When you think of survival horror titles your mind doesn’t instantly jump to Bethesda. It’s a good thing, then, that The Evil Within is being developed by Tango Gameworks, a studio founded by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. Although there wasn’t an opportunity to actually play Mikami’s return to the survival horror genre, the man himself was at E3 to talk briefly to TheSixthAxis about his newest creation.
As you’d expect from someone of Mikami’s pedigree, he was very excited to be making his directorial return to survival horror, having not been in the role since 2005’s Resident Evil 4. For him, The Evil Within is all about the “triumph of overcoming fears,” something that plays out through the experience of Detective Sebastian Meadows, the game’s main character. He also described The Evil Within as “A truly terrifying game,” a statement that was quickly backed up by the demo that he’d brought with him.
The first part of the demo came from the opening of the game, showing Meadows and his team arriving at a local asylum. The place has been beset by some unknown danger, and the initial response force sent by the police are no longer responding. This might seem a little trite, but some wonderful voice acting and great facial animations really add to it.
After inevitably entering the clearly dangerous asylum, Meadows is quickly attacked; maybe he should be a little more cautious in his approach to a potentially deadly situation. When he awakes post attack, he’s hanging upside down in a room full of dead or tortured bodies.
It’s here that The Evil Within plays its first trick, dropping you into a first person view briefly, rather than the third person perspective that the game had used in Meadows’ initial foray into the asylum. This really limits what you can see of your environment and, along with some fantastic lighting effects, ups the tension significantly.
Later in the demo similar camera effects are used, such as locking the camera behind you when you’re being chased so you can’t see your pursuer, and while these are hardly new, they’re used in a way that works incredibly well to scare and terrify.
After being pursued by a chainsaw wielding mass murderer for a while the game’s prologue ends with the reveal that Meadows isn’t in Kansas any more, with the world outside seemingly destroyed by some cataclysm.
While the prologue section of the demo certainly gave a glimpse at what The Evil Within has to offer, as well as doing a little world building, it was the second half of what we were shown that really gets to the meat of what the game’s about.
Rather than being chased by a simple chainsaw killer, Meadows now seemed to be being pursued by a zombie horde of some kind. That’s not the important element though, it seemed likely that these were just one of many horrors that you’ll encounter in the game. No, it was here that we saw the game’s combat for the first time.
While you’ve got your typical pistol, running low on ammo in traditional survival horror style, you also have trip mines at your disposal. These seem to add a mild tactical approach to the combat, allowing you to take out a good chunk of the enemies before they can do too much damage (unless you stand too near the mine, as the person demoing it did).
After removing these rather troublesome enemies, Meadows heads down to what seemed to be an underground tunnel. As he headed towards the door at the end of the tunnel, the world would stretch, moving his goal further and further away.
As he finally reached the door, a wave of blood flooded through, executing a rather nice jump scare. While these often seem like the lowest common denominator in modern horror titles, the one here actually worked well, possibly because it seems clear that they’re just one the techniques that the game will be using. When you’re constantly on the lookout for jump scares they lose impact, but using them sparingly can be really effective.
Once the wave of blood had cleared Meadows, the scene had changed, moving instead to what looked like a corridor in a hospital or possibly back in the asylum from the prologue. This kind of abrupt change of environment, and the moment of disorientation it brings, seems like it might become a hallmark of the game, playing on more complex psychological hooks than simple fear of what’s coming to get you.
After a brief boss type encounter, a horrifying thing with multiple claw like hands and an unnatural movement, the demo ended.
I’ve got to say that, throughout, it looked absolutely fantastic. From the lighting and camera effects, to the rain in the opening scenes of the game, everything looked great. Although I suspect the versions for the current generation of consoles won’t be quite up to that standard, it should still look good. As for the PS4 and Xbox One versions, I fully expect them to live up to what I saw.
The thing is, looking back on the demo as a whole, most of what was on show seemed like fairly standard survival horror elements. More than what’s being done, it’s how it’s being done, and that’s where Mikami’s touch really shows.
He’s got the experience and the insight to pull together a variety of classic horror techniques into something that will leave your heart racing and top up your nightmares with fresh terrors. If that appeals to you then the game will be available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC sometime in 2014.