The Evil Within – More aggravating than scary

I’m going to cut to the chase here.  I did not like this game.  It’s certainly not a bad game (although it has its flaws), but I didn’t enjoy it for a number of little reasons rather than a single big one.  Certain aspects of the games difficulty, controls, and story weren’t perfect but as a whole it should have been more enjoyable.  Let’s have a little dig into it!

The Evil Within
The letterbox effect can be left on throughout the whole game, but it’s quite intrusive.

We play Sebastian Castellanos, a detective sent with his partners to investigate Beacon Mental Hospital where a massacre has taken place.  During their exploration of the hospital, the team are attacked and rendered unconscious by a mysterious hooded figure.  Sebastian awakes, alone, in an insane version of his world with the task of reuniting with his friends and figuring out just what the hell is going on (spoiler: I still have no idea).

The Evil Within
Running through a field full of sunflowers (which just so happen to be my favourite flower). Why is this happening? I have absolutely no idea.

The early game has us sneaking around to avoid a chainsaw wielding monster that culminates in a chase down a corridor and confronting The Haunted, humans covered in barbed wire (because HORROR).  We’re introduced to stealth kills, traps, general combat and the usual array of survival horror tropes.  Combat should generally be avoided at early stages in favour of stealth to conserve health and ammo.  As the game progresses, more weapons become available including the usual shotguns and rifles and the pretty cool Agony Crossbow which can use a variety of different bolts, from harpoons to freeze shots.  The crossbow was probably one of my favourite aspects of the game, but the limited carrying capacity for bolts (understandable for a survival horror) meant using it wasn’t an option in most situations.  We carry on, fighting bosses, avoiding traps and not understanding the plot until the comparatively easy final boss fight.  Cue final cut scene and set up for a sequel!

The Evil Within
It’s a horror game, so giant spiders are pretty much a given. This section was pretty intense, but certainly not scary.

So here’s the thing, the game sets up the rules for you early on.  Avoid combat!  Stealth kill enemies!  Disarm traps!  Then it starts screwing you by having enemies that inexplicably can’t be stealth killed, invisible monsters (a gaming no-no unless very well implemented) and traps that Batman would struggle to spot.  The bosses are creative in most cases, but they have surprise attacks that can, and will, one shot you.  There are so many aspects to this game that just felt cheap and lead to the game replacing its horror with irritation.  Knowing there was an invisible enemy nearby didn’t fill me with dread but annoyance that I would have to put up with another irritating section.  Unpredictable stealth sections with enemies that occasionally can see through obstacles or out of the back of their heads lead to more than a few of my near 150 deaths.  Controls that don’t feel quite sharp enough cause precious ammunition to be wasted.  As a package, this should be great, but so many little annoyances put me off.

The Evil Within
Stealth kills are a must. Apart from when you’re inexplicably not allowed to. Or an enemy sees you through the back of their head. Or it just doesn’t work as intended…

On a positive note, the game looks gorgeous (although I noticed a few framerate drops on the Xbox One version) and is well voiced.  The bosses are fairly inventive if you ignore their cheapness and the run up to fighting some of them can be genuinely tense and unnerving.  The build up to confronting one of them was quite unsettling; seeing (and hearing!) it scuttle around inside a cage and knowing you’d have to release it to continue was excellent.  Environments are varied and interesting, although seemingly disconnected (for plot reasons I think) with urban environments quickly followed by crumbling medieval European architecture keeping the world fresh from moment to moment.

The Evl Within
Some of the environments are creepy and well put together. Still no idea what’s going on though.

The key thing with any horror game really comes down to whether or not it’s scary or unsettling.  The Evil Within goes mostly for body horror with its unpleasant monsters and gallons of blood and gore which certainly can work.  If there is an intention to have moments of foreboding and dread then they were few and far between, and this is its main problem.  Due to the regular (cheap!) deaths, the horror aspect rapidly disappears.  The fear of the monsters rapidly became a fear of repeating sections, which descended into annoyance.  I realise Shinji Mikami defined survival horror through the Resident Evil series (side note: I loved Vanquish too), but gaming has moved on in the decade since he last created a game in the genre.  This feels like an attempt to recapture his glory days whilst avoiding looking at how horror gaming has evolved in the interim.  Or maybe I’m just playing it wrong…

The Evil Within
One of the occasional chases in which you run towards the screen. Looks cool, but not being able to see where you’re going is irritating. There’s one towards the end of the game in which I died due to not being able to see obstacles.

