The Evil Within preview: Ruvik's cube of death
by Ozzie Mejia, shacknews.com, May 27, 2014 7:00AM PDT
Survival horror has seen somewhat of a renaissance in the last few years, with games like Outlast and the Amnesia series reminding players what it's like to be at the mercy of something otherwordly without the aid of a giant gun with a bottomless barrel. But if anyone deserves to lead the new parade of survival horror games, it's Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. He's looking to do so with a blood-curdling scream in his upcoming scare-fest, The Evil Within, though it's going to come later than expected. Originally set to release on August 26, the game has been pushed back to October 21 to bring it closer to Halloween.
Shacknews bravely stepped into the dark to try out Bethesda and Tango Gameworks' survival horror romp. The results may have resulted in the purchase of several night lights, but they also proved promising for fans of the genre.
The story sees Detective Sebastian Catellanos and his team encountering a mysterious force. His partners are quickly slaughtered, leaving Sebastian alone in a twisted world, as he desperately attempts to piece together what's going on before he joins the departed. The key to what's going on appears to be a mental patient named Leslie and a sinister apparition called Ruvik.
As I wandered in the outside area of the hospice setting with supporting character Doctor Jimenez, it didn't take me long to find out that demons and monsters could jump out at any moment. After heading upstairs and shutting the door too loud, a demon burst through a nearby wall and lunged at me. Needless to say, stealth is vital in The Evil Within and it is possible to sneak up behind enemies. However, it's very risky, since they can also turn around at a moment's notice and melee attacks cannot kill them.
Resources are also incredibly limited. Sebastian has weapons at his disposal, but his ammunition is scarce. On top of that, it's barely effective. Demons can only be taken out with headshots and even that can be a tricky proposition. And though demons fall, they can instantly spring back to life at any moment, unless the corpses are burned. Of course, as with any other resource in the game, fire is limited and should be used wisely.
Much of the environment is also filled with traps that will either alert nearby creatures or kill Sebastian entirely. These traps need to be disarmed, most of which involve timing-based mini-games. The traps are a nice diversion and it's nice that disarming them is a mechanic in itself and not just a simple push of a button.
Scares are plentiful, outside of enemies jumping through walls. After completing a puzzle sequence inside a basement area filled with blood and body parts, I found myself needing to escape a frightening spider-lady crawling on all fours. A chase ensued through a narrow hallway, made all the more tense when I had to stop to disarm traps along the way. After escaping into the elevator, my eyes immediately went to the floor and spotted a downed corpse, which I didn't hesitate to set ablaze. Better safe than sorry, after all, since that corpse would likely have come to life, which is another reason to keep plenty of fire handy.
There's also no shortage of gruesome imagery. At one point, I found Doctor Jimenez's brother, freshly dead and wandering with an axe. After dispatching him, Sebastian witnessed an apparition of his final moments, as he was struck with a deadly itch on his head. The doctor desperately scratched away at it, slowly going mad and ultimately piercing through his own scalp, piece-by-piece.
Another uneasy image came with one of the latter puzzles, which involved finding decapitated heads and poking an apparatus into the required segment of the brain. It's grisly and a bit hard to stomach at points, but it definitely hits the horror note, especially when a river of blood suddenly appears in the distance without any word of warning.
The biggest problem I found with The Evil Within is that it's not always apparent which way to progress. In particular, the first demo featured an open area that didn't always make the next step obvious. I actually wound up hitting the same death trap several times before realizing that I actually didn't need to go that way at all.
Getting lost is not so bad, except that main antagonist Ruvik is constantly on the hunt. Ruvik will randomly appear, regardless of what room you're in. If he catches you while you're lost or stuck in a corner, he will completely deplete Sebastian of all but one HP. It's the fastest way to a cheap death, though I quickly learned to always have a hiding spot nearby for these occasions, whether it be a closet or under a bed.
The Evil Within's approach to survival horror feels vintage, in a good way. Limited resources help add to the tension and there are also some genuinely scary moments. The combat also helps add to the horror environments, with firearms meant to subdue, not dominate.
There are several questions about the game's plot and its characters and whether it'll all add up in the end, but that's something to keep an eye out for once The Evil Within makes its long-awaited arrival. The game is set to haunt PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.