The Evil Within Review: Taking Residence

It’s undeniable just how influential the Resident Evil series has been to the gaming industry. It spawned its own genre, survival-horror, that has taken on a life of its own. That resounding influence explains why The Evil Within caught the attention of fans. The developer, Tango Gameworks, was founded by the original creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami, and this appeared to be a horror game in the same spirit. In practice, The Evil Within borrows much of its inspiration from the Resident Evil series, but does the game stack up to such a notable piece of gaming history or is it a cheap imitation? 

Foggy Memories

The Evil Within has players assuming the role of veteran police detective Sebastian Castellano. He was ambushed at the scene of a mass murder investigation, only to find himself in a rundown hospital in a world that’s filled with “the haunted.” As in the Resident Evil series, the true nature of the setting and paranormal events is a mystery that unfolds over the course of the game.

Players will find themselves fighting to survive in whatever world they suddenly find themselves in with very little to assist them. Ammo was scarce and health kits few and far between, making for tense choices about whether to use my limited resources. But this won’t always be the case as I’ve had several moments where I find myself being more cautious with the general haunted, to suddenly throw caution to the wind when I meet an adversary that can rip me to shreds with a single hit. When that happens, I throw all I can at them just so I don’t meet my gruesome demise.

Castellano is able transport himself from the strange and unknown hospital he finds himself in and the outside world through the use of bright lights that are reflected off of mirrors. The hospital acts as a hub of sorts where Castellano can attempt to make sense of whatever is going on, receive additional equipment to help improve his chances of survival, and upgrade his own abilities. Upgrading is done through the combination of a using vials of green fluid scattered throughout the game and a mysterious chair that taps into Castellano’s brain in order to improve his abilities. Players can improve a number of categories that range from offering improvements to his reload speed, ammo, health, and sprint duration. Considering just how difficult some of The Haunted can be, I needed all of the help you can get.

Danger at Every Corner

The haunted is quite the formidable opponent considering they can cause a significant amount of damage if you don’t take one-on-one interactions seriously, and can overrun you with great ease if three or more are attacking you at once. There’s a nice variety of haunted that have their own style of attacks. Some haunted will run right at you and unleash a flurry of attacks, while others will take large, devastating swings. Some larger opponents will even be able to completely kill Castellano if he doesn’t dodge their advances quickly enough, although I really wouldn’t expect to be left with just a scratch if a large monster attacked me in real life.

When I wasn't forced to fight the haunted, I was battling the environmental traps. Bear traps, wire traps, and explosives equipped with motion detection are just some of the fun, little surprises The Evil Within will throw at players from time to time to keep them on their toes. Thankfully, the devastating effects from traps goes both ways as you can also use them to take out any haunted dumb enough to walk into one. If you're eagle-eyed enough to spot them, you could also disarm them to gain materials for the aptly named Agony Crossbow.

Everybody was Haunted Fighting

More often than not I felt at war with the controls.

The Evil Within’s combat system feels like it took a page out of the Resident Evil 4 manual, with all the luggage that entails. I experienced moments where I felt like I had player agency as I was able to take down two haunted at a time, but at the same time, more often than not I felt at war with the controls. At its Survival difficulty setting, there’s no aiming assistance and unless you spend points on your aiming stats, you’re going to have a tough time getting the aiming reticule to your target in time.

Shooting or attacking your target head-on should be considered more of a backup plan, since The Evil Within favors sneaking up on the haunted in order to take them out with a one-hit kill from behind. Even as you make your way through the game, stealth is highly encouraged as there are a number of moments where players will need to slowly enter a door in order not to have a swarm of haunted attacking you from behind the door. Distractions can also be used, such as bottles that can be thrown in order to draw the attention of haunted in the area.

Playing as a veteran detective, I would have assumed Castellano would feel a little more nimble than he does in The Evil Within. The most you Castellano can do is run away from whatever it is he’s fighting as it appears he forget all of his years of police academy and however many years he’s been on the force. He can’t dodge. He can’t side step. He can’t even perform a roll. I guess he’s just one of those veteran detectives who was one day from retirement.

Back from the Dead

While playing The Evil Within, I experienced a number of times where I found myself jumping due to a sudden introduction of a haunted running out of a building completely covered in flames, or a giant haunted breaking through a wall with chainsaw in hand. The combat system, though, owes itself just as much to Resident Evil in some unfortunate ways. As a result, Resident Evil fans will have a serious case of déjà vu when playing The Evil Within. It offers much of the thrills and creepy environments that make the series so enticing, along with some of its frustrations.

This review is based on a retail Xbox One disc provided by the publisher. The Evil Within will be available in retail stores and on the digital download services on October 14, for $59.99. The game is rated M.

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The Evil Within

not bad
  • Survival horror aspects are top notch
  • The haunted are very challenging opponents
  • Ability to upgrade your character along the way
  • Combat system is more frustrating than fun
  • Use of traps makes players overly cautious
  • Unable to perform basic police maneuvers