The weight of expectation on The Evil Within is certainly on some broad shoulders. Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami happens to own those shoulders.
Annouced two years ago and almost finally upon us, the game follows a modern day Police Detective, Sebastian Castellanos into a deeply disturbing psychotic environment filled with zombie like creatures, shifting environments, evil monsters and the pairing of a mysterious boy and his doctor.
Playing through the two demo levels I got the chance to experience, the atmosphere is certainly one reminiscint of the iconic survival horror of the PS1 era. Even at this early stage the classic over-the-shoulder view, dark colours and foggy outlines are effectively imposed here. As you walk in to the first level, you are almost paranoid of everything and desperate for supplies, smashing all the boxes you can and getting as little ammunition as is available. There are several other options you can use including a multi faceted crossbow.
In fact, that’s one thing that I was surprised by, the weapons. So far they are incredibly effective, almost too effective. The only thing that really stops you from going quite run-and-gun at this stage is the amount of ammo. Something that will change as the difficulty increases especially. Quite an interesting dynamic is the way that you can‘t fight off multiple enemies forever, or just simply mow them down in a haze of bullets.
Eventually you will get swamped and overrun. You can slow them down but until you take a flame to them, they’ll keep coming. You have to be precise with your shots to put the down in the first place and you have to be conservative. Your gun won’t always be on target, so no panic shooting. Melee will only buy you a bit more time. But the game employs some clever, and tense, devices to help you with dealing with the mobs. Plenty of objects are around that are easy to use as explosives, traps to set, corners and corridors to funnel them in to, but the best has to be the weapon wheel.
The weapon selection wheel (think any Rockstar title of recent times) has quite nicely been implemented but unlike most games where it either pauses the game or continues it, it slows the action down, quite conveniently buying you some time to think, plan and execute you next moves.
The visuals of the monsters (known as The Haunted) are, to be honest, as you’d expect for a zombie monster horror. Everything is as gory as you’d also expect with blood, guts, flesh, and Shining-esque set pieces. However the star of the show already, by far is the audio.
From the first moment that you hear the opening bars of Clair De Lune echoing from the save points, you already know that you’re in for a scary ride. One of the things you notice when playing with headphones is how much the audio design is completely surround sound biased. The little sounds and the use of echoes and reverbs resonate in your ears and creep you out.
If one think has come along the furthest in the days of the PS1 survival era, it is sound options available to game developers and this game takes full advantage of that. At the games developmental stage, the audio is the biggest winner and the thing that needs improving the least.
I must stress that this is an early stage, so there is definitely no criticism. This will be an incredibly atmospheric horror with many interesting subplots and twists along the way. But there will be some work needed along the way to make the visual and the weapon balancing just right, then it will certainly be a game to play with the lights off.