The Evil Within - Review

Many years ago I made a post about something called "Project Zwei," and never mentioned it again. I still feel a bit guilty about that, and today I hope to make it right. With Halloween right around the corner, I wanted to spend the next week focusing on horror. It's something I talk about from time to time here on NGR, but I've never dedicated a week or series to it. So, to kick things off, I'm stepping back in time, and finally following up on that post. This is my review for Project Zwei -- aka, The Evil Within.

The Evil Within - Review

Project Zwei, the "new" Resident Evil. When the director of the original Resident Evil series announced that he was working on a new horror game, no one really knew what to expect. Was it going to be a Resident Evil clone? Would it be like the classics? Or would it be like Resident Evil 4? It turns out, it was both -- in a way. "The Evil Within" (as it would become to be known) was shown to be a third person horror survival adventure game, similar to RE4, with a mix of strangeness (similar to Silent Hill). It was a game with jump scares, limited resources, disturbing monsters, and difficulty settings that were sure to push the players to the brink of despair. This game was to be horror survival at it's finest... But how was it really? Honestly, that's not an easy question to answer, but hopefully this review will help you decide for yourself.

The Story (Within):

The Evil Within's story isn't something one can understand right from the get go. Although the opening scene has our police detective Sebastien racing off to check on a disturbance at a mental hospital, things soon take a strange twist. Upon arriving the group of detectives find themselves in what can only be described as a slaughter house, with bodies thrown throughout the room. After the appearance of a strange robed man, Sebastian and co soon find themselves running for their lives, as they escape the hospital with a doctor and a patient. By taking a nearby ambulance they are able to escape the area, but sadly simply leaving the hospital wasn't enough to escape. Shortly after the city around them begins to break into pieces, and the group becomes separated after crashing. This is the moment Sebastian realizes he's not in Kansas anymore. (Yes, that's something he would say.)

The world in The Evil Within is a nightmare. There is nothing normal about this place, and you can always expect the unexpected. The world will shape and shift around Sebastian as he makes his way through it, and along the way he'll uncover notes and recordings to help fill in what is going on. Although Sebastian simply wants to survive and escape this nightmare, as a player you may find yourself compelled to solve the mystery as well. After waking up in a real bloody slaughter house, Sebastian escapes nightmarish monsters, and makes his way to the "outside." This is where his story actually begins, and one heck of an ordeal awaits him.

The Gameplay:

As some may expect, The Evil Within is a survival horror title with a huge focus on, well, surviving. While some horror games use fixed camera angles or first person to limit your view, The Evil Within takes a unique approach. Although the game is in 3rd person, a letterbox is used to limit what you can see. This places black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, and narrows your field of view. However, this can be turned off in the options if you prefer your standard widescreen resolution. Even so, turning off the letterbox does not make this game any less freakier. Rather than going for constant jump scares (there are some), The Evil Within's horror comes from what you CAN see, and from the constant threat of death.. And seeing that death sooner doesn't make it any worse.

The actual gameplay in this game asks you to be creative, and to consider your limit resources. Although each stage is generally linear, there are moments with self contained backtracking, and there are extra areas to explore for resources. These areas can become key if you want to finish the game, as it's possible to completely run out of ammo before even reaching a boss. Of course, there are other options to kill enemies other than shooting, but that all comes down to you being able to realize it.

Rather than shooting everything you see, The Evil Within has a stealth system, and it's world offers other unique ways to kill enemies. Sneaking up behind normal enemies (non giant monster enemies) will let you instantly kill them, but it's also possible to attract enemies and lead them into traps. There's also the option to shoot an enemy's leg to knock them down, and to then use a match to light them on fire. Matches, like everything else, are a limited resource however, but they do instantly kill downed enemies, and will burn and kill any other enemies close to them. This can possibly take out an entire group if well timed, and be a great way to save ammo. On the flip side, leading enemies into traps can be easier and safer, but it's also possible to disarm said trap to use it as crafting resources. These crafting items can then be used to create special crossbow ammo that can also become key to survival. The crossbow can use everything from explosives, to a freeze shot, to a blinding shot, and can create unique kill opportunities if used correctly. (Blinding enemies allows you to stealth kill them, while freezing them can open them up to multiple shotgun blasts or bombs.)

