Sweet Jesus Christ, this game was awful. I know that usually a review shouldn’t start with this but it does save you a little bit of a read if you didn’t want to read me ranting about how shoddy this game is for an undetermined amount of words. The biggest problem with The Evil Within is that it had so much going for it, before I started playing it. Firstly, it came from a fantastic heritage in that it was directed by none other than father of modern ‘survival horror’, Shinji Mikami. Secondly, the game looked great in pre-release materials. Thirdly, survival horror is completely up my street. It’s a shame really that this ended up being a complete waste of (arguable) potential.
Let’s start with the story, which is a contrived, trope-filled mess. Gruff and questionably morale detective called to site of unexplained disaster and gets wrapped up in horrible mess. That’s the long and short of it, and I’m aware that other games have done exactly this and gotten away scot-free (Resident Evil, looking at you), but the lack of charm or character development in any of the key players of the narrative make progressing through the game (from a story standpoint) a chore. I reached a point, rather early on, in which I just stopped caring about the game world or anyone in it. Furthermore, The Evil Within is completely tonally inconsistent, flinging the player between tense horror and Hollywood movie-style action with wanton disregard for any sort of coherence. This can’t be completely blamed on the story, however, because a far worse beast tarred this game …
The gameplay in this title is my main gripe, and made this game (at times) frustrating enough to become unplayable. Although the controls (I will grant) are consistent enough in most mechanics, the aiming in this game is atrocious. The aiming reticule, I can only assume, is there completely for decoration as shots will miss targets (sometimes even going through targets with no damage caused) far more often than should happen in a game that relies on shooting enemies. Furthermore, the sheer amount of instant death BS that has been ritualistically rammed in an unforgivable place in this game is nothing short of astounding. Almost every 10-15 minutes, the player is confronted with a situation or enemy that can instantly kill them, forcing a restart.
Now, instant kills, regardless of the game, are BS and should not be a part of modern gaming. They place the priority over the progression with the game, therefore heavily sacrificing player enjoyment in the process. So allow it to sink in for a moment that this game has them almost constantly. In fact, the point in which I gave up on this game (and snapped the disc in half) was after the third instant kill scenario in less than 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES! If you add to this the fact that standard enemies also can deal tremendous damage and you have a game that relies far too heavily on artificial difficulty.
Speaking of artificial, and as one last point on the gameplay, don’t think I didn’t notice that you ran out of ideas Bethesda and artificially lengthened the game by recycling bosses. That is one of the laziest methods in the book on how to extend a game’s length; Dark Souls 2 did it (and with the most BS of it’s bosses no less) and it’s widely considered to be one of the worst in the series – Go figure. If you ran out of ideas, just stop … Your meagre plot could have been told in a lot shorter time and then the bosses would have felt like an event, instead of just another obstacle to enjoyment.
I have to give this game one thing, and that’s that it is damn pretty visually. The game is beautiful on the PlayStation 4 and most of the environments (although quite literally copy and paste “creepy” locations) are beautifully rendered and realised. The monster design is interesting and wonderfully grotesque, which would have left a lasting impression had the big monsters not returned every few moments like a drunk aunt following you around a party asking if you’re married yet, but I digress. The music is almost completely forgettable, typical horror fare. It all lacks the punchy impact of other action-horror games, or the brooding atmosphere of true survival horror.
In summary, it’s an awful waste of time that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It was barely enjoyable for long enough to want to finish it, and in fact I didn’t. However, the fact I wasted 17 hours on the game and hated roughly 16 of those hours is grounds enough to abandon playing it and pick up something … anything else.