We had a chance to try out The Evil Within at Quakecon this week, the first game developed by Tango Gameworks, a new studio formed in 2010 by Resident Evil creator, Shinji Mikami. The demo was available to play on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and offered a lengthy glimpse of what we can expect when it launches this autumn.
The demo began just outside the main gate of a large residence, with the only path forward leading straight to the front door. Once inside, we saw a quick little cinematic of what appeared to be a mental patient being led away by an orderly behind large, closed doors. We noticed the door had three devices on it that looked to require activation, and a couple of tubes leading away from the door seemed to be pointing us in the right direction. Although our time with the demo concluded before we could take a peek behind those doors, the process of opening it made for a decent preview of what the game has in store.
One of the first things we noticed about The Evil Within was how atmospheric it is. Though not particularly visually impressive, the dark hallways, the candle-lit rooms, the foliage scraping against windows, the random blood smears across the walls and floor, and the creepy ambient noises coming from around the building went a long way towards pushing our fright meter upwards before we even encountered a true threat.
As we made our way through different parts of the edifice, exploring new areas and activating the contraptions on the large doors, we found documents and saw creepy, ghostly beings that pointed to this structure having been used for human experiments. If those weren’t enough to give us apprehension about what was going on, there was one small bit that even had us prodding around in an extracted human brain to solve a small puzzle.
The building itself was eerily similar to the mansion from the original Resident Evil, and the similarities didn’t end there. The statues, the vases in the corners, and even the handgun ammo pickup looked like something pulled right out of the classic survival-horror game. We even had to burn the bodies of fallen enemies or risk them getting right back up again, just as was required in the original Resident Evil’s remake on Gamecube.
Although the enemies in The Evil Within often acted like zombies, they looked more like test subjects. Some of them moved slowly, a couple were horribly disfigured by thing like barbed wire, and one even wielded a gun that it knew perfectly well how to use. Regardless of their type, they were all difficult to kill. Shots to the body did little damage, so head shots were the best tactic. The game also suggested you could silently kill enemies from behind but there was never a comfortable moment to really try it out.
At first it looked like there was ample equipment to fight these monsters with but since enemies could take so much damage, we often found ourselves running low on ammo. The revolver was he staple gun but a pump-action shotgun proved more effective when there was the ammunition for it. We were also given a grenade, a crossbow with different types of bolts, and a knife for those truly desperate moments.
Unfortunately, all the ammunition in the demo didn’t help with us with one particularly enemy. He appeared to be some sort of supernatural being that wasn’t at all phased by our weapons, but was more than capable of killing us in one swift blow. In the beginning, we had no idea what were supposed to do get past him, but did begin to notice hiding spots in some of the rooms we cleared. Sure enough, if we hid in a cupboard, as an example, he eventually left.
What was suspenseful but also obnoxious about this enemy is that his appearance was completely random. It led to us seeking out potential hiding spots immediately upon entering a new room, but there were a couple of times when he emerged just as we went into an area with physical enemies, which really left us in a pinch and lead to our demise every time. And although hiding from an enemy instead of always blasting them away with a weapon is a nice change of pace, it happened so often that we were getting a little worn on these encounters by the end of our time with the demo.
Part of what can really drive home a scary experience in a game like this is a finely tuned difficulty, and this is one area Tango can stand to improve before launch. It may not have been intended, considering what we were playing was an unfinished product, but there was a feeling of randomness when we replayed areas after failing. Ammo pickups previously available were often gone, the types of ammo would change, headshots would instantly kill an enemy sometimes but require two the next time, and there was one specific enemy that would disappear, only to reappear as we entered and exited the same room.
None of this would’ve been nearly as noticeable if we hadn’t played through the same area so many times, but the penalty for death was pretty steep and always set us back quite a distance. As with a lot of pre-release demos, it’s tough to know how much better we would’ve handled the combat and difficulty had we started playing from the beginning of the game. The section we made it through was obviously pretty far in the story, and we’re guessing the amount of enemies and their difficulty probably ramp up as the plot progresses to where we started.
As we look back on our short time with The Evil Within, it’s obvious there’s some work to be done, but there’s a lot of promise too. The creepy atmosphere, the mixture of fighting and hiding, and a bit of puzzle solving all point to a winning formula. We just have to hope the experience has tightened up a bit before its release in October.