Although in many cases you can also run from enemies, killing them can net you rewards. Enemies sometimes drop ammo, but they also drop a special item that is used as currency in the upgrade shop. Here you can increase how much ammo you can hold at a time (which is very useful), how strong your guns are, how likely you are to land a head shot kill, and you can even upgrade your max health and how long you can sprint before you get tired (which is also VERY MUCH REQUIRED if you want to survive boss fights that have you running). While some upgrades are more useful than others, they allow the player to build a Sebastien that fits their own style, and make surviving a little easier.

Even with upgrades and good item management, The Evil Within is still a game you will die in... A lot. The world is filled with traps you will set off if you're not careful, there are enemies that will instantly kill you, and sometimes things will happen out of the blue and you'll fail to react in time. Thankfully most of these cases have checkpoints nearby to respawn to, but other times you can find yourself repeating a challenging section over again. The game isn't too forgiving, but at the same time it's also not overly evil with it's tricks. It keeps you on edge and makes you fear death as you push for that checkpoint, but other times that checkpoint can take all fear away from a challenging encounter.

With how unpredictable The Evil Within can be, the game can become a bit stressful. It's a game that always keeps you on your toes, and you never know where you'll end up. One minute you could be walking down the hall of a building, and then the next that hall could transform into a nightmarish landscape. This is a world where anything can happen, so you need to always be ready for that "anything." As I mentioned before, it is possible to run out of supplies and be forced to restart, so having multiple save files is recommended. On the other hand, if you play it safe (and smart), you may find yourself with more supplies than you know what to do with. It all depends on you, the player.

The DLC:

After the release of the main game, three DLC packs were released. The first two packs show another side to the main story, while the third is a first person killing based game. In this mode you play as one of the enemies from the game, as you explore areas, kill monsters, buy traps and upgrades, and kill more. It's an extra mode apart from the base game's horror survival gameplay, but it's not a "full" story as the other two are.

The main two DLC packs for the game come together to create a second story mode. Rather than playing as Sebastien in these packs, players get to take on the role of Kidman, the young female rookie detective who appears throughout the main game. While the structure is similar to the main game, this time around nearly all combat is stripped away to provide a pure stealth experience. Here you do not need to worry about resources, and instead only need to make your way to the end. Along with some new stealth tricks, such as using phones to distract enemies, the DLC episodes are also much more story focused, and serves as a way to answer any questions leftover from the original story.

The Good and the Bad:

Although The Evil Within can provide horror fans with a fun, yet stressful, challenge, the game itself is not without it's issues. On the bright side, the game is pretty long for it's genre, the stealth system is great, the areas are unique and constantly change things up, and the upgrade system gives you the freedom to play how you want. There's no real right or wrong way to play this, and experienced players can even take on the hardest difficulty to push themselves even further. There is a lot to love here if you're a stealth or horror fan, and in many ways The Evil Within does capture that classic horror game feel. But again, this game is not perfect.

Despite not being too graphically impressive, the game does suffer from some framerate and performance issues. This is most obvious in the early chapters, with only some minor drops happening later on. Some of the one hit kill deaths can feel cheap and put some players off, and others may not like the idea of possibly being unable to finish the game if they mess up (of course this isn't so much an "issue," but rather something that may turn people off from the game). The main character also doesn't have much to say during this whole adventure, so you don't really feel too attached to him, and the game begins with what might be one of the hardest sections in the entire game. There is no real build up for the difficulty, it just forces you into easier or harder sections, and there are times where the game will change and kill you because you don't understand what is happening. One such example is when a rope wraps around your leg and pulls you towards a trap, and suddenly you have unlimited ammo to figure out how to free yourself. Of course if you fail you may lose quite a bit of progress, and it may take a few tries to realize what it is you must do. Although some of these "issues" are not true issues, they are things that could've been handled better, or at least been balanced a bit more. They can become annoying to deal with during your time spent with the game, but getting past them does feel rewarding. Assuming you don't give up that is.

While The Evil Within may not be perfect, it is still a good first try for the series. There are areas it can improve on, and some annoying parts that may turn people off, but if you can look past those issues you'll find a classic challenging horror survival game. If you're the type of person who likes this sort of thing, then The Evil Within is well worth checking out. Especially considering how cheap it is now days.

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