- Odd News
Formats Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Recent years have seen horror games drift towards gunplay and action. Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 5 were good games, but ones that slipped away from their original promise of terror to join the hegemony of big guys wielding big guns. The Evil Within wants to find frightening again, taking away the empowerment that has diluted the horror genre.
While “taking ‘genre x’ back to its roots’ is a well-worn PR line, when it comes from the godfather of video game horror, you have to sit up and listen. This is Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s first horror game since the superlative Resident Evil 4, and the first game for his new Tango Studio.
Proper, scare-your-socks-off horror is what Mikami promises with The Evil Within. And this first look turns those words into more than a hollow boast.
You play Sebastien Castellanos, a grizzled detective called to a disturbance at Beacon Mental Hospital, a gothic pile that has ‘creepy’ woven into its architecture. Strolling through the pouring rain towards the hospital doors, Sebastien cuts a confident figure, a little swagger embellished by the swish of his long raincoat.
The doors swing open to a bright, sterile reception area. Blood spatters the walls and floor, the corpses of patients and orderlies alike lie dead on the stone floor and wooden benches. Sebastien’s swagger has turned to a creep, as the head of one figure sitting stock still lolls lifelessly towards him as he walks past.
Sebastien then catches the apparent killer on a CCTV monitor, a ghostly, hooded figure that cuts through a screaming squad of cops as they fire blindly at their assailant. Then, he’s gone, before appearing behind Sebastien and jamming a syringe into his neck.
When Sebastien comes round, he’s hanging upside down in a grotesque butchery. Blood cakes the entire room, while other victims freshly butchered stare blankly at him. A dull, wet thud echoes around the room until a gruesome squelch. Then a grotesque, hulking man sidles into view, holding an enormous cleaver and dragging a severed torso, sticky blue entrails leaving a dark, bloody streak.
The butcher takes his trophy to his work bench, back turned to Sebastien, and begins to turn the man into kibble. Spying a knife embedded in the chest of the poor soul in front of him, Sebastien swings towards the steel and wrenches it from rotting flesh. After cutting himself down, Sebastien creeps up on the butcher to steal his keys, exiting the workshop apparently unnoticed as the monster goes about his gruesome work.
No such luck. An alarm warbles through the dank corridors, drowned out only by the rev of a chainsaw. Which the butcher uses to slice through the back of Sebastien’s calf
Injured, terrified and unarmed, Sebastien must then play a terrifying game of cat and mouse with the crazed butcher, whirling that chainsaw above his head to smash through furniture and obstacles.
Sebastien’s sneaking somewhat reminds of the recent The Last of Us, hunkering behind cover as the beastly butcher tries to flush him out. Sebastien throws a bottle to distract before hiding himself in a closet, every step of the butcher shuddering through the silence.
This early scene is brilliantly paced, veering from the harrowing tension of hiding from the butcher, to heart-thumping terror as you flee down a corridor decorated with whirring razor blades.
It’s fabulously terrifying stuff. A later scene deep in a woodland cabin then shows off the combat, which has Mikami and Resident Evil 4 written all over it. The camera snaps close to Sebastien’s back as he aims at staggering monsters, before setting fallen beasties alight to make sure they don’t rise again. The scene earnestly recalls the famous cabin siege from Resident Evil 4, as Sebastien lays mines under windows as an army of monsters clamber into the building. The same tension is there, Sebastien desperately back-pedalling while popping off shots before running downstairs for the briefest of respites.
But while this action sequence is a direct tribute to Mikami’s earlier work, The Evil Within as a whole appears more than a Resi throwback. After the battle, Sebastien is running through a forest path, with every door into a cabin spitting him back outside, until one unleashes a river of blood that comes thundering towards the screen... And then we’re back in the sterile corridors of the mental hospital. A grate falls, and creeping out of it comes a grotesque feminine figure with eight limbs, long black hair obscuring its head, stalking, stalking... and then the demo ends.
It’s a terrific first glimpse, with Tango bringing together the thrill and tension of Resident Evil and the psychological terror of Silent Hill. Such a combination is survival horror’s dream ticket, and with Mikami at the helm, we can be confident that he and Tango will be be turning it into a nightmare. The very best kind, of course.