The Evil Within (2014) is a survival horror game made by Tango Gameworks, a company headed by Resident Evil (1996) creator and father of survival horror, Shinji Mikami. For those of you who are unaware, “survival horror” games give you limited ammo, health packs, and – in games where such a mechanic is included – crafting materials to make the aforementioned items. The Evil Within has its roots in the Resident Evil series, which is no surprise considering the same person created them. But the Resident Evil series had become more action than horror in the later installments, with fans of the genre wanted something that was true to horror.
The Evil Within gave them just that.
In The Evil Within, you play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, who is called in to investigate a mass murder in Beacon Mental Hospital with Detective Joseph Oda and Junior Detective Juli Kidman. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, as you quickly discover. After finding the sole survivor of the massacre, a doctor by the name of Marcelo Jimenez, you witness a strange hooded figure murdering police officers one by one as it teleports in front of them on a security camera. He then teleports behind you and you are knocked out.
You wake up to find yourself hanging upside down in a twisted version of a butcher shop with a humanoid creature chopping up bodies. You manage to escape but set off an alarm as you reach the door, causing the butcher (called The Sadist) to chase you with a chainsaw. You slide down a chute with meat grinders, run down a hallway with spinning blades closing in, and have to sneak by The Sadist to earn your freedom.
And all of this is just the first chapter of the game. Then you’re thrown into the story. You learn the hooded figure is called Ruvik and Doctor Jimenez seems to know who he is and have a personal connection to the mysterious antagonist. You encounter a strange mental patient during your adventure, a boy named Leslie. You have to protect him during certain sequences and he often repeats the last word or words a character says in a sentence as a symptom of his mental illness. Despite this, he seems to be important to the events around you, as theorized by Doctor Jimenez.
As you progress through the story, you face off various monsters and are often shifted from location to location by strange means that seem to shift reality itself, often under the control of Ruvik. How is any of this possible? Is any of it even real? What connection does Leslie have to the chaos around you? And who is this Ruvik and what does he want? These are all questions that are asked during your journey through the twisted world of The Evil Within. But finding these answers is far from easy, as you have terrifying monsters standing in the way.
The Sadist isn’t the only creature you’ll meet on your journey through the twisted world of The Evil Within. The main enemies are zombie-like creatures called The Haunted, that roam around the levels hungering for your blood, but the most notable enemies are the bosses. In addition to The Sadist, you have to fight a creature with a meat cleaver and a safe for a head called The Keeper, and a spider-like creature with a woman’s head (whose name I won’t give because it can be considered a spoiler). All of these creatures appear to be manifested by Ruvik himself and are linked with part of his personality. The Sadist is tied to his rage and, well, sadism, while The Keeper is tied to his need for secrecy and his paranoia. You have to fight through all of these enemies and more to unravel the secrets of The Evil Within.
The most noteworthy aspect of The Evil Within is the atmosphere. The level design, colors, and lighting make everything feel a lot more foreboding, even during the daytime segments and you never feel safe. You play through various environments such as a hospital, a dilapidated town, a city, and a dungeon. You never know when an enemy might pop out from the shadows or a trap will open up and throw you into a completely new area, or when you might miss a tripwire and blow yourself up, so there’s always tension no matter where you are.
The enemies in the game are also very dangerous, and even the basic enemies can take you down with just a few hits if you’re not careful. You’re not defenseless, though. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal. Starting out with a pistol and a knife that’s used for stealth kills, you will also eventually get a shotgun, sniper rifle, Magnum, and an “agony crossbow”, which fires different sorts of arrows that can be crafted. You do this by finding them or by disassembling various traps. This doesn’t mean you’re invincible, either. Ammo is precious and very limited, so making every shot count matters when in a combat situation.
You aren’t always on edge, though. Throughout the game, you can access a “save room” that makes you aware of its presence by playing “Au Claire De Lune”. You follow the music to a mirror that allows you to access the room when you look into it. The entire room looks like the hospital you started in, but there will never be any monsters here. Instead, you can use it to save your progress if you haven’t encountered a checkpoint in a while. There is also an upgrade system that can be found here. You get points by sourcing green goop found in jars or on dead enemies. Use this to upgrade your weapons to make reload time faster or hold more bullets, or use it on yourself to increase the time you can sprint before getting winded. There is another part of the room that has dozens of locked safes, which can be unlocked by finding keys inside of small statues of an angel scattered throughout the levels. Inside, you can find ammo, upgrade goop, or precious health syringes.
The Evil Within is a horror game whose scares and general creepiness that can rival most Hollywood movies and, while challenging, is worth the fifteen hours (or more, if you were bad at it like me) you spend playing it. The game has a decent level of gore, but not enough to be disgusting, and the atmospheric creepiness is of the same caliber of famous movies such as Alien (1979). If that’s not enough to keep you playing, the compelling story certainly will and its ending is left open and has you wondering if the story is truly over, or if you’re still stuck in Ruvik’s clutches. After you finish the game, you can even see how long it took you to complete it and how many times you died during your playthrough. It’s always fun to pick up a copy for yourself and a friend and compare scores at the end.
The Evil Within is available to play on Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and PC. Are you a fan? Join the conversation with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!