Last Updated on June 22, 2022
The Evil Within is a game from 2014 and despite being eight years old, is still one the most stunningly lovely games I have ever played in my life. Resident Evil IV is getting a remake and I think this game deserves one as well. Not because it is as universally loved and acclaimed as the Resident Evil games but because it is a great game that makes several missteps that could be rather easily corrected. Sadly, Ghostwire: Tokyo was meant to be The Evil Within 3 and nothing says a franchise is dead quite like having a sequel that could have been one but they felt would do better as an original IP.
The premise is there is a mass murder at a sanitarium and Detective Sebastian Castellanos, his partner Joseph Oda, and rookie Julie Kidman go to investigate. They find out a guy who resembles Freddy Krueger in a white hoodie killed everyone and then Sebastian is knocked out before being dumped in what appears to be Silent Hill’s Otherworld. If this sounds like someone is combining Resident Evil 1, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Silent Hill then you have basically figured out ninety percent of the game. The remaining ten percent is The Matrix and, unfortunately, that element just feels tacked on.
Sebastian takes things relatively in stride when he finds himself in a fun house of monsters, gore, death traps, and then sees an entire city destroyed by Inception-like reality warping. He proceeds to travel through hellish level after hellish level of abandoned hospitals, villages, dungeons, mansions, and catacombs before finally confronting the sinister dream demon behind this as well as rescuing his friends. Discussing the game further without addressing its plot is impossible so let the reader be warned.
You see, this is all a dream. Sort of. You’ve been plugged into a virtual reality simulation by a sinister corporation/conspiracy and the simulation is controlled by deranged serial-killer/mad scientist Ruvek that lives inside it full time. This severely impacts the stakes of the story because “it’s all a dream” always hurts things. Also, it doesn’t make much sense as you getting knocked out by Ruvik would require the aforementioned serial-killer scientist to have superpowers in the “real” world that he doesn’t have.
Anyway, The Evil Within‘s biggest problem is pacing. The first level has gallons of gore, an invincible stalker-type enemy, a massive meat grinder trap, and no weapons. It’s arguably the scariest portion of the game and everything is downhill from there. It also is unlike the rest of the game where you have a gun and can shoot the baddies in the head for the most part. The cartoonish amount of gore and over-the-top scenes like a massive valley of giant baby heads means that there’s never any sense of ramping up the horror because it’s always going up then down like a heart monitor.
Despite this, I like The Evil Within. As stated, the game is absolutely beautiful and could be released today without issue. The characters are also likable even if we don’t get much about their backstory or motivations. Storyline-wise I don’t have much to say since Ruvek as a serial-murdering mad scientist does not a particularly compelling character make and even being played by Rorschach/Freddy Krueger (II) Jackie Earle Haley didn’t help much.
Gameplay wise is where the game (mostly) shines as it’s basically Resident Evil IV. You wander through the levels, shooting and looting the various hordes of monsters spread throughout them. Unfortunately, it’s boss fights are wildly divergent with some being ridiculously easy and some being one-hit kill puzzles that are almost impossible to figure out. Some more consistenct would have made this game significantly better in my view. There’s also no need for the extensively
Basically, a large chunk of the game is picking up something called “brain gel” that you need to be able to run, carry ammo, and have any real luck with the weapons. My opinion is that the game’s difficulty wouldn’t have been affected a great deal by having these minor upgrades all available to you. Hell, give a regenerating health option. As such, it feels like the NG+ version of things would be much better than the initial run.
In conclusion, this is a game I would recommend but with the caveat that you should play it on Casual mode and be willing to make use of hint books because some of the areas really are disgustingly difficult. Still, the atmosphere of the game is incredible and I just absolutely love its grindhouse horror theme.