Pre-E3 2013: The Evil Within First Impressions Preview – Taking Horror-Survival Back To Its Roots
Written Thursday, June 06, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I could literally sit here and talk for ten minutes about the demise of Resident Evil – and have a point, of course – but you and I both know all about that. Let’s just agree that it’s slipped away from its horror-survival roots ever since Shinji Mikami stepped away from the franchise after Resident Evil 4. Enter the same Shinji Mikami with a new studio, a new publisher and a new franchise, looking to capture what once made the Resident Evil franchise so captivating.
The Evil Within is Tango Gameworks’ attempt at looking to take the survival-horror genre back to its roots, so you can expect puzzles, traps, jumps and a dose of sheer terror. The first part of our two-part demo sees the main protagonist, Sebastian, a police detective, head to an insane asylum to investigate the suspicious and frankly alarming goings on.
In typical horror movie fashion, as the detective and his compadres arrive on scene there’s something not quite right about the whole situation. You might think that it’s the otherworldly thunderstorm and torrential rain that’s kicking up quite a fuss outside its hallowed doors, but you’d be wrong. The parking lot littered with the abandoned patrol cars of his associates that are all missing weapons, and a distinct lack of life, that’s the main cause for concern. There's no blood, no shell casings, nothing. Whatever is up is going on inside the eerie looking and disturbingly silent asylum that lies in front of them.
“It smells like blood,” Sebastian says, retching as he opens the front door. And by jove he’s right. The lobby looks like it was decorated by a satanic Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen… so, a normal Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen then. Crimson red blood splatter and bodies strewn over the floor like a unwanted ragdolls populate the lobby.
Being the uber detective that Sebastian presumably is – well, he must be, he got a job as a detective, right? – his first instinct is to check out the CCTV footage of the institution, surely located in the security room. In heading there and checking the footage, his suspicions were confirmed… and by confirmed, I mean if he suspected it was a spirit-entity roaming the halls blinking from victim to victim and brutally murdering them, he’d be right. Before he could let the smug look wash across his face, said entity was in the security room knocking him the fuck out.
Probably feeling rather lucky to wake up from such an encounter, Sebastian’s heart must have been in his mouth when he woke up hanging from a hook in a meat locker with dead bodies hanging all around him. On the one hand, Bach’s soothing tones of “Air on a G-String” were ringing out in the background, on the other hand a huge butcher-style figure wielding a meat cleaver. Yeah, escaping was probably a wise move.
After managing to free himself, Sebastian’s next objective was to look for a way out… “Oh, there’s a key! Wait, it’s by the butcher… shiiiii.” He didn’t say that, we did, but he was probably thinking it. There was an air of uncertainty about what to do next, but luckily the butcher had his back turned and Sebastian is able to grab the key and make haste for the exit. On his way to safety an alarm is triggered. The chilling sound of consecutive thumps can only mean one thing… the butcher is coming!
Armed with a chainsaw now – this guy is obviously a talented DIY guy… probably like Tim the Toolman Taylor – what descends then is a chase scene of sorts. As dust particles litter the hallways and light bulbs fizz from here to Timbuktu, Sebastian seemed to have outsmarted his pursuer… well, until he hits a dead end, that is. In typical Solid Snake fashion, hiding in the metal locker nearby was his only outcome.
“If he finds me, I’m dead,” Sebastian mutters, as we start to realise how he actually got that detective job. It worked though and not before long “chainsaw guy,” as Bethesda’s Senior Producer, Jason Bergman, likes to call him, has been evaded and Sebastian is on his way into a lift and out of there. Shame he was about to stumble outside and find a large sinkhole occupying the once fancy parking lot. When it rains it pours, huh?
Fast forward to an unspecified time in the game, it was time to get our action on… and when I say action, I mean weird, panic and run antics in a creepy rickety cabin. Ammo is said to be scarce in The Evil Within, which is probably why Sebastian takes his aim on two deformed human-demon hybrids in the basement. One in the head. Pop. One in the leg… splat?
Rather than waste another bullet to finish him off, a careful use of fire to set him alight in a gulf of flames seems like a much more humane thing to do. Incidentally, the phrase, “Oh man, that looks so much like classic Resident Evil!” went through my head as the first beasts head exploded. The visuals. The look. The “feel.” That, my friends, is a good thing to gasp.
Heading back upstairs, where an ambush is about to escalate. Sebastian has just enough time to set a few traps, and when what look like infected beings start to overwhelm the detective, he has no choice but to retreat back down to the basement, which is when the game gets even weirder.
Downstairs, Sebastian almost shifts what looks like to be dimensions, moving into another universe presumably; a universe where blood gushes down the hallways as if the Titanic had sunk in a sea of cranberry juice and this was one of the scenes from in the galleys. And large multi-limbed spider-like humanoids jump out of a corpse… yeah, it looks like it’s going to get a little weird and wild, and where better to end the demo than at that point.
The id Tech 5 driven game is obviously still in its infancy, with it not being out until 2014, but it’s already an interesting concept. More interesting is Tango’s decision to make it in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to 16:9. They’re aiming to remove as much of the UI as possible to keep you immersed too, and while I said it looked like Resident Evil, Bethesda insists it controls more like an action game. Oh, and there’ll be no inventory Tetris either. Phew!
“The emphasis is on scaring the hell out of you,” remarked Bergman after the demo came to a close, and while it’s hard to get a sense of that after being thrown into a room with around a hundred sweaty journalists to see it, the sense of isolation and the overcoming of overwhelming odds seems to very much be a staple of the gameplay. Something that Resident Evil built a name and a franchise on, and something that surely Bethesda and Tango are hoping The Evil Within can too.
The Evil Within is slated for 2014 for next-gen and current- gen platforms.