The survival horror genre should be all about survival. After all, it is the first word in the genre. But developers have recently forgone that in favor of creating a more action oriented experience. The Evil Within is looking to buck that trend.
Before the game’s reveal, there was considerable buzz around the game based on the fact that it marks Shinji Mikami’s return to the genre since 2005’s Resident Evil 4. Truth be told, there isn’t a better way to give the genre the shot in the arm it needs. Add in the fact that Bethesda, a company who’s on a run of very successful games for the past few years, publishing, and there’s already a recipe for success.
The game begins in a cliched manner. You’re Detective Sebastian Castellanos, called to investigate a gruesome murder scene. You investigate, explore your surroundings, the world you know is turned upside down, and now you’re tasked with one goal: survive. A familiar setup, no doubt, but this is where familiarity ends. Survival is your first and only goal, a force enhanced by the fact that you’re a captive, surrounded by monsters far more powerful than you could ever imagine, and that you’re both unarmed and injured; running and gunning is not even close to an option. The focus on survival creates a palpable tension that jumps off the screen. The feeling of scouting an area in order to survive, not kill, is something that is rarely seen anymore in games. It’s both different and welcome.
Due to the emphasis on survival in The Evil Within, the game’s place runs slower. Not that it’s a bad thing; patience is often rewarded. Yet patience is something that we as gamers often lack. It only adds to the atmosphere that’s so beautifully made. Castellanos is uneasy in the game because of his surroundings. We’re uneasy as we play because we’re not used to being so defenseless and patient. It all adds up to the ultimate payoff: legimate scares. No cheap jumps from off screen or full blast music here; it’s full blown terror.
That’s not to say that combat is entirely absent in the game. The demonstration also jumped ahead further in the game and offered somewhat of a more action oriented experience. Castellanos was forced to defend a cabin from an oncoming invasion. He did so by guarding his room with mines before the onslaught began. This example showed the continued necessity of tactical gameplay. Before, players had to be tactical as they maneuvered around enemies they had no chance in killing. Here, players have to be tactical in order to exterminated the invading foes. Now, it does remain to be seen if brute force is possible to get the job done, as the player didn’t even bother trying that out. Granted, if the combat feels anything like Resident Evil 4, then that won’t be a bad thing. But still, I’d like to see the game stick with emphasizing the survival in survival horror.
At the end of the day, The Evil Within is definitely something to look forward to when it releases next year. It’s living up to the expectations that come with a game being directed Shinji Mikami. With Bethesda’s track record as a publisher, there’s no reason that the game shouldn’t meet its expectations as a staple in the survival horror genre. Whether or not it will revitalize it, however, remains to be seen. It’s something we should be looking at closely as development continues.
Just make sure you leave those lights on.