THE EVIL WITHIN Hands On Impressions - E3 2014

"I think we're collectively losing our minds." This quote said by the main character, detective Sebastian Castellanos, in The Evil Within pretty much sums up the entire experience.

I love Shinji Mikami. He's probably my favorite game developer. He basically created the survival horror genre and I'd like to think that The Evil Within is his magnum opus.

There were two different demos I could choose from. The one I didn't get to play took place in and around a giant mansion. I chose to play the first one which starts at the very beginning of Chapter 4. This was the demo recommended by Shinji Mikami himself, as he thought it explored the multiple play styles and themes you'd get to explore throughout the entire game. The game has a very grainy feel to it, which adds to the overall horror aesthetic. 

The demo starts off with me and a companion, a doctor who I am led to believe worked at an asylum central to the story, exploring this deep forested area with 2 cabins neighboring each other. This was great in my opinion because not only did this make me think of the very beginning of Resident Evil 4, but it also played with the classic horror cliche of "the cabin in the woods".

As I approach the backyard of these cabins, my companion points out that there are multiple freaks out there wandering aimlessly. He tells me to take care of them so we can move on. The doc then steps to the side and lets me do my thing. I was relieved when this happened, as companions in video games can sometimes get in the way or meet unavoidable deaths, but this doesn't seem to be the case here.

There were about 3-5 creatures I had to take out. The design of the freaks was stunning. They are covered in barbed wire, rag tag clothes, and nails through parts of their bodies and heads —really disturbing stuff. They also carry hatchets or knives and their attacks all do massive amounts of damage to you. Keeping your distance is key but it will create noise (through the use of the revolver and shotgun) which will alert other nearby creatures. So you could potentially play in a more risky yet quiet way and try to dispatch them all with your knife. You can also pick up fallen hatchets to use instead of the knife. I could also pick up bottles and throw them to distract and/or attract enemies. I could also light certain parts of the environment on fire which did the same thing and had the potential to set them on fire but this used up my very limited supply of matches. Matches are important because the only way to truly kill enemies is by lighting them on fire. If you don't they will get back up at sporadic times. 

After I had taken care of the freaks I moved into the first cabin. There are two ways to open doors in this game and both are terrifying. You can either slowly open the door, which creates a slight creaking noise, which greatly adds to the atmosphere. It is the quieter approach and allows a little bit of time to see what's in the next room, if anything. I can also kick doors open which is loud and will alert enemies but is way faster.

When I entered the cabin I explored all of the rooms on the upper level. All while this is happening you can hear inane mumbling coming from downstairs. The first room I entered slowly, and I spotted an enemy walking back and forth, I decided not to get involved but he spotted me. I swiftly made my way into the the room across the hall where I hid under the bed. This mechanic seems like it was greatly adapted from such great horror games as Amnesia and Outlast. The enemy came into the room and I slowly made my way out from under the bed and snuck up behind him and took him out.

Throughout the demo you can find and collect jars of bright green liquid which can be used to upgrade detective Castellanos. I also found some spare parts which I guess could be used for either crafting or upgrading your weapons. 

I made my way downstairs and got closer to the mumblings. It turns out it was a colleague of my doctor companion but something was definitely wrong with him. Most of his skin from his forehead had been torn off. He ran at me with a medical hatchet he was using on a cadaver, I quickly took care of him with my trusty revolver (now I am out of ammo) and burn the dude. I approach the cadaver, then a flashback occurs and I see the man I just killed talking about how itchy he is and he proceeds to tear of his own skin from his scalp. Truly messed up stuff. 

Back to the gameplay, I have to reach into the dead body lying on the medical table and get keys out of his chest. As I dig around inside this dead man's chest he screams at me and I fall to the ground in terror. I shake it off though and move on to the next cabin. 

Now at this point I noticed a consistency problem in the game. Textures are sporadic, coming and going throughout, whether it be the environment or my character's costume. Hopefully this gets worked out in the final product. 

As I approach the second cabin a kid in a straight jacket starts screaming and runs inside. The doc seemed to recognize him but Sebastian only seemed worried that the kid was going to draw unwanted and unneeded attention onto them. This is when I first noticed that detective Castellanos is kind of a cynical bastard. 

We make our way inside and the doc tries to comfort the kid who is cowering in the basement being incredibly loud and annoying. Then a freak starts making his way towards us and I dispatch him with my shotgun. We move to the hallway to head back upstairs, only to find that the stairs are gone and have been replaced by a giant cement wall. Then the doc and kid quickly phase out and I find myself in a long hallway. As I walk down the hallway to a door the hallway keeps shifting and getting longer. I finally make my way to the door only to fall down a hole and land in a pool of blood, guts, and dead bodies. Sebastian rightfully exclaims, "Fuck".

Now I have to find a way out of this godawful dilemma I find myself in. I find a switch and drain all the blood which reveals some items for me to pick up. I make my way to a door but then the big bad guy of the game appears, a hooded man with crazy powers, and makes some of the dead bodies from the pit reanimate. Before I go through the door I have to care of them.

This is when a bug occurred. I dispatched all of the enemies with a well placed grenade. But the next section remained closed. I could still hear an enemy moaning and growling but he was nowhere to be seen. The dev's said they have never seen this before. I ended up having to kill myself and restart the section and kill all the enemies again this time with my crossbow. 

The next area was the most intense of the demo. I walk down this long corridor reminiscent of a hospital and approach a pile of dead bodies. Then a huge spider like woman rips through one of the corpses and starts chasing me. You cannot kill in this area, only flee. I make my way back through the hallway kicking open a door and making my way down a ladder. But she keeps popping out of bodies that litter the area. There seems to be one last corridor filled with tripwire traps I need to avoid. I get to an elevator that closes just as the spider-woman was about to get me. I go down some levels and the doors open up. I think I'm safe. I'm wrong. 

The spider-woman pops out of another body and I run into an adjoining hallway filled with spikes that keep popping out of the floor. At the end of the hallway a door is lowering and if I don't get out in time I'll be locked in and certainly meet my demise. So I make a mad dash and barely make it. 

I find myself on top of a huge staircase and start making my way down collecting ammo and such as I do so.  Then the hooded man appears and starts slowly moving toward me. Again I can't kill him, only run. So I make my way back up the stairs, then a cutscene occurs. The stairs start to shake violently and break apart. I start falling. Then the demo ended. 

I really enjoyed my time with The Evil Within. This is hopefully a great survival horror games fellow fans of the genre can rally around. There were a few kinks, but I hope they get worked out when it's released on October 21st for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. 

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