E3 2014: The Evil Within Sounds Scarier Than It Actually Is
After previewing The Evil Within at PAX East earlier this year, I found the experience to be severely lacking. All the pomp and circumstance about how it was a return to form for survival horror from one of the genre's masters, Shinji Mikami, was nothing more than empty promises. Even with some knowledge of what The Evil Within offered, I was more than willing to give the game another shot by actually going hands-on with it at E3 this week. I wanted to be scared again. I wanted to be afraid of the dark again. Neither of those things happened.
After sitting through a brief presentation showcasing some of the dark, blood-soaked imagery of The Evil Within, I was finally given a chance to play the game for myself. There were two different chapters I could play through, with one being a more action intensive sequence and the other offering a more psychological scenario. I chose to go for the moody, atmospheric segment because that's what survival horror is all about to me. I want to feel panic. I want to feel dread. The Evil Within has all the ingredients in place and one hell of a chef putting them all together to create something (potentially) amazing.
It all starts off very promising; there's the trippy walk through the forest up to the mansion gate. There's atmosphere out the wazoo. If there's anything that can be said The Evil Within is doing right, it's providing solid visuals and appropriately eerie sound design. When outside or indoors, there's an ominous tone following you wherever you go. Coupled with the amplified echoes of the night in the forest, or with the haunting laughter of an invisible woman echoing through the halls of the mansion, every step you take is one that causes your knuckles to whiten just a little bit more. But then nothing else happens. Even when the ghostly big bad appears out of thin air to stalk you through the mansions empty, decrepit layout, you'll find your heart lacks sufficient motivation to skip a beat.
It doesn't help that so much of The Evil Within feels like you've been there before. This portion of the game in particular was like a trip back to a simpler time, when walking into an old mansion was reason enough to be terrified. Whether it's a nod to a classic moment that time not-so-generously has passed by is irrelevant. It's rote and dull, and the sense of deja vu robbed the scene of any anticipation or dread. I didn't wonder if there was something lurking in the darkness or around the next corner. Of course something was there. The Evil Within is following the blueprints its creator so eloquently formed nearly twenty years ago. However, instead of building on those elements, Mikami appears content to merely reappropriate them with slightly better materials.
You might be fooled into thinking The Evil Within is a return to survival horror's glory days, when the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill inspired fear in every player. Back then, these tricks may not have been as pretty, but they were new and exciting. You didn't know what to expect, and even when it was merely another jump scare, that was sometimes enough to get you to keep the lights on when you played. I wish I could say the same about The Evil Within, but I can't. That's a shame.
The Evil Within will release on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC on Oct. 21.