The Evil Within has a lot of promise to live up to. Fans of Shinji Mikami’s previous work have high hopes that this new survival horror will rekindle the slower, more dread-filled days of the Resident Evil franchise. Does it succeed in delivering a heart attack inducing experience?
Well, critics seems a little divided.
Evil Within just plain doesn’t give you a fair chance to succeed. It doesn’t provide enough information for you to make good decisions and it handicaps your ability to fight well. It requires so much repetition that it can’t possibly maintain any sense of tension or unease, and its story is told so aimlessly that you’ll likely forget the plot between scenes. It manages a few moments of inspiration, but their scarcity makes them feel like fortunate accidents rather than deliberate elements of the overall design. It’s covered in blood, but the only thing truly horrifying about The Evil Within is how disappointing it is.
The Evil Within is a brutal, challenging, and remarkably fun game. Its eerie world and imaginative enemies are genuinely frightening, and the scares are heightened significantly by the scarcity of resources at your disposal. It keeps the odds stacked against you to the point that they often feel insurmountable, yet it’s finely tuned to ensure that they never really are, as long as you can keep a cool head and a steady aim in the face of building panic. While its story ends up buckling under its own ambition, there is little here that takes away from the joy of experiencing survival horror under the steady hand of a master of the craft.
I’m still questioning whether I’ll make that second pass, though. The Evil Within has great moments where the excellent combat and creepy environmental design come together. But those moments are fleeting, inevitably sapped of their delightful terror by design choices that feel trapped in the glory days of a decade ago. There’s something to be said for respecting your past successes and building off of them, but The Evil Within is only ever completely successful at half of that equation.
Horror fans shouldn’t let the disappointing story deter them one bit, however. Few Paranormal Activity fans care how these malevolent demons come back again and again – what truly matters is that the audience’s nerves are frayed until they’re raw. The Evil Within excels at keeping your palms sweaty while delivering a harrowingly rewarding gameplay trial. Watching the credits roll with a sigh of relief doesn’t feel like winning; it feels like surviving.
The Evil Within is a noble attempt at bringing back classic survival horror, but it could have learned a thing or two from games that aren’t almost ten years old. It has its moments of brilliance, scattered through periods of antagonizing design.
It’s seems to me that everyone agrees on The Evil Within’s story being pretty terrible, although whether that makes a difference is the main divergence between scores. I’ll probably never work up the nerve to play, but I’d expect a semi-interesting tale waiting for me if I ever did. Still, if you’re coming for more horror than narrative, then it seems like The Evil Within delivers.
Last Updated: October 14, 2014