I was pretty excited the first time i learn about Project Zwei. Shinji Mikami was back at my favorite genre and the very few background artworks revelaed where pretty hypnotic and glommy. When they released teaser i noticed how different to Resident Evil this game was gonna be and i fall in love of the main character, Sebastian Castellanos, and his old school looks and coat. 2014 was pretty dry in videogames for me, i felt hype for two tittles, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 and this tittle; The Evil Within.
Castlevania was....pretty, but overall extremelly irrational and unsatisfiying. Gladlly, The Evil Within is more conventional to the expectation, as long as you have the rigth expectations of course.
Mikami claimed this game was going to be the pure esence of "Survival Horror" and i think those claims are the ones that can ruin the persception of this piece. The Evil Within is not "pure survival horror" but is more like an evolution of it. A mutant of some sort.
People has been complainging this is like Resident Evil 4 and theyr are rigth, this game takes a lot of elements of it but it leads them to a darker and creppyer direction. The gameplay is pretty similar (or pretty standar i should say since most videogames use this controls) but wath is different is the execution. RE 4 gameplay never was the issue in Capcom´s series, but the inclussion of online co-op, unlimited ammo, 42352 different weapons, linealitty, lack of puzzles and giant set pieces and huge monsters runing around. The concept of put you in a pit with countless monsters and your partner to fight your way out.
The Evil Within take the other way instead. Weapons are pretty old and they only can carry 5 or 10 bullets at max soo you like it or not, you cant take the Rambo way. You dont have to baby sit anyone (except on one chapter) or being protected by anyone; your totally alone. You cant kung-fu fight enemies like Leon in RE 6 at all, if you want to do a stealth move you need to carefully aproach an enemy from behind and take the risk of being seen by him of his other zombie pals. You cant jump or evade or even speed run since theres countless of traps in ever corne, from bear traps to bombs and strings in the floor.
You have to be patient and slowlly navigate your way step by step, hidden in the shadows while you hear moaning of enemies somewhere in the dark cornes. You need to search inside boxes and rooms, hide if you hear someone approaching and once the coast is clear, get out and continue searchign bullets of keys or files to uncover the story.
And that is wath makes a good Survival Horror.
Sometimes it feels like its pretty unfair since Sebastian is weaker than an average humans (he only can run 3 seconds and hes out of breath) but once you beat the learn curve you see theres many ways to overcome your foes. Even with no bullets, you can stealth kill them, attract them to traps or even run (and maybe die with a bomb) or just enter into an old farm and look for one or two bullets. No gun fights here, just shot at theyr legs and when one of them falls, run and throw a match!!! The zombie and his friends turn into a moving sea of corpses on fire.
There is trully many ways to overcome the challenges and Sebastian, while weak, have in fact many many resources on his hands as long as he uses his brin instead of his infinite rocket launcher.
Unlike RE and most modern games, theres manual save in here and is used in the most inventive and artistic way as well. Silnt Hill already did it, giving meaning to the red save blocks in Silent Hill 2 or the cult symbol in Silent Hill 3. The Evil Within demands you to follow a soft tune in the ocean of silence and darkness until you reach a mirror, there you can transport yourself to an outer world hospital. This is a safe heaven since tehres nothing hamrfull here, but theres still disturbing visions and small bits of story telling that keeps you in your sences and remidns you not to relax, even if you feel safe.
The monster design is really top notch. The normal enemies are basically zombies combined with Hellraiser´s Cenobits; with theyr bodyes covered in wounds and torture devices. Some of them whear doll masks and theres both female and male kinky zombies. The other monsters are grotesque and pretty nostalgic since they seems to be taken out of the old RE games or any other survival horror game; small explosive worms, monsters hidden under water, crawling enemies, some other with two faces or heads and some resembles a crucifix with a wodden devise on theyr back.
