There are gallons of blood, falling bodies and chainsaw-wielding maniacs that grunt and needlessly rev their weapons as they drag them along the floor. So, it's not afraid to shy away from classic horror tropes and although they all have the potential to fall flat, they never do.
That's largely down to the art direction. This isn't a stunning-looking game and suffers from frame rate issues here and there, but it does a superb job of making the environments feel solid. Again, the settings are all straight from Shinji's 'Horror for Dummies' book. Churches, forests, butcher tables filled with human flesh in a decrepit basement - they're all here. But the way everything looks is perfect.
It's as if you're in the dream of a horror-obsessed movie-goer. It's all things you've seen before, but somehow they make it feel more real. Although some of the levels are more open than others they all feel claustrophobic, highlighting the fact that there is nowhere to run. It's about standing your ground and facing your fears.
Unfortunately though, as you get further into the game you start to feel as though something is missing. The Evil Within
is essentially a new version of Resident Evil 4
, but there's something holding it back from being comparable to the best in its genre.
It's partly down to my own threshold for bleak gaming. RE4
got the balance right between tension and moments of respite. I was able to play that for hours on end. The Evil Within
usually needs ejecting and put in the fridge every hour or so.
The main issue, though, is that the plot isn't well-paced and most of the characters are one-dimensional. There are some nice narrative touches here and there - the game plays with music to link the protagonist Sebastian Castellanos to reality for example - but that only adds to the overall theme of mental illness rather than the plot itself.
It's also filled with trial and error gaming. Sebastian tries to help you along with in-game dialogue but by then the damage is usually done and with lengthy loading times between deaths you'll start to get frustrated before too long.
Still, there's no doubt that although this falls short of the exceptionally high work in Shinji Mikami's portfolio, it's good enough to make his CV seem even stronger. If you're a fan of the genre then The Evil Within
is essential. If you're not, then it's still worth playing. Just make sure you have something next to you to hide behind when the going gets tough.
+ Fantastic Combat
+ Excellent Setting
SPOnG Score: 8/10