From the first chapter of The Evil Within, the game feels familiar, dated, and somewhat stale. This is only true if you’ve actually played old survival horror game titles like Resident Evil (especially Resident Evil 4, which shares the same game director, Shinji Mikami), Dead Space, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and other 3rd person titles in that genre.
I was among many who was eagerly anticipating the release of The Evil Within because of how much I loved playing Resident Evil 4 and how much I loved the early Silent Hill games. Another throwback to the survival horror roots seemed really exciting! But unfortunately, it’s true to be careful what you wish for, because you may get it.
What we got with The Evil Within was a game that looks like it was shelved back in 2004 as a follow-up to Resident Evil 4, dusted off by Mikami and his new team in 2012, and re-done for the current gen consoles. The Evil Within just seems like a throwback that has a mashup of past ideas, controls, graphics, and story elements which don’t feel like it learned anything in the last decade of game development (with the exception of moving and shooting at the same time) and storytelling development in games.
While I tried my best to have fun with playing this game, it has so many frustrating flaws and glaring storytelling issues that it was just not fun to play. Every fight just felt so sadistically crafted but so unsatisfyingly frustrating that I cannot compare this game to something like Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls because there, every loss felt like your fault. In The Evil Within, I felt like I was fighting poor game mechanics and dated controls rather than being challenged by the actual game.
I boiled down the problems of the game to 5 main issues. Let the judgement commence!
5. Sebastian controls like a tank
This was a huge sticking point for me playing The Evil Within. After seeing the revolution of control schemes for 3rd person games since Max Payne or RE 4 on PS2, it’s a shame that The Evil Within hasn’t evolved at all with its control scheme.
Sebastian moves like a tank, even sometimes walking backwards or strafing oddly where he should be turned and facing the direction he’s moving in. He moves like he weighs a ton, and coupled with the fact that he has strict limits on stamina (with the stingiest stamina bar ever in a game) and speed, it makes for a super frustrating time trying to run away or even dodge attacks.
4. Texture pop in and out
Okay, this is nitpicky and is not about broken gameplay, but let’s be serious here. The Evil Within is supposed to be a current gen game with ports to the last gen (Xbox 360 and PS3), but I played the Xbox One version and was highly disappointed in the texture pop on the enemies and backgrounds. There would be times I’d quickly hide from scouting enemies under a bed and watching them carefully search for me only to see their clothes and skin textures constantly popping in and out of existence rapidly.
This kind of stuff takes you completely out of the experience and a lot more effort should have been taken to nail down these issues before launch. This is especially important since The Evil Within was launching a week after another current gen survival horror title, Alien: Isolation, a game that brought it’s “A” game in terms of graphics and textures.
3. Poor hit detection on walls and items
How frustrating is it when you have an item maybe inches from your character on screen and the item prompt is COMPLETELY dependent on which way the camera is facing? This issue with The Evil Within is absolutely, mind bogglingly, dumb! In every game I can remember, walking near an item either brings up a prompt when you’re in proximity of the item or it simply gets auto picked up and added to your character’s inventory.
This game goes sideways in the horrible hit detection logic and requires that not only Sebastian be right near an item, but the camera has to be FACING THE ITEM before you can pick it up! Along with this is the usual snafus of the wall and corner hit detection being too far out from the textures. This causes so many missed shots that you might make around a corner, clearly facing the enemy, to hit the wall instead.
This is a problem that shouldn’t even exist anymore with current-gen games, but it takes me back to my point where the user experience built for the game feels like it’s from over 10 years ago.
2. Poor storytelling and conveyance
The Evil Within is guilty of completely lackluster and lazy storytelling. Its plot and theme is confused almost to the point of being complete nonsense. To make matters worse, you are given story elements in a manner that harkens back to the original Resident Evil games in the form of text and audio files.
This game has so few actual cutscenes that I’m shocked considering how 10 years ago we used to complain how games like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy had uber long cutscenes and felt like they should just be films. Here we are with a game that is built like it is from that era but using a storytelling element that is EVEN OLDER, going back almost 10 years before that!
So now we have barely any cut scenes save for very early game and very late game, files all over the place that don’t quite explain everything and filled with details that don’t connect much with the plot.
Then we get to the game’s conveyance issues, where in some instances you get little blood pellets flowing through the level telling you where to go and odd camera zooms telling you what buttons/levers/switches to manipulate. For most of the game you get no hints or clue what to do as you muddle your way through chapters.
The nurse in the hospital is useless (there was potential for a character who at least could point you in the right direction), and makes me miss the merchant of Resident Evil 4 that much more. There is no map system so you have to remember which way everything is in case you need to backtrack, and some chapters are full of that mundane task. There isn’t even so much as a hint system or helper character that knows anything. All you got is vague files and papers creating a mystery about as balanced as an almost finished game of Jenga. The game is sadistic enough without it’s glaring problems, it also beats you over the head while you try to clear it.
1. No quick turn
It may seem odd that I place lack of a quick turn feature at number one on this list of issues, but I felt it deserved this coveted position simply because quick turn has been a feature in games since Resident Evil 3: Nemesis came out in 1999! This has to be one of the worst oversights in game controls ever. Quick turn in games, especially something so intense as the survival horror genre, is a game changer and expected.
In a game like The Evil Within where the developers are taking so many elements from other survival horror titles:
- Switching realities, mind games – Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness
- Melee attacks – Dead Space
- Bottle throwing distractions – The Last of Us
- Literally everything else – Resident Evil 4
This game borrows from other games that literally years before have done this genre better. Yet, while looking at these games, they only looked at the features they could take from them instead of looking at them as great experiences and seeing what made them work so well. They didn’t borrow any of the storytelling, conveyance, updated weapons crafting systems, or anything that made those games good.
The Evil Within is a throwback title in the worst possible sense. It’s a partially broken mess of bad ideas, copy/paste of other ideas that worked better in their own titles, even worse storytelling, and a mal-aligned plot full of boring characters who don’t grow or change over the course of the game. It’s not good, it’s not fun, and it certainly is a huge disappointment coming from the man who directed the game that changed the genre in a huge way. We’re a long way from Resident Evil 4, but The Evil Within is even farther from being a good survival horror experience.