|The Evil Within And DLC Review|
Anyone who has played any games in the Resident Evil series, particularly the newer action orientated ones and especially Resident Evil 4 will find a lot of familiar ground in The Evil Within. The main reason behind that being that it was directed by the main man behind Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami. As mentioned, it shares most in common with the ground-breaking Resident Evil 4 and feels like a natural evolution of the game-play from that game. Allow me to elaborate.
In The Evil Within, you play Sebastian Castellanos who is voiced by the main character Cullen Bohannon from the excellent AMc series Hell On Wheels. This southern twangy accent gives him the feeling of a modern day cowboy which fits into the theme of the game well. Sebastian is a member of local law enforcement who has been called in to investigate a disturbance at a nearby mental hospital. The minute you set foot in the door you can feel that something is very wrong in this place and as you investigate things rapidly go downhill. You are immediately and inexplicably brought to a strange and disgusting place full of hideous creatures and can do nothing but run the hell away. As you progress, you collect weapons and various other means of defence but you always feel extremely vulnerable as you move from one horrifying place to another again each time with no explanation as to how or why it is happening. This creates a strong feeling of disorientation and confusion leaving you on the back foot always trying to figure out the mystery of what exactly is happening while trying to not die at the same time.
The one place you are brought to which does offer a small piece of solace and act as a sanctuary is the abandoned hospital which you can travel to by staring into cracked mirrors (very little in this game makes sense). This abandoned hospital is staffed by a single nurse and plays music that is strangely familiar and soothing.
This nurse is clearly trying to comfort and calm you with and uses mostly the right words but her voice shows no concern or emotion whatsoever so her efforts are quite in vain. In this hospital you are safe from the monstrous creatures that hound you and can further comfort yourself by saving or collecting bonus items or upgrading your weapons and skills. This theme of a safe haven where the danger cannot reach you has been a common theme since the first Resident Evil game and carries through them all even to this spiritual successor of the series. But this time, your happy place is larger and has more ways to aid you. But as comforting and safe and warm as this place is, you know you can’t stay there forever. You know that once you’ve done everything you came there to do that you will have to leave this oasis of calm and once again go out to face the horror and defeat it.
As you progress through the disgusting and disturbing places, you will realise just how scarce ammunition is. Over the course of the game you do collect a decent amount of firearms, but ammunition to put in them is incredibly scarce. You do not have anywhere near enough ammo to kill everything, or even half of everything, using your weapons so you soon learn