Title: The Evil Within
Format: PS4 (also available on PS3, Xbox One, X360 and PC)
Price: USD 59.99 (Discount available for PS Plus members)
For those of you who don’t know, the director of The Evil Within is Shinji Mikami, who created the original Biohazard/Resident Evil. This has been at the core of a lot of preview articles in the media, as he not only created the series but revived its fortunes when he assumed directorial duties on Biohazard/Resident Evil 4, regarded by many as the pinnacle of the series (he directed the first, but was supervising producer on 2 and 3, and the other offshoots like Veronica and Zero). These credentials are touted with the greatest of expectations that with The Evil Within he would reinvent ‘Survival Horror’ for the new generation of games consoles.
There is a series of nods, intentional or otherwise, to the Biohazard legacy. There is a trophy ‘Master of Unlocking,’ a reference to the peculiar line uttered by Barry Burton in RE1. There are a number of sections set in the same type of mountain village with inexplicable medieval European architecture as in RE4. In the very first Resident Evil, there is a sequence when you first happen upon a zombie. You approach from the rear as it munches on a corpse, and it drops a severed head as it turns towards you. That exact sequence is repeated very close to the start of The Evil Within, and unfortunately, this underlines a significant problem: none of this is new. This is not reinventing Survival Horror for next-gen. It’s not even last-gen. Bar the cosmetic uplift of newer hardware, this is little more advanced than PS1 Biohazard, and nowhere near as much fun.
The controls are cumbersome and inexact. It is entirely possible to see a booby trap, edge towards it, and not be able to bring up the context icon to deactivate it. A small shuffle can easily turn into a giant leap forward, straight through the tripwire and back to your last save point. I noted a number of occasions when my character was crouched, I spotted an enemy and attempted to turn back, but pushing back on the L stick simply caused a bizarre hunched moonwalk. And it’s a good job there are invisible walls on many of the ledges in the game otherwise you’d be jumping to your death more than would be tolerable.
The control issues are compounded by a peculiar decision to letterbox the display. It’s like playing an imported SCART Super Nintendo on a PAL TV in the old days. The subtitles and chapter headings appear above, and it’s not like it improves the viewing area any – in fact it makes it worse, it is sometimes difficult to see, especially when crouched. It’s not like it’s because of new gen widescreen when this is another generation-straddler title.
Story and character are a horror show of the wrong kind. The central police detective character (I think his name is Gene Eric Whiteman) is bland and almost indistinguishable from the protagonist of Murdered Soul Suspect. Conversations are infuriatingly preposterous. For example, in one of the early tramps through the Resident Evil 4 village, some insane occurrence happens, and the doctor you are escorting says “No, Ruvik couldn’t have…” and trails off. Instead of grabbing him by the lapels and shouting “What? WHAT DO YOU KNOW?” into his face, instead officer A. N. Other lets it slide. There are far too many of these leading unfinished sentences by numerous supporting characters that would have any normal person straight into Inquisition mode, never mind a supposed police detective.
The sins are numerous. There’s the good old “collect 3 of these to open a door!” fully present and correct. Monsters can hit the character through bars, but the favour cannot be returned. The sudden removal of full camera control just to force you to negotiate a corridor filled with mines without being able to see in front of you. Instant death set pieces that see the ‘loading’ screen appear more times than is welcome. Bosses which cannot be killed unless you do X to it Y number of times, then pull a lever. And the monster design itself is uninspired. There’s the clichéd twisty Japanese woman on all fours with long black hair over her eyes straight out of Ringu. Oh and hey, Silent Hill just called and says it wants its barbed wire-wrapped deformities back.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the ‘evil within’ referenced in the title is actually the tendency in big games companies to recycle what has worked before. This is indeed evil and needs a definitive stake through its unimaginative heart.
The Evil Within
|A narrative fractured seemingly only to allow more levels to lengthen the game without need of explanation, extrapolated through cringe-inducing dialogue and questions no-one would allow to go unanswered in the circumstances.|
|Controls this clunky are unforgiveable in a new title. Makes the game harder in the most frustrating way possible.|
|Very high. Levels are repetitive and made harder through poor control and screen letterboxing.|
|The game for which the “For Genre Fans Only” label was invented. If you like Resident Evil, you’ll like this, because its exactly the same. Others will find it preposterous and tedious in equal measure. For Genre Fans Only
This review was originally published on Fextralife.com. Used with permission