PAX East 2014 Eyes On: The Evil Within
It's rare to enter a situation where a demo is so unmemorable that it's difficult to put into words; this is one of those times. The Evil Within is the upcoming survival-horror game from Resident Evil all-star Shinji Mikami - and if the PAX East demo is any indicator, the game may not make much of a splash.
There was no legitimate background given for the screened footage, so specifics like when in the game the scene takes place, and Sebastian's (the main character) motivation are completely left out. Ether way the first half of the demo begins during what I assume is near the beginning of the game.
We watch as buildings crumble in a city. Eventually, our main character begins moving through the collapsing city-scape towards who-knows-where. After encountering some scripted events Sebastian runs into, what else, zombies. One interesting facet of the gameplay is that the zombie bodies need to be burned. The gentleman playing the demo didn't say why, but I assume it's because otherwise they'll spring right up, hungry for a snack (a.k.a. some brains). The combat seemed fairly straightforward aside from the burning corpses bits, which isn't in itself an issue.
During the beginning moments of the demo it's clear that something is off.
Sebastian just keeps walking. It's as though he has zero regard for his life - so why should we?
The collapsing city, while not especially beautiful, is still cool to watch. And while you or I would react with screams, scrambles, and desperate grabs for solid ground, Sebastian just keeps walking. It's as though he has zero regard for his life - so why should we?
Eventually Sebastian dies and the second portion of the demo begins. In the second part we find ourselves in the asylum/prison/horror-genre staple in which I expect the majority of the game to take place. Soon after beginning we encounter a more imaginative enemy seen in the trailers.
A hulking butcher looking enemy with a head completely encased in some sort of metal box, lumbers at Sebastian. Using several rounds from any firearm causes the monster's cage-like head to explode in a cloud of pulpy blood. Again, nothing too new combat-wise, though it seems these enemies will pack more of a punch and take more bullets that the aforementioned zombies. Again, even as the massive butcher monsters materialize out of the evil mist-like fog coating the floor, Sebastian remains stoic and unfazed. Again: If he doesn't care, why should we?
The combat overall was fairly standard third-person survival-horror fair.
To throw some more on the pile, the visuals looked as though they were born within the middle of the Xbox 360's lifecycle. Now, mundane action is forgivable; I would even forgive less than polished visuals. Hell, even the aggressive slowdown (for no apparent reason) could be justified by really solid, creative game design. Unfortunately I'm not sure it will be.
The issue with The Evil Within seems to arise in the areas surrounding the acceptable components of the game. Namely with design (Sebastian's lack of personality included).
This is a problem seen often with Japanese developers lately: Many tend to rest on old design techniques.
From the demo, everything seemed straightforward - almost grid-like. The design in general echoed a very "go here, do this" aura from the days of PlayStation 2 games. From a direction standpoint I never noticed the camera or setting to add to the "horror" promised by the very well produced trailers. In fact, I wasn't even remotely scared during any of the demo; I was bored.
Survival-horror is a tough sell.
It's genuinely difficult to scare people, and of the past generation I can only name a few titles that have been legitimately terrifying. The Evil Within has promised a lot since it was announced, and if this demo is any indication it will fall by the wayside, atop the pile of games that have tried, and failed, to capture horror.
The Evil WIthin is expected to release in August, which is still a few months away. Given further optimization and tinkering the very noticeable framerate issues could be ironed out, as could the lack of suspense in the action. That being said, if the demo is any real indication of the final product, it may be too late for The Evil Within.
Sound off in the comments down below and let us know what game has kept you awake at night, checking the shadows for gremlins and whatnot.