The Evil Within is best summarized by comparing it to making a cake. While making it, great quality of ingredients was used, and equivalent measurements of each ingredient were used. But the problem in that was bringing all the elements together, and the mixture that came out was a messy and bland third-person "horror" game that missed the mark in several areas. While the game does have some great moments and some interesting story-wise elements in it, The Evil Within falls flat in the end and misses a huge element that is important in games now a day: cohesion. The thing is: if broken up correctly, The Evil Within has the makings of 2/3 great game if they were separated out, but the mishmash of everything turns it into a game that I was struggling to finish toward its last hours, as I was tired of new elements and the game not being able to focus.
The Evil Within - Story
The Evil Within's story starts off strong with a mysterious event going down within the hospital of the city, and three detectives: Castellanos, Kidman, and Joseph Oda, go to investigate. What happens is a strange series of events that cast the crew into a world of horrors, seemingly centering around the mind and the subconscious. In terms of the story, the game is a mixed bag. The elements in the story and the imagery are really well done. The details regarding the monsters that are within the world are really impressive, and it can be cool to dive in and wonder about the reasoning and what they mean.
The story plays out as an entity named Ruvik plays as the Antagonist here, and while he has interesting elements as the villain of the story, some of those elements don't play out well by the end. Good characterization is done with a couple of the characters, in particular with Castellanos, as a personal tragedy regarding his family seems to be the motivation for the character. But as I mentioned in a previous editorial, part of the problem regarding the plot is the execution and wrapping elements together, as the game fails to wrap up some plot points.
The Evil Within - Visuals & Gameplay
As mentioned before, the visuals are nice, and on the PS4, the game does use the hardware rather well, and the game's detail shines through. It's not earth-shattering, but it does well to move the game through the set piece while making certain parts of the game memorable. The sound design is alright, too, as the lack of sound at times played a vital part in certain sections, while the music does an alright job in accompanying the themes the game has going for it. Again, not anything that is a technical marvel here, but it does what the game needs from it.
But where The Evil Within starts to become horribly inconsistent is the gameplay. The game should remind players a lot of Resident Evil 4, and rightfully so, as one of its main designers was a leader in this game. And it shows in some of the set pieces too, as, within the first three chapters of the game, you are overrun with villagers and a chainsaw-wielding enemy as you fight for your life (sound familiar?).
Some of the levels in The Evil Within are done rather well, like walking through a broken-down hospital with invisible enemies that you can detect by watching the floor and the glass they walk on. Some levels focus on action, like getting through the remains of the ruins of cities and you fight the horde of undead or attempting not to use fire in a gas-filled room. There's variety in gameplay here, and some people will like it for that.
But as I just said, there's certainly variety, but there's too much variety. The game suffers from never keeping a consistent tone, and that's where The Evil Within ultimately fails. Let's put it this way: play the first three levels of The Evil Within, and you'll think the game will be fantastic. Play the next 3, and you'll start thinking it's a good, but not great, game. Play the next 3, and you'll start thinking it's average at best. The game drags on, and throws so many different elements at you that it starts to get on your nerves. There's no overall design here: it's a bunch of elements that are mashed together. By themselves, they may be alright, but together, they set an experience that really suffers because of it.
The Evil Within - Scary or Weary?
And if you were expecting traditional horror from The Evil Within, you've got another thing coming. The commercial and advertisements were very misleading, as The Evil Within's version of horror is Dead Space 3 than Silent Hill's. There are some legitimately scary and creepy moments in the game, but they are overshadowed by the game's emphasis on action. Honestly, it's Resident Evil 4 all over again....but the problem is that even Resident Evil 4 did a better job with its horror than The Evil Within did. Resident Evil 4 knew what it was: an action game with horror elements, and the plot dictated that (self-parody). The Evil Within wants to be taken 100% seriously for its horror, and it fails to deliver on that.
The game's combat is what you'd expect from a recent member of the Resident Evil series, but it does add a couple of elements to the mix. Fire plays an important part in the game, as enemies who haven't had their heads blown off or are seemingly down can be kept down by lighting a match and burning them. The ammo distribution here gives you enough ammo to get through fights but never enough to feel comfortable toward the middle end of the game. In boss fights, in particular, you may be struggling as the environments will give you tools to use, but you'll always be on your toes using whatever ammo you have left to try to put the beast down. Boss fights do stand out here: there's a good collection of them with some good mechanics, like running around avoiding a multi-armed monster while you lure her into traps involving fire, for example. The end "boss fight" is disappointing compared to the others, most definitely.
The weapons are your typical affair in games like this, although the crossbow's many bolts do stand out, at least. You have the ability to craft with parts you find, and depending on the situation, you may find one bolt better than another, like freezing your enemy or shocking him to a halt. Upgrades are worthwhile and do give you a reason to try a good amount of them, as no one upgrade is obviously better than the next.
In the end, The Evil Within was a game that reeked of needing a better overall design philosophy and suffered because it didn't. There's fun to have here, but it will start to wear on you as you play the game. It's a good game to try to rent or borrow from a friend, but in the end, it's a title that didn't live up to expectations and is another disappointment in the "horror" genre. There are some good elements to build off here, though. For future titles, the question will be if future iterations will be as muddled as this one was.
TechRaptor reviewed The Evil Within on PS4 with a copy bought by the reviewer. It is also available on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. This review was originally published on 02-01-2015. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.