‘The Evil Within’ – Did it Reinvigorate Survival Horror?

So the dust has long settled after the post-hype of The Evil Within with it receiving a large number of good reviews. It was extensively hyped, given that survival horror had been on a downward slope in recent years, although certainly on its way back up now in some regards. So below are six factors in which The Evil Within excelled at and some it may have faltered in.

Limited Ammo encapsulated the survival aspect

Now one thing I talked about in a feature a while ago in regards to The Evil Within was the concern about the variety of weapons you would obtain. When I heard there would be items like a crossbow with explosive arrows and other types, my concerns were raised. I feared it would turn into what Dead Space ended up leaning towards in a more action orientated game. For brief spells in the game it did feel a bit focussed on action more than I would have liked but there were more moments where it felt like I was playing Dark Souls with guns. Fighting bosses with limited ammo was extremely challenging and forced you to think outside the box.

For one boss fight I came up against a giant of a man wielding a chainsaw but I only had a few shotgun shells and some pistol ammo – nowhere near enough to take him down. Instead after dying a few times and scoping out the area I realised I could lead him into a building and release a lever to send spikes up from the floor. It killed him and I kept going until the next boss. You have to be very conservative and aim accurately otherwise you get punished.

Cinematic view

I wasn’t too sure about the cinematic view The Evil Within possesses because it was something I wasn’t used to. When I got further into the game though I realised the cinematic view is a very important feature to the game to encapsulate the atmosphere they set out to achieve. I couldn’t imagine it might have worked quite so well had it been a normal view you see in most games. The graphics were superb and the soundscape tied it together perfectly, I was really impressed at how it all looked. It was a nice change from the usual but I just hope horror games don’t jump on it and ruin its unique aspect. The only downside, which isn’t because of the cinematic view, is the clunky camera work in tight spaces. It became a nuisance but luckily it didn’t happen too frequently to change the experience negatively.

Too many action sequences

This is probably the only big negative I could come away with because overall the combat experience worked exactly how it was meant to. Time and time again I was lead into sandbox areas where I had to kill numerous amounts of different enemies. It was a challenging experience because of the limited ammo, but they really could have cut out a few action sequences here and there to trim it down a bit. A number of them were the same fights and didn’t really offer much to the overall experience besides being filler. This is where they pushed the limits between survival horror and action horror and to some people they pushed it too far.

Boss battles are terrifying and challenging

Each chapter generally has a boss fight towards the end of the level and they definitely add an even more challenging aspect to the game. Like I mentioned earlier, it felt like a lesser version of Dark Souls because the bosses forced you to react smartly to what was happening. There was one boss which actually led me to taking a break from the game because it was just so intense. Taking the form of an extremely disfigured monster with arms and legs dangling everywhere and a face resembling the grudge, it was exactly what I wanted in a game like this. The intense screams she belts out along with the relentless chasing actually sent shivers down my spine.

I faced her a few times throughout the game and each time was scarier than the last, she was easily the most memorable aspect of the game because of how intense she is. Each boss offers a different experience in terms of difficulty and how you have to approach it. If you weren’t conservative with your ammo before boss fights you would be punished quickly by the boss, and it forces you to always be aware of what you are using.

Upgradeable skils, ammo and damage

Throughout the chapters you will collect green brain gel which you can use as currency to upgrade various skills. You can find them scattered or you can pick up the gel from fallen enemies, with bosses offering large amounts of gel. If you keep your wits about you and find the hidden keys you can open morgue doors which give you gel, ammo or even another key. All of these little things combined with a crafting system for ammo forces you to pay attention to your surroundings.

If you don’t, you won’t be as strong to deal with later events or won’t have enough ammo in the same regard. You get upgraded quite painfully, as each skill upgrade shocks you through an electric chair which adds to the grim visuals The Evil Within has. I will add that the stamina is far too short to begin with, around a grand total of three seconds. I’m not sure he’d be fit to be a detective if that is how far he can run.

Mind games added an interesting design

One aspect I loved about The Evil Within was how the game tries to mess with your head. After waking up in a hospital with no recollection of how you got there you have to slowly pick up the pieces to figure out what happened. This is done through the use of map fragments, newspapers detailing certain events and flashbacks. If you aren’t paying attention you’ll easily get lost and struggle to understand exactly what is happening. It’s one of my favourite game designs about The Evil Within and one that is pulled off very well.

It is hard to say whether it has completely reinvigorated survival horror, as some aspects borderline action horror. Overall it leans towards survival horror because of the challenging boss fights, limited ammo and upgradeable skills. What did you think about The Evil Within? Let us know in the comments below!