Bosses are extremelly impresive and a puzzle of theyr own since they cannot be hurt by normal means. They need an element of the background to be beaten or even they need to be escaped at all. The mutant wolf that ressembles William Birkin was one of the cheapest bosses even if its design was pretty nostalgic and fit perfectly. The Keeper, while obviouslly based on Red Pyramid Thing, was extremelly intimidating and tough at first until you manage to escape from him...and he commits suicide and reborns seconds later inside the room your hiding. Re-bone Laura was my favorite design by far and while the theory to kill her is pretty easy (shot at the gas cilinders) her speed and wicked looks makes her extremelly challenguing and frigthning. Speciall mention goes to the parking lot beast since he fits perfectly on any RE game or Alone in the Dark and hes incrediblly strong and exciting with his lamp eye.
Not everything is perfect tough. The game is linear (ugggg). You cant backtrack except for a couple of scenarios. Also all scenarios are totally disjointed. Sebastian is literally tossed to a brand new world each chapter without any coherency. This dosnt lets you feel lost on a labyrint or traped, except for the subterranean scenarios, you dont feel much clautrophoby at all. This is pretty unnerving in the wrong way... the world this game takes place is not pretty clear.
Also theres a few scenarios where it feels like Mikami at his team where afraid to make a "too different game" and they take the Resident Evil route. You are traped in some ruins at fay light with 50 enemies runing at you while some folks shoot arros at you from towers. In other section you are confronted by a hummer with a torret. Theres a cenario where you need to kill many enemies in order to escape from such arena. This sections feel extremelly distant of the rest of the game where you can chouse wath aproach to take and hide away.
Also theres a guy with a chainsaw... He was nice in RE 4 but when the guy with the chainsaw appeared again in RE 5 but with black skin, the formula was more anoying thatn scary. When the monster with Chainsaw Ubvistvo appeared in RE 6 and the guy with two heads and a chainsaw arm pops out of the communication room in RE Revelations, the charcter was already a joke. Well...here here as well and i should say, the game could be better without him.
My other complaing are the visuals. Characters and monster looks good. Scenarios does not. Theres a few pretty low quality textures going on in here and you even need to take a closer look at them to notice they are a bottle or a poster but they looks more like pixeal art. I really wish they could have taken theyr time polishing it more since it really deservs it.
And about the story and characters, they are all good. Sebastian and the rest of th cast are not very talkative outside of cutscenes. They are not as deep as Silent Hill characters but they have as much character development as any Resident Evil character and i think thats fair enough to feel sympaty for them (or hate for Ruvik). The storyline is pretty much the opposite of Biohazard, is full of sureal twists and and supernatural elements that at first dosnt match at all, but once you finihs the game you notice how simple this was. This game is literally a trip into a nightmare; theres no sance of "place" and you see many wrong things that cannot be explained, theres no sence of "time" either and as such, the game is pretty effective.
The storyline is much more closer to Rule of Rose, Silent Hill or Siren and yet, its much more realistic and makes more sence than Resident Evil 6 or Revelations.
Is this the core of survival horror? Nope since it dosnt have too much of Resident Evil 1 on it (except of the typewriter save). This game is more like the wicked and scary brother of Resident Evil 4. Is more like how Resident Evil 5 should feel or is RE 4.5. If Capcom would want to continue Biohazard in the horror way, they would have done this game.
Is less polished than RE 4-6 and Revolutions. Its not perfect since it have a few areas where it trys to be actioni.
But is deffinetly a better Survival Horror game than RE 4-6 and Revolutions. The difficulty is much more high. The athmosphere is much more exquisite and the rythm is much more horror oriented than the latest Biohazard games. Is superior as a Horror experience even if is pretty rough at the edges.
The storyline is pretty different and cerebral but is wath make it feel more fresh and niche. That combined with all the familiar elements from horror games it have (zombie dogs with extra eyes, chessy dialogues, backtracking for keys) make it worth the title of one of the best horror games in a generation with Silent Hill as its only heir.