Throughout my exploits at E3 2014, my senses were ceaselessly bombarded with the sights and sounds of gunfire, screaming, swords clanging, explosions, blood and internal organs squelching, and sweeping orchestral music. If I were blind and didn’t know any better, I would think that I had entered Hell itself. However, amid the chaos spilling out of many of E3’s featured games, none of them topped Bethesda’s The Evil Within in terms of sheer violence, and I managed to get my hands on it at the publisher’s media-only booth. Read on for the gory details.
After being shown a video presentation of The Evil Within that offered some tips for staying alive, we were shown to an ominous, dark room with rows of booths running the game on Xbox Ones. I put on my headphones, picked up the controller, and chose the Casual difficulty setting, as I wanted to experience my limited time with the demo to its fullest without getting bogged down by repeated deaths.
The demo level took place at Chapter 8: Cruelest of Intentions. I was in control of protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, and a quick inspection of my inventory showed that I had a revolve with four out of six bullets in the chamber, a shotgun with even fewer rounds, some medical syringes, and a few other things I wound up not using at all.
The level began on a dark, foggy dirt road that I had to traverse. At the end of the road was a mansion that looked very much like the one from Resident Evil. Indeed, with Resident Evil 4 genius Shinji Mikami at the helm of developer Tango Gameworks, many elements of The Evil Within reminded me of all the things I liked about RE 4. These include the third person perspective, the feel of the game’s aiming mechanics, the ability to open doors slowly or kick them open, and other things I’ll get into a bit later.
Upon entering the mansion, I was greeted with a number of paths to take. In the center was a large set of double doors with a lock in the middle of them. Connected to the lock were three huge syringes, and connected to each syringe were tubes that snaked their way into various doors around the mansion lobby. It became apparent to me that I needed to find a way to activate all three syringes to get this important looking door open, and I needed to follow each syringe’s tube to get to whatever it is that powered them.
As I worked my way through the mansion, there was a heavy sense of dread that permeated the game atmosphere. The game’s color palette evoked a lot of dark reds and greens, while more lively colors were desaturated, giving the world a feel that was strangely cold and evocative at once.
Several items were scattered about the place, such as bullets, which came in frightfully low quantities, green gel, which was used to level up Sebastian, and all-important matches. In The Evil Within, the only way to definitively kill monsters, besides blowing them up, is to set them on fire after you’ve knocked them down with melee or ranged attacks. Thankfully, they seemed to be in ample quantity in the mansion, though I imagine this will not be the case on higher difficulties.
At one point during my explorations, the entire place shook, as if an earthquake happened, and all the color was drained from the screen. Something bad was happening. I looked around, and saw some kind of hooded specter slowly walking towards me down a hallway. It seemed best to stay far away from it, instead of trying to fight it. I retreated to a nearby room and found that I could hide in cupboards and other spaces, and look through the crack in the doors while inside. I did so, and after a while everything returned to normal and the specter was gone.
A little further on I began to encounter the game’s zombies, or whatever they were supposed to be called. Like recent RE games, they did this slow, menacing walk towards me. Close inspection of their faces showed them to have grotesque features; one woman shuffling towards me with a knife looked like she had her jaw ripped out and then clumsily sewn back together by a psychotic surgeon. At any rate, I employed my revolver and shotgun on these monstrosities. Gunplay in The Evil Within, in spite of the vastly limited supply of ammo, is extremely satisfying and visceral. Limbs can be sheared off if aimed at, and the gunfire sound effects were punchy and loud. I later acquired some grenades, which, upon being used on some of the enemies, blew them apart in gory detail, with their arms, torso and limbs being separated at multiple points.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, one most first knock these foes down and then run up to them to light them on fire, which causes them to howl in pain as their flesh is burned away. Sometimes, however, seemingly incapacitated enemies would spring back to life and slash at me, so I could not get complacent with the game’s combat rhythm.
After some exploration, I found a room with a rather gruesome sight: a young man’s (or boy’s?) severed head sitting on a table with the back of his skull removed, exposing most of his brain. Upon interacting with the head, I was greeted with a puzzle of sorts; I was in control of a small robotic arm that was moved with the analog stick. Pressing the right trigger would extend a drill bit that would pierce into the brain. A tape recording began, and I realized from the sounds of a doctor rambling into his recorder and the horrified screams in the background that I was listening to a seriously mad doctor experimenting on the poor man whose head I was now messing with.
Using the other analog to look around, I saw a diagram of a brain with different parts of it marked with things like “anger”, “fear”, and “compliance”. Drilling into certain parts of the brain would somehow cause damage to me, so upon re-listening to the audio tape, I realized that the doctor kept mentioning “compliance” as something he noticed about his patient. I drilled into there, and the liquified brain matter extracted from the arm traveled all the way to one of the syringes in the mansion lobby’s double doors. This was The Evil Within‘s idea of a puzzle.
Upon leaving the room, I was greeted with a vision from the past of the doctor in question talking to the now-brainless man when he was still alive, a presumably important story moment I couldn’t comprehend given where I started the demo.
This was essentially the demo level in a nutshell. I had to explore other parts of the mansion to activate the other two syringes, and each time I was greeted with a different man’s severed head, with one in particular having been chopped off down the middle vertically, revealing a disturbingly detailed cross-section of his head. Even more disturbing was the fact that this man was still blinking. After filling all three syringes and getting the door open, I was greeted with several hallucinations in the room beyond; impossible to understand without having any grasp of the game’s plot. It was here that the demo concluded.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Evil Within. It took all the best elements of Resident Evil 4 and gave them a truly disturbing and cerebral game world to work in. The gore and violence are absolutely off the hook, and the scarcity of ammo and supplies means that as fun as the gunplay is, players will likely spend a lot of time fleeing and hiding.
If there is one quibble I had, it is that the appearances of the monsters were quite scripted and often times they would show up when I picked up an important item or flipped a switch. As a result, I could almost predict when enemies would show up. With four more months till the game ships, I hope that this is something the developers look into.
The Evil Within will be out on October 21 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and the PC.