Some would say the mind behind the modern horror game is Shinji Mikami, best known for the Resident Evil series. Some would say the pinnacle of the genre was his creation that was Resident Evil 4. Now, the man has returned to create the next evolution in the genre. However, despite Mikami having created such incredible horror games in the past, moving the genre forward with each iteration, The Evil Within feels more like his greatest hits than his greatest one yet.
That sentiment is not a negative one either but The Evil Within seemingly borrows a lot from games that have come before it and crafted it with such precision to create one of the most tense and atmospheric games to date.
The Evil Within will exhaust you. Each encounter is tense thanks to the scarcity of ammunition and supplies at your disposal. Each time you raise your gun to shoot, you must accept that this must be perfect. The Evil Within is a very difficult game too with only a few cheap-feeling moments. Ammunition is precious, which is what it should be in these types of games. Unloading into enemies may seem acceptable then but as soon as you run out and another wave come, you know you’ve already lost.
It can be frustrating at times for a number of reasons. Some situations are just a slog of trial and error as you try to figure out which approach is the one that works. Of course, this is not naturally bad design but it doesn’t make it any less grating. The team at Tango have clearly tested the balance over and over again as each situation you encounter is perfectly set up and prepared. It just doesn’t help that some of the checkpoints are rather harsh and can set you back much further than it needs too.
Unfortunately there is one more place that The Evil Within falters and that’s in its story. You play as detective Sebastian Castellanos who’s on a case that sees him investigate a hospital where multiple murders have just taken place. As you may expect, things aren’t so simple as things go awry very quickly in sometimes incoherent moments that leave the story behind just to set up a gruesome backdrop with an even more gruesome monster.
The enemy design ranges from the predictable to the messed-up as you fight off a non-stop barrage of enemies. This is where the true nature of feeling exhausted comes from. You never get a break in The Evil Within. The past isn’t quick at all but tension is a constant meaning you’re always expecting the next thing. It was genuinely hard to play this game for more than a couple of chapters just because of how mentally draining it was. This truly is a test of your mental capacity for horror which is just great to see.
As I mentioned, the balance in the game seems to be tuned to almost perfection. There is a huge sense of enjoyment to be had just finding some gel (used to upgrade) as well as ammo for your weapons. This scaling has very little flaws apart from the moments mentioned above. Looking through everywhere in an area will reward you with just enough ammo to feel prepared for anything that may be waiting in the next area.
The Evil Within features a fun upgrade system that you can upgrade by collecting green gel that’s found in the world of The Evil Within. However, no matter how hard you look, you will never find enough gel to upgrade everything so knowing your playstyle earlier is best for success in The Evil Within.
The Evil Within is a lengthy experience that can see you easily dropping anywhere between 15-20 hours on the campaign depending on difficulty and how good you are. It is incredibly atmospheric, tense, and only falls in momentary lapses of fine-tuning. There is nothing drastically new to find in terms of its design and implementation but all aspects have been tuned to near perfection creating a true horror game that doesn’t rely on the jump-scares