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Available for: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (played)
UK Release date: October 24th 2014
If you played Resident Evil from one through to four you will be very familiar with the work of Shinji Mikami. The director on arguably some of the most iconic survival horror games ever made has long since left Capcom and the series has arguably suffered swapping turn-your-sound down scary for more all out action, but Mikami now has his own studio and is returning to his gaming roots for The Evil Within.
Before even picking up a controller to play it, a quick read of the clichéd narrative gives you a clear indication of what you are going to get here. Detective Sebastian Castellanos, our lead protagonist, is leading an investigation into a mass murder case and in the process stumbles into a distorted reality inhabited by zombies and mutated monsters. This is not exactly new territory here.
Playing through two chapters based on early code, it doesn't take long to feel like you've walked into an early Resident Evil or Silent Hill game. It feels very linear. Mikami and the development team at Tango are using the new iD 5 Tech game engine to create more dynamic gameplay and lighting, but it definitely lacked some new-gen console visual gloss.
The first thing we were prompted to do before entering into combat was to assign weapons to the D-Pad. This is done by clicking in the left analogue stick where you can choose from an armoury, which includes a shotgun, pistol, a bow and a knife.
Combat feels very familiar where shoulder buttons take care of aiming and firing while action buttons are assigned to tasks like re-loading and opening doors. You’ll need to be thorough killing off enemies, though. A series of shotgun blasts to the chest or the head will not be enough and you will have to burn each one with a match to stop them from coming back to life.
In certain instances when you are out of ammo, which will happen, your only choice is to run. If you think you can leg it down a corridor with ease then you are sadly mistaken. There’s a stamina bar, which we didn't immediately spot, that dictates how quick you can escape. It doesn’t take long for Sebastian to pull up out of breath if you don’t preserve his stamina levels you will get killed.
This feeds into the survival element of the game, which clearly takes some inspiration from games like the Last of Us, where you need to scavenge for everything- -- you can even pick up and throw bottles as a form of distraction. There will be an upgrade system in the full game but that was currently off limits in our game time.
You’ll be rewarded for taking a stealthier approach to searching buildings or taking out enemies. You can hide in closets and underneath beds and even the lamp you carry around with you can be turned off to avoid drawing attention to your location. Stomping around is not the best plan of action in this game that’s for sure. In a world of fast-paced shooters, this style of play might not sit well with everyone, but drawing out the experience definitely helps to build up the tension.
Most of what you see in The Evil Within feels very familiar like the far from complex puzzle-solving or the way you have to kill off some of the trickier enemies, but there are attempts to freshen things up. Like the location-warping, for instance, where one moment you can be walking down a corridor and the next you are staring down a hallway drenched in blood. Sebastian can also glimpse into the lives of characters a bit like Delsin could in Infamous: Second Son.
Paying close attention to the environments is key, especially with the alarms dotted around that are not always easy to see. To disarm them requires a sequence where you need to quickly press a button at the right time, which most of the time is frustratingly quick. Fortunately, there is the option to take them out with gunfire but you’ll want to save that ammo for enemies.
In terms of scare factor, it’s difficult to really gauge. Throughout, an eerie clinking soundtrack and screeches of manic laughter serve as the audio backdrop. There's genuine moments where there's a real sense of isolation and a wariness to open a door in the fear that something is going to jump out you.
It definitely had its moments, such as walking into the bloodied medical theatre and being confronted by the girl from the Ring with mutating limbs disappearing and re-appearing right in front of you as you run away. This would have been more tense had it been in first person, though. Then there’s the hooded character Ruvik appearing out of nowhere following you like bad rash to take energy off you. At one point a screaming ghost running out of an abandoned house did give us a little jump, but these moments were few and far between.
First impressionsThe Evil Within's ambitions are clear; to bring back pure surival horror and in doing that it's bringing some of the shonky game mechanics with it as well. If you loved the original Resident Evil games, then this is going to appeal, although those hoping for Outlast-style fear might be left disappointed.
Visually, it didn't blow us away either and attempts to freshen up and evolve the genre feel half-baked. With only a couple of months away from launch, it's clearly a game that still needs some polishing.
Read more: Xbox One vs PS4
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