At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Richard Pilot PlayStation 4 Bethesda Softworks Tango Gameworks 17th October 2014

The Evil Within preview

I almost didn't show up to the Bethesda appointment, that's how much of a fraidy cat I was about going to see The Evil Within, a new survival horror game from Tango Gameworks and Shinji Mikami, creator of the Resident Evil series. But common sense prevailed and so I found myself standing outside the Bethesda booth at Gamescom. "You are going to die a lot in this session", the PR rep informed us in what was not the most motivational of introductions.

Donning headphones and starting the game, I found myself outside a spooky mansion. The demo we played was from Chapter 9 of the game, so the main character, Detective Sebastian Castellanos, should in theory be a veteran of the horrors to come. As I made my way inside, I witnessed a doctor hurrying a patient through two huge vault doors which swung shut before I could make my way over to them. I may not be privy to the game's plot so far, but I know video games; I needed to find a way inside.

In order to get through those doors I was tasked to activate three mechanisms located somewhere within the mansion's halls; each would pump liquid through tubes back to the door which would cause it to open. Mission in hand I set out on my search. Wandering into my first room, a library, I encountered my first enemies. What they were exactly (escaped patients? zombies?), I had no idea, but it was clear that the humanity in them was long gone, either having body parts missing or being severely mutilated with bits of metal poking out of them. They were very much real in the game world, though, as I discovered when they lunged at me. Armed with a pistol and a shotgun, I began to take aim. The game's introduction had informed me that merely shooting them wouldn't necessarily incapacitate them as they had a tendency of getting back up, even after being dealt a fatal wound that would take out an ordinary person. Fire is is the only surefire way of ensuring they don't come back, and your box of matches can be used to that effect once you've knocked them down with a well-placed shot to the head or legs.. I should point out that bullets and matches were obviously in short supply. Matches aren't always necessary, though, and sometimes they stay dead on their own. My one complaint to this system was that it was very hard to tell whether I needed to use that last match to keep a zombie at bay, although perhaps that's rather the point.

Take careful aim, ammo is in short supply

Take careful aim, ammo is in short supply

The game also employs a rudimentary stealth system. You can be in one of three states; passive - where monsters don't even know you're there, searching - where they've detected your presence and are looking for you, and visible - where the monsters can see you and are on their way to hurt you. A sneak button helps you move around more quietly, but there are always times when you'll have to encounter a monster, whether that's because they're in your way or because the game is actively trying to throw them at you. This happened to me a few times during the play session. Once was when I had healed myself and the game had forced me into a drug-fueled haze for a few moments. This presented the perfect opportunity for a monster to come through the door. Another time was when I had been forced to run away, coming back into a previously cleared room where I had to face another monster head on.

In addition to these shambling monstrosities, there's another presence in the house, a powerful ghost who will calmly walk towards you. Not that those moments are calm in the slightest; frenzied music plays and the game is bathed in an eerie blue light. Making these moments worse is the knowledge that your weapons are completely ineffective against it, forcing you to run as quick as you can to hide in a closet or under a bed. The last threat you'll have is the house itself; scattered throughout the building are explosive proximity mines. Many you'll spot by listening out for the telltale beep of the sensor as you approach, but when being chased by the scary ghost man, you may not notice until it's too late. The house has a few other surprises up its sleeve, but I'll leave those one off surprises for you to experience when you get to play the game.

Something is wrong with his head but I can't quite place it

Something is wrong with his head but I can't quite place it

Ghosts, traps and monsters weren't the main focus though, merely obstacles in my path. The objective, open the door, was my goal and in order to do so, I had to explore. Most rooms are merely decoration, bedrooms with convenient drawers to hide ammo or matches, but scattered throughout were more interesting places. The library that I mentioned earlier hid part of a safe that I needed to use in another part of the house, and as I ventured further, my character discovered the seedy past of this site, experiments into the human psyche. These manifested as machinery designed to prod and poke the human brain. There were three such experiments in the area that I was exploring and each one turned into a mini puzzle. Using a nearby map of the brain and the existing probes that had already been inserted, I had to use a third probe to correctly identify and extract brain fluid from the relevant section of the brain, such as the fear center or the area that controlled pain. Completing each of these puzzles would result in blood being drawn, all fed back to the vault door at the front of the mansion. It was all very graphic but incredibly easy, a quick look at the map of the brain was enough to figure out where I needed to probe. In addition to getting me one step closer to completing this section, each puzzle also provided a glimpse into the mansion’s past; ghostly manifestations gave an insight into the devolving state of mind of a patient and his doctor. With all three puzzles completed I was finally able to open the door to discover a more physical version of the patient I had seen earlier. This triggered the end of the session and prompted more questions than it solved, but I'm sure that what I witnessed would be clearer had I played the game from the start.

I left The Evil Within with a mixed feeling; the game had many elements to it, exploration, combat and puzzle solving, although none of these felt complete enough in their own right. It's the combination of all three of these that are needed to form a cohesive whole, and it was clear that the horror elements were successfully accomplishing this even if it was leaning towards over the top violence than actual scares. Whilst I probably won't truly play one of these games from start to finish, the game succeeded in its mission to creep me out, which is a good sign that this will be exactly what players will expect when it arrives later this year.

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