Bethesda’s booth was quiet when I entered on the last day of Gamescom. Perhaps a little too quiet. I sat down to have a drink of water while waiting for my hands-on demo with The Evil Within, when I spotted a small sign on the door: “Entering this room may result in death.” “That’s a bit extreme” I remember thinking, unaware of the truth behind the warning.
The Evil Within is a classic survival horror title from Shinji Mikami, the same man how gave the world the Resident Evil and Dino Crisis series. So I had high expectations when I finally picked up the PS4 controller and started the demo. Following the advice given to me before I entered the room, I picked the Nightmare difficulty setting in order to have a “true survival horror experience.”
The demo started just outside a seemingly abandoned mansion.As I entered it I caught a glimpse of a man leading someone in a straight jacket through a door that closed firmly behind them. The goal of the demo then became clear – get the door open. It wasn’t a simply matter of finding the key: the door was fitted with a special hydraulic lock that need some sort of liquid to operate. I decided to follow the tubes leading from the door to different parts of the mansion, in hope of finding a way of unlocking it. But first, I checked my inventory to see what tools I had to fight off the many horrors I will undoubtedly encounter.
Pistol – check. Shotgun – check. Generic health item – check. Weird crossbow that fires explosive, electrifying or piercing bolts – what? I equipped the pistol and started exploring. I quickly came across more ammunition, matches and a suspicious vial of green liquid. Then I encountered my first enemy. The main enemies in the game, called The Haunted, are disfigured humans with glass shards and barbed wire covering their bodies. They will attack you as soon as they spot you, some with their bare hands, some with melee weapons or even pistols. In this case, I disturbed two Haunted feasting on a dead body, and they launched at me with nasty looking axes. It was then I discovered that my pistol, containing only five bullets, was completely useless again them. Combine my less-than-impressive firepower and the horrible camera (a must in every classic survival horror game), and the two monsters overwhelmed me with ease.
My second attempt at combat was a little more successful. With the shotgun ready at hand, I took down the grotesque duo with two shots. With the matches I picked up earlier I burned their bodies to prevent them from rising again. Matches, as well as ammunition, are a scarce resource, so you won’t be able to prevent every enemy from getting back up. Resource management is a big part of classic survival horror, and it’s nice to see that The Evil Within takes it seriously enough by making you choose between wasting ammo, matches or simply avoiding combat as much as possible.
Among the items dropped by the now dead Haunted was one of the axes, so I picked it up and continued following the tube into the next room. The tube finally lead to a strange machine filled with red liquid and connected to a severed head. Examining the head further revealed a small puzzle involving minor brain surgery. Solving the puzzles powered on the machine, which started pumping the red liquid trough the tube and back to the locked door. One down – two to go.
As I returned to the main hall, I was jumped by another Haunted that ambushed me behind a door. The axe then proved to be a very useful weapon, since it took down the monster with one swing and remained buried in its head. Melee weapons in The Evil Within are one-hit-on-kill, but can only be used once so you better make it count.
My exploration then lead me to a small bathroom with a broken mirror that serves as a portal to a creepy asylum, where I could rest and upgrade the protagonist’s abilities and weapons using the vials of green liquid I found all over the mansion. The process appears to be very painful, but it was worth it.
Stepping back into the real world, I was greeted by a mysterious hooded figure that chased me around the room. Bullets seemed to have no effects on it, but by the time I realized it it was too late. The figure grabbed Sebastian by the throat and killed him instantly. Lesson learned.
As I followed the second tube upstairs and into a library, I decided to be a little more careful and stealth my way around the wandering Haunted. It worked pretty well and I was able to take the two of them down silently and burn them to ashes without being discovered. Unfortunately, after I picked up a quest item, several more Haunted came bursting into the library, spotting me immediately. This seemed like a good opportunity to try out that weird crossbow I mentioned earlier. Aiming it at the head of one of the approaching Haunted, I managed to fire one bolt before the entire group, including Sebastian, where shredded to pieces. Apparently, I have equipped an explosive bolt. Oops.
Doing the whole library section over again yielded better results, and I was able to get away with the quest item – a safe dial – relatively unharmed. Further exploration lead me to a second safe dial and then a wall-safe with two missing dials. Putting two and two together, I inserted the dials into the safe and, using clues from the environment, unlocked it. The mechanism opened a passage in the wall in front of me, leading to a secret room with yet another machine and severed head. The door was now almost open, just one more severed head to go.
Unfortunately, that was when one of Bethesda’s PR representatives tapped my shoulder to let me know my time with the game was up. I jumped so high my head nearly hit the ceiling.
The Evil Within is a classic survival horror game in almost every sense. It has a great atmosphere, terrifying enemies and some very clever mechanics that help establish that sense of helplessness so crucial to a good horror experience. On the other hand, the game also suffers from most the genre’s classic flaws, namely problematic camera and combat. I was expecting a bit more innovation from the game, but in this day and age classic survival horror is somewhat of a rarity, so I’ll take it as it is.
The warning on the wall turned out to be quite accurate: Sebastian did die quite a lot under my care, and I nearly died of a heart-attack.
Horror fans should definitely check this game out when it comes out October 14 on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. You can watch Bethesda’s VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines play the entire Gamescom demo in the video below.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.