Aside from being directed by survivor horror mastermind, Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil), not much was known about The Evil Within until Bethesda officially announced the game’s title via a terrifying live-action teaser trailer back in April. Even then, however, details were pretty scarce about Tango Gameworks’ horrifying, new IP, severely limiting what fans of the genre could expect, but not necessarily eliminating the hope that Mikami’s newest creation would bring survivor horror back to its roots. With this year’s E3 unveiling more and more information on the most highly-anticipated titles, it only seemed fitting that more details would emerge for The Evil Within. After a brief look at some in-game footage, it became quite apparent why horror aficionados have every reason to be excited about Tango Gameworks’ promising title. The Evil Within brings back terror with a blood-soaked capital T.
Though Pete Hines – vice president of public relations and marketing for Bethesda – was hesitant on delivering too many story details (stating that they’re essential to the overall experience), he did reveal that gamers will play as Sebastian: a police detective sent out to investigate an asylum where a gruesome mass murder has taken place. Judging by the start of the game’s hands-off playable demo, Sebastian soon ends up knocked unconscious prior to his arrival at the scene of the crime, and finally starts to awaken during the initial moments of The Evil Within’s gameplay footage.
The demo starts with the slow but steady sound of dripping blood penetrating the unnatural silence of Sebastian’s darkened confines; blood which, you soon find out, is flowing from an unseen wound Sebastian himself has sustained. As he begins to further regain consciousness, you see the deformed, sadistic face of your captor staring back at you, the bloody remains of his past victims dangling behind him like forgotten slabs of meat. Though the room is noticeably dark even after Sebastian’s vision has cleared, we can’t help but notice the bone-chilling sounds of soft, wet flesh and sloppy thudding directly to the left of us, causing our mind to race with the immediate assumption that we’ve just witnessed a brutal disembowelment. Noticing that the demented psychopath has left – and that he is dangling upside down, Sebastian begins to sway back and forth in an effort to reach a knife that just so happens to be sticking out of one of the deranged butcher’s unfortunate victims. Upon reaching his little beacon of hope (the knife), Sebastian proceeds to cut the restricting rope strapped around his ankles and allows gravity to violently drop him onto a floor covered with the gut-wrenching aftermath of his captor’s merciless evisceration.
It’s during these initial moments of Sebastian’s escape where we see a glimpse of the vision Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks are trying to achieve with The Evil Within.
Reviving Survivor Horror
While Pete Hines emphasizes how the game’s HUD-lite display is presented in “a different cinema scope aspect ratio” (2.35:1 instead of the standard 16:9), what’s more evident is how satisfyingly tension-filled The Evil Within seems to be, even without the controller in our hands. As Sebastian attempts to silently sneak past his aggressor – who is currently chopping apart a human subject on a work table, light and shadow correspond effortlessly to exhibit an atmospheric, nail-biting experience not foreign to survivor horror classics like Silent Hill 2. Adding to the uneasiness created by the effective, well-implemented lighting is the dynamic use of the game’s audio (as demonstrated during the course of the demo), which just oozes with jump-inducing potential that’s sure to inject a welcome sense of anxiety into each dark, disturbing level.
[The Evil Within’s] light and shadow correspond effortlessly to exhibit an atmospheric, nail-biting experience
Going back to the demo, we see Sebastian finally reach his only means of escape: a locked door on the far left of the diligently-working monstrosity. Backtracking to the same blood-soaked room the deranged killer currently occupies, we see the shiny glimmer of keys dangling on a meat hook right above his makeshift butcher’s table. As Sebastian carefully calculates his next move – patiently waiting for his opportunity to silently retrieve the keys, Hines thoughtfully mentions how The Evil Within’s AI “moves through the world in unpredictable ways”, which should, hopefully, allow every encounter to present a constant sense of uncertainty regardless of the amount of playthroughs the player has experienced.
Having obtained the keys without announcing his presence, we soon see Sebastian quietly unlocking his escape route and slowly, carefully creaking the door open. The tension rises as he proceeds to tip-toe up a set of rusty, metallic steps and continues to proceed into the seemingly vast unknown headfirst. Unfortunately, Sebastian’s stealthy escape is short-lived as he accidentally snaps a well-placed tripwire, simultaneously alerting the hulk-like brute to his location. Appearing behind Sebastian wildly swinging a flesh-shredding chainsaw, an intense chase ensues that ends with our poor protagonist brutally chewed apart by the chainsaw’s vicious blades in a blood-spraying death animation; a sequence of events that changes our initial perspective completely. Perhaps what truly makes each moment inside The Evil Within’s tormenting confines so recognizably terrifying isn’t necessarily just the atmosphere it delivers, but also the unfaltering feeling that death lurks around every corner.
Awaiting Pure Evil
While it’s still too early to tell for sure, The Evil Within seems more than capable of bringing survivor horror back to its terrifying roots with the creative mind of Shinji Mikami and the talented team at Tango Gameworks diligently working on the project. While Hines didn’t give away nearly enough details to satisfy our insatiable thirst, he did state that the game plans on encouraging players to consistently change their strategies and accommodate to each situation using the limited resources at their disposal. To add to the intensity, The Evil Within will also feature a variety of terrifying, grotesque creatures and a true sense of vulnerability that is only more apparent thanks to the integration of gruesome death animations. More than just bullet points on the back of the box, these features should keep players constantly feeling both fearful and “off-balance” as they explore the uninviting confines of the game’s hellish locales.
The Evil Within will be releasing next year on multiple platforms including PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.