“Pure, old-school survival horror.” These are the buzz-words spoken by Bethesda’s representative, Pete Hines. To accomplish this, Bethesda has teamed up with survival horror legend, Shinji Mikami, and his team at Tango Gameworks. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to see the team’s live demonstration at this year’s Quake Con, and I can safely say that everything I’ve seen from The Evil Within screams pure, old-school survival horror.
Bethesda’s Jason demonstrated the Evil Within while Pete talked us through his experience. They divided the demo into two parts: the beginning hour of the game, and an action oriented middle segment. Detective Sebastian and his police squad are on their way to investigate an asylum. They discover that the hospital is amiss: there are plenty of squad cars but no guns or ammo; there are plenty of bodies but a noticeable lack of blood. Upon hearing muffled gun fire, Sebastian turns his head to the security cameras where he sees three policemen firing on an off-screen adversary. Eventually, the semi invisible enemy takes out the three police, and almost instantly teleports to Sebastian’s position and knocks him out.
The first half of The Evil Within demo focused more on survival and stealth. Sebastian hazily awakens after his encounter; he is chained by his feat as if meat hanging in a butchery. A humanoid butcher is performing work on bodies as if they were cattle. After cutting down a body, the butcher leaves the knife in a body a few feet from Sebastian – either he grew lazy or he’s goading Sebastian into attempting escape.
This is when Jason was able to regain control of Sebastian. After successfully swinging to grab the knife, Sebastian immediately assumed a stealth position. The butcher appears busy, not just looking in a designated pattern like in most stealth games; though, this is most likely scripted. Sebastian inevitably triggered an alarm, alerting the butcher who promptly retaliates by cutting a debilitating wound in his leg. If it wasn’t clear before that The Evil Within is pure survival horror, then the wound certainly cleared that up as it is now crucial for Sebastian to avoid confrontation.
I would later ask Pete how pertinent puzzles are to the game, and if they borrowed elements from old-school survival horror games such as the Resident Evil series. Puzzles will not play a role similar to tradition survival horror roots; instead, players will figure out how to use the environment to their advantage. For instance, Sebastian can use certain items to distract monsters, and he can hide in places such as lockers. In this demonstration, Sebastian only hides in one room of lockers, so I hope in the final build there will be more options.
The Evil Within has a Resident Evil 4 vibe, and this is all the more apparent upon death. In one instance, Sebastian clumsily attempts to sneak by the butcher; however, the butcher caught him, and almost casually approaches the limping victim only to behead him. The scene plays out remarkably similar to a similar beheading in Resident Evil 4, but this time the head popd off as one opens champagne, the blood also flows similarly. The crowd cheered, of course, but Pete assured us that Jason died on purpose—he jokingly permitted us to mock Jason for real should he die mid-demonstration.
Sebastian eventually passes by the butcher with timing and throwing a bottle as distraction. As Sebastian neared the exit, he ran—he is apparently excited enough to overcome his severe injury. When he reaches the exit, his new found hope is crushed when he sees the courtyard of the asylum transformed into ravines similar to those found in Silent Hill. This is where the first part of the demo ended.
The final half of the demo was almost all action. An unspecified amount of time has since passed, and Sebastian now finds himself in dense woods at night. A red bar at the bottom of the screen indicates that he is wounded. Fortunately, he’s near a house, which he plans to raid for medical supplies. He’s able to find a (hopefully) clean syringe, which refills his health to a full, white bar; however, he is not without conflict.
Sebastian fights humanoid monsters in third-person. He shoots the monster headfirst, and then later in the knee-cap, which brings the monster to the ground—the crowd erupted both times. I should also note that Jason didn’t leave room for error, as he finished it off with a double-tap. As visceral as the gun play was, it seemed like standard, satisfying gun play; however, Sebastian is not just limited to guns. Upon reaching the top floor of the house, Sebastian finds two mine traps, which looks like a makeshift landmine. It’s not long before the detective has the opportunity to use them, as monsters line up outside the windows-the perfect spots to use his new toys. These are the only traps we see in the demonstration; however, they promised that there would be more traps to experiment with in the final version.
Finally, it seems Shinji Mikami is injecting some psychological aspects to The Evil Within’s world. Sebastian is eventually overwhelmed by the mob of monsters, and he flees downstairs. When he reaches the bottom floor, the room changes to a rusty shade, and the stairway behind him is replaced with a vast hallway. Moments pass as Sebastian walks down the hall when he is intercepted by a wave of blood. The blood disappears on contact, and Sebastian now finds himself in an industrial like building with bloody hand prints up and down the walls. At the center of the room with the bloody hand prints is a body, and moments later a freakish creature with multiple limbs. The creature pins Sebastian to the ground, poised ready to strike; the demonstration ends here.
If you’ve been missing old-school survival horror, then The Evil Within is for you. The game looks remarkable, even with its hellish, psychological art-style. Sebastian may be able to hold his own as a trained police officer; however, he’s clearly not invincible as ammo is scarce and he’s susceptible to debilitating injuries. I hope to see more variety in hiding places and traps in future builds of the game. That said, it’s impossible to tell if this game will be scary, as I did watch this in a room full of excited, if not raucous spectators; but as far as the mechanics are concerned, The Evil Within is pure, old-school survival horror. Tango Gameworks and Bethesda sure knows how to back up their words.
The Evil Within is slated to release in 2014. The game will be coming to Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, and next generation consoles. Survival horror fans, are you excited for The Evil Within? Let us know in the comments!