At PAX East I was able to sit through a developer-led playthrough of The Evil Within, an upcoming game from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. The game promises to bring the action of the Resident Evil series, but evoke the classic suspense and horror emotions from the early Silent Hill games. Unfortunately based on the preview of The Evil Within it seems they will fail to deliver either experience effectively.
The demo was an odd one for me, as it was hands-off; I knew that, but despite it being early in the PAX East schedule the presenter seemed oddly disinterested and there was no preamble or explanation of the game. He simply sat down and started playing the demo with no conversation or context.
This made the demos (he played two slices of the game) very hard to follow and left me with a lot of questions. Looking up the corporate page for the game I found some history on the title. The Evil Within stars Detective Sebastian Castellanos, who responds to a grisly murder with his partners, and supernatural forces kill everyone but him; he then has to face his fears and solve the mysteries surrounding him, or something like that. The slices of game I saw had no backstory and were simply scenarios that had Castellanos running from horrors and fighting back as he could.
A positive note from this preview was that the game had a lot of nice visual elements that showed a lot of promise. In particular on the first demo there was a lot of environmental distortion of the landscape that looked great. Unfortunately the models and animations seem to still need work; as Castellanos was being banged around and grunting (rather awkwardly) he had no lip movement and there was a stiffness that was hard to define. The first part of the demo had the presenter moving Castellanos around the environment gathering some gear and killing the enemies that popped up. In an odd (and unexplained) twist to the gameplay, he had to light downed enemies on fire, presumably to stop them from coming back up. The level was fairly boring to me, with gated enemies popping out on cue as you move around. Like I said, it looked very nice for the most part, but the scenario seemed flat and a little boring.
The next scenario had Castellanos seemingly in a panic and locked in a dungeon of sorts with a large butcher-like creature called Box Head with an ancient-looking safe tied with barbed wire around his head. It evoked Pyramid Head from Silent Hill in a BIG way and I felt it was quite trite of the developer to throw this creature in; I felt it lacked imagination, but it seems like this thing is a main focus in the game. As the creature chased Castellanos he was able to shoot and disrupt it, but it seemed able to regenerate and also to teleport by killing itself, I think. I am still questioning that tweak, but I am sure it cracked its own head off and dissolved only to appear somewhere else. Again the scenario was very gated, with the presenter having to guide Castellanos to close valves while fighting off bad guys and this butcher/safe-head thing.
The demo ended as it started, with the presenter getting up and walking out without explanation, and we were done. We all just stared at each other and then filtered out wondering what we just saw. In talking about the game we all seemed to have the same impressions: There was a lot of mimicry from other titles, the animation needed work, and the gore was overdone to the point where it was almost satirical. I am hoping that this is a very early build and there is a lot more to The Evil Within than I saw at this demo. As it stands the game looks like a generic and at times boring horror game that doesn’t have enough scares or thrills to justify being in the genre.