; Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Outlast, etc., and put them all into one mashup, hence, it’s unoriginal! I will give the developers props for a few things, but seriously how many puss-filled, pulsating, veiny, acid-spewing, bulging mucous looking sores-on-walls am I going to see in these kinds of games? Time to come up with something new; let’s get back to scaring the crap out of gamers with suspense instead of wowing us with the fantastically grotesque.
What started off as a pretty legit story line; cop responds to gruesome murders at Beacon Mental Hospital. Cop sees some really strange crap and runs for life. Cop and friends escape in ambulance (earth shakes violently); ambulance crashes in the woods; cop and friends get split up (of course). Cop runs through woods trying to find his way. And this is where things start to take a turn for the worse. And when I mean worse, I don’t mean for the safety of the cop protagonist, I mean took a turn for the ludicrous worse in overall gaming experience.
Okay, so we have some infected people randomly roaming around and when they lay eyes on cop they want to kill him. I wouldn’t call them zombies, they are more like infected test subjects some with harpoons through their head (see Resident Evil). Some are kind of dumb while others have the ability to drive and shoot automatic weapons. If I am ever infected as a result of a horrid experiment I hope I can still drive and shoot with a harpoon through my head.
Throughout the game, the cop (Sebastian) learns about experiments that have taken place on the human psyche – experiments to unite multiple minds into one. And, because of this plotline, developers pretty much open the gates to do whatever they want because we all know the human mind is one of those things that is not always easily explainable. Before I get into how comical this game gets let me start off on a positive note.
Once I got past the learning curve, I realized The Evil Within relied heavily on stealth tactics. For that reason I was really getting into the game after the initial setup and introduction; taking my time coming up from behind and weeding out the herd of infected wanderers. For the first few chapters this is how things played out; fairly straightforward with some weirdness going on, but it was tense and suspenseful. I took my time and it made my job easier getting to the next chapter. Once you get detected, however, they chase after you and then all hell breaks loose and usually ends up in running out of or close to running out of ammo. Since ammo is an extreme premium, every single round must be used with precision. No Hollywood clips in this game. If you play on the easiest setting I understand it will be easier. I didn’t go that route.
The stealth thing was working for me. However, there were many times where the game didn’t allow for stealth. Even if I was stealthy and performed a knife attack from behind, some monsters didn’t die like they should have when a blade pierces the brain. It only pissed them off and I had to run around taking shots at them until they died…again, using up all of my ammo. About halfway through the game I thought about ditching it. But, because there was a monetary investment and I would consider myself slightly OCD, I had to see it through.
There are three other things infuriated me with The Evil Within besides the undue blood and gore. First, the controls unquestionably sucked. I absolutely hated the 3rd person view (over the shoulder). First person would have been fine. Why not use the same engine as Wolfenstein? Have you seen how smooth that game is? I can’t tell you how many times I got myself killed because of clunky controls. Wait, I can tell you. It was 274 times. I know because the game told me when I finished it. Over the 22 hours it took me to play the game I died roughly every 4 or 5 minutes on average. I can’t blame all that on controls, but spotty controls did play a role in my demise usually while trying to run away. Plus, once detected it was virtually impossible to hide again. On that note, I appreciate the fact that I got 22 hours out of a game. Remember the first Resident Evil? It could be done in three hours. Games have some a long way.
The second thing that infuriated me were the nonsensical monsters. It seems with every game the monstrosities including the final boss gets bigger and bloodier; exposing countless legs and swollen abdomens with spouting heads of the dead and frothy sputum filled orifices. It doesn’t get scarier because these bosses get bigger. But, if you link all of this to the human psyche, mind melding plotline; it’s nightmarish. I can see why the developers took this approach because these things would be scary in a dream and the more this game moved along the more it felt like a dream, within a dream, within a dream.
The last thing that absolutely mind-fucked my calm demeanor was, in some cases, the extreme length between checkpoints. It got really tedious during my 274 deaths to try to get past some of these lengthy mini-boss battles because they were so long and it was so easy to die. With some of them, you can have full health and by virtue of getting caught, you die.
Lastly, another source of mild irritation, was where the game jumped around with no real rhyme or reason. I get to a point where I think I am going to move on to the next level and then I am suddenly beamed somewhere else like Captain Kirk. It’s almost as if the developers ran out of ideas so they just brought me back to the mental hospital or wherever they felt I needed to be to continue the story. This happened several times which just made things confusing and less realistic.
Overall, there were some promising aspects such as graphics and use of stealth tactics to advance through some areas. Seriously though, these developers need to stop trying to create the most insidious final boss. It’s irritating and over the top. With the exception of excessive gore, limited ammo, confusing story, terrible script, absurd monsters, and irrational story, the game was pretty good.
If you are a young and new gamer I can see the appeal of a game like this…because you don’t know any better. For those seasoned veterans like myself, the survival horror genre is going down the tubes. Thankfully, the original Resident Evil was recreated for Xbox One. I think I am going to give that another go.
*Note to developers – headshots should kill people despite whatever infection they have. Under no circumstances should an infected person be walking around with half a head after a point-blank shot.