The Evil Within was developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.  I played the game on Xbox One and I’m not sure how to recommend this one.  If you can overlook the flaws then maybe you’ll enjoy this for what it is.  I was not a fan though, and found myself wishing the nightmare was over for all the wrong reasons.

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33 thoughts on “The Evil Within – More aggravating than scary”

  1. New Resident evil 7 isn’t scary too, at least to me. Creepy at best.
    According to internet you should s++t your pants when playing it. I guess this game isn’t scary as well, opposed to reviews and posts on web.
    Nice post, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading it!
      I suppose it depends on the context. I imagine with the VR headset on in the dead of night with the windows in your house open it may well be terrifying!
      Having said that, I think RE7 has a very different type of horror when compared to Evil Within.

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    1. I may well have liked the horror far more if I didn’t end up looking at the same bit of horror 14 times in a row due to another cheap death. The long haired boss (Laura?) annoyed the hell out of me because I thought I had to kill her! A bit more signposting may have helped.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember one of the fights against her, which involved turning to shoot pipes or some such, being one of the most frustrating Gaming experiences of my life.

    It took me fucking ages – and the wonky controls didn’t bloody help either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly it. Replaying sections over and over removes any sense of fear that was once there. RE4 had some cheap deaths in it (in my opinion), but they were rare and the majority of the game was well balanced by comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I watched a developer session on this at one of the London expos before the release. It looked AWESOME – and the demo they had lined up for players was pretty good too. Such a shame that the full game didn’t live up to that promise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It could easily just be me not enjoying it, but there were some bits that I could see infuriating players due to the lack of signposting and rules suddenly changing. Give it a go if you fancy, think it should be pretty cheap by now.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you!!! I was not able to get through this game, I gave it an honest try and at a certain point I realized that I was not having fun. It is a spooky, nice looking game as you mentioned…but that’s about it. The opening “tutorial” portion did not do an adequate job of preparing me, the story was nonsensical at best and I was just plain frustrated the whole time. Yet everyone I know who played it loved it for some reason. It’s unfortunate, it had a lot of promise but ultimately I just couldn’t find one single reason to put myself through it. I was just thinking about this one the other day and thought maybe I’d take another crack at it, but hard drive space is precious – and it sounds like I am not missing out. Thanks for the review, looks like I will be going The Evil Without this game (couldn’t help myself!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re opening statement is backed up very well with this statement about why you don’t like the game

    “There are so many aspects to this game that just felt cheap and lead to the game replacing its horror with irritation. Knowing there was an invisible enemy nearby didn’t fill me with dread but annoyance that I would have to put up with another irritating section.”

    This is a huge problem. There’s nothing wrong with an invisible enemy, if it scares you, then that’s great, as a horror game it’s meant to scare you. But if you are not being scared and annoyed as you said, there goes your immersion, which to me is the single biggest aspect of a horror game.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so fucking true, I can’t agree more. When the game released about three years ago, I was excited and it’s a pretty good game but the game failed to click with me, I don’t know. Perhaps, it was too “Japanese Horror” for me but I struggled to find something that would click with me, the spider girl was pretty cool and most of the mechanics felt good but yeah, I agree with this.

    At the end, I just felt underwhelmed but one thing I agree with professional reviewers is that this game felt very RE4 which is a good thing, and not because it’s Shinji but because the entire game felt LIKE RE4 but the game wasn’t very scary to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think that’s a reason why it worked out so well. RE4 did something that would change the industry or at least the genre, but The Evil Within just takes itself too seriously. I like what the game’s premise is but the execution wasn’t very perfect. Do you think there will be an Evil Within 2?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it did well enough but I have to check the figures on that game, but I wouldn’t mind seeing another one as long as it tries something fresh and new, and stop throwing down a cliche after cliche but I applaud Bethesda Softworks to give something a shot instead of churning out RPG’s like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, glad that they’re branching out.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Agreed, credit where it’s due, they did go for something different! The original sold well enough but I don’t think people were screaming out for a follow up. Time will tell though!

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  7. Great review 🙂 I played a lot of this game, but eventually gave up on it because of many of the reasons you mentioned. To me, it felt kind of like a less tight version of resi 4, wrapped up in a story that wanted to be weird and creepy like silent hill but lacked the focus and substance.

    Liked by 1 person

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