It’s been quite some time since we received anything from the original creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami. So, of course, people were skeptical when it was announced that Shinji Mikami was going to be at the forefront of a new psychological/survival horror game. Did he still have the touch? Could he still craft a masterpiece such as Resident Evil again? That’s what we intend to find out.
PLATFORMS: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One & PC
PUBLISHER(S): Bethesda Softworks
DEVELOPER(S): Tango Gameworks
GENRE(S): Survival Horror
RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2014
PRICE: $59.99 (Steam)
Reviewed On: PC
In The Evil Within, you play the role of Detective Sebastian Castellanos, who has just finished up a case and due to a chain of events ends he winds up as an unwilling participant in the story that plays out in The Evil Within. In route to an all points bulletin, Sebastian and his crew’s entire lives are about to be turned upside down and inside out. Exactly by who or what; however, is what you’ll need to find out by playing the game and I’d be a fool to spoil it for you. The story of The Evil Within plays out in either in-game cutscenes or by clues or items that are scattered across the game, with the important ones in near sight so you don’t miss them.
The Evil Within uses the tried and true tank-control system with the left analog stick controlling the movement and the right stick handling the camera action. There are also other various control schemes but I feel that the default works the best. Sadly there seems to be an issue (at least for me) that didn’t let me bind an action to my mouse and while it’s a minor annoyance it still bugs me. But other than that both a mouse/keyboard or gamepad will handle the control duties just fine.
I actually prefer using a gamepad but everyone has a different preference. A stamina system also makes it way into the game and depending on your play-style it can make or break the game experience for you. You have a set amount of stamina that you can use to either run from location to location or from enemies. However, if you run out of stamina then you end up with a 3-second timeout that leaves your character catching his breath and leaves you unable to defend yourself. So you need to manage your stamina wisely. All isn’t lost, you can upgrade your stamina.
Ah yes, within The Evil Within lies a simple yet robust upgrade system. Throughout the game, there are jars of brain matter that you can acquire or you can collect the brain matter from your fallen enemies and use it order to upgrade yourself. Simply strap yourself to what looks like an electric chair with a cranial bowl with spikes that covers your head. Sure it sounds painful but it is extremely helpful. Every time you take a seat and assuming you have the resources then you can upgrade several categories which can change the amount of ammo you carry to how much you have, your stamina amount and much more.
Item selection is already pretty straightforward as the game lets you use the d-pad to map 4 different items to it regardless if it is a weapon or a healing item. This helps in a pitch to select your favorite or most used items, however, I actually prefer using the default item selection system as it gives you a break in the action so you can gather your wits. Though truth be told I’d rather that game didn’t actually pause during the item selection, somewhat similar to how the Demon Souls/Dark Souls titles handle item selection.
There’s no typewriter to save your game here but this a pen and paper! Actually, the save system is pretty ingenious. In each level there is one of two areas that have an alluring music tune playing; it almost beckons to you. In that area is a mirror that you use to transport you to what can be called a safe haven or hub. Here you can save your save game, use lockers that contain helpful items as long as you have found a key that unlocks them throughout your game, as well as piece together a map with the map pieces scattered in the game. You can even have a conversation with a creepy yet helpful nurse. This area is critical to your character and must be accessed to progress further in the game.
While the system requirements for The Evil Within were revealed by Bethesda and Tango it wasn’t a pleasant experience and to be perfectly blunt; as a PC gamer, I was a bit dismayed regarding them. To be frank, The Evil Within is nothing more than an exact port from the PlayStation 4/Xbox One and the requirements showed that. I mean let’s get real for a second, a 4GB GPU to supposedly run the game? An Intel i7 or equivalent AMD processor? Is that a joke? Well thankfully, after all was said and done that the game will run decently at it’s highest settings *IF* you have a modest PC. That aside the game looks beautiful in both 30 and 60 fps and if you got the juice to down-sample it then it will look even better. The environments, the enemies you face and even your character are incredibility detailed and vividly animated, there’s nothing amiss here in the graphics department that’s for sure.
The “letterboxing” 2:35:1 aspect ratio (Those blasted black bars on the top and bottom of the screen), 30 fps, lack of V-sync and FoV are pretty poor decision calls on the part of Tango Gameworks but thankfully with a bit of tinkering with developer console you can get around most of the issues. However, be warned that enabling the console will also deny you from earning any Steam achievements so if achievements matter to you then you’re going to have a tough decision to make.
Another issue I have with the port is with the Anti-Aliasing. While I’m happy that we’re able to select from SMAA, FXAA, and MLAA, there isn’t any way to increase the amount of Anti-Aliasing that can be applied and I hate jaggies. Sadly the AA doesn’t completely remove the jaggies and the only real way to do so is to down-sample which requires more power and may not be an option for everyone.
There is still the issue of the game running at 30 fps by default and the only way around that is to force either a 60 fps to unlock (with or without V-sync) or an unlimited fps at your discretion. Bethesda and Tango have warned there are some slight issues if you unlock the 60 fps but they know about them and will fix them however if you unlock the unlimited fps then you’re on your own as they will not address those issues.
You can see our article on how to force the 60 fps, bypassing the starting video and other options here, if you’re interested that is.
If there is one thing that stands out in The Evil Within it has to be the audio. Full of scary undertones and the dynamic soundtrack that changes tempo depending on the situation. If you have a 5.1 or 7.1 surround receiver or headphones connected then you’re in for a musical delight. Games like this are the main reason why I built my HTPC and why I designed my “Man Cave” around it. I love soundtracks and I can appreciate when a developer takes their time and accompanies a great game with an equally great sound piece. And while this has nothing to do with the sound if you play with a controller that has a rumble feature such as the Xbox 360 or Xbox One then you’ll also benefit from some pretty cool bonuses like feeling your heartbeat or when something is about to happen.
Sadly I did play with an Xbox One and since it’s not wireless on the PC I ended up yanking it out of the USB port on more than one occasion. Damn it Microsoft, give us a damned PC receiver for the Xbox One controllers already!
That said I’ve been playing the game at the unlocked 60 fps with V-sync and I haven’t encountered any other issues as of yet but there have been reports of other gamers that have. However, there is still the issue of the game frequently crashing at the most inopportune times. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get to a certain point or pick up a new weapon only to have to do it again and again. Hopefully, Tango Gameworks can get this patched and soon.
Despite the shortcomings of a technical nature, The Evil Within is a fantastic and interesting ride from the mind of Shinji Mikami and one that shouldn’t be missed by fans of first Resident Evil titles or someone who is in the market for a thrilling survival horror title. Truth be told I haven’t played a worthwhile survival horror game since Dead Space 1 & 2, so I’m enjoying this title to the fullest.
I got that Resident Evil Feeling and it feels good!
Fans of the original Resident Evil will be happy to know that while The Evil Within does have a few kinks the game is as fresh as Resident Evil was all those years ago. Shinji Mikami has proven that he can still weave a captivating story and flesh out an interesting protagonist who just about everyone can relate to.
Sadly the game is flawed thanks to the sub-par port, the *locked* 30 fps that should never have made it into the game and the sorely missing PC specific options such as V-sync, FOV, and levels of anti-aliasing. Thankfully that doesn’t stop the game from being a shining gem and the reborn of the survival horror genre that seemingly took a nap so long ago.
With Polished yet proven gameplay and with the addition of an upgrade system that lets players craft the game to their play style, The Evil Within is definitely one of the more enjoyable titles and a warm felt welcome back of Shinji Mikami to the Survival horror genre.
Hopefully, we can count on a sequel in the near future.