E3 2014: The Evil Within impressions

Bethesda Softworks, known famously for its The Elder Scrolls series of games, had a nice fat “booth” at E3 this year. While the entire box walls advertised The Evil Within, its juicy center mostly had Battlecry as the main focus. But in the dark tunnels and alcoves embedded in this large booth, the secrets of Shinji Mikami come to light. Here is Nerd Reactor’s journey to The Evil Within.

To start off, we need to talk about Shinji Mikami. The man is responsible for the creation of BioHazard, which is called Resident Evil for the world outside of Japan. Created in reaction to his disappointment with the old Italian movie Zombie, Mikami began a tradition of not settling for sub-par horror and always looking to ensure the narrative and direction of his products were to a specific desire. It was his Resident Evil series that became the bar in which much of the survival horror genre would derive its mechanics. Parasite Eve, Fatal Frame, Silent Hill, and more share much of the same game design that Resident Evil possessed. This is not to ignore the fact that on the PC, old games such as Hugo’s House of Horrors possessed similar ideas but had limited technology to carry the narrative with the same finesse.

EvilWithin_00Since working on Resident 4, Mikami moved on to work on other games under other studios. The survival horror genre was left to others from 2004 until 2010. In 2010, Shinji Mikami created Tango Softworks which is a division of ZeniMax Asia. ZeniMax Media is the group responsible for the development and publishing of Doom, Quake, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Rage, Prey, and Dishonored franchises at this point. Yes, Bethesda is under ZeniMax. With Shinji’s Tango Softworks, Project Mikami was revealed to be The Evil Within. With the return of Mikami to the genre which many claimed he started, everyone paid attention to what was being shown.

EvilWithin_01The Evil Within is a true survival-horror game. When this is stated, it isn’t an action survival-horror game, the way Resident Evil is at this point. This means that the game is closer to the earlier days of Resident Evil and the earlier days of Silent Hill. Many discussions were held concerning earlier videos showing the muddy, grainy look of the game. We were told that this graininess was intentional and was an artistic decision. For me, this brings back the grainy nature of horror films dating before the 1990s. This brings a sense of age that doesn’t provide the same effect of disturbance with the crispness and clarity. A way to see this is that the clearer things are, the easier it is to handle psychological events.

EvilWithin_02You play Detective Sebastian Castellanos, hot on the trail of a mysterious and powerful force. We were able to spend time within Chapter 8 of the game, which lasted around 20 minutes on average. The controls on the PlayStation 4 were easy to understand, movement and animation were well done. It was a little difficult to see certain things, given how close you are to your character. I didn’t bother to check if I could zoom further back at the time. Some tips that the presenter gave us was to conserve resources. There were some enemies we could take down, others we needed matches to perma-kill, and others we could only run away from. We were also notified that changing the difficulty of the game would alter the tactics of our enemies, rather than just scaling their damage and health.

EvilWithin_03The ambiance is dark and dreary. It’s not the same as the rotted ruins of Silent Hill, and it’s closer to the design of something derived from the Saw movies. Whether it was a parallel to Mikami’s first Resident Evil game, much of the demo took place within a mansion. We were chasing down a crazed doctor who locked himself behind heavy doors. Encountering supernatural that ranged from the undead to ghosts, Sebastian was armed with a variety of weapons ranging from a shotgun to matches (which are needed to permanently put down some undead). The game is littered with various devious traps, some explosive and others brutal. I feel like Mikami directed this game with an understanding of how horror was crafted in the last ten years, throwing them into a blender in order to establish this game… I’m not sure if I can keep playing at length before I hyper-ventilate from the tension.

The Evil Within comes out October 21, 2014. It will be available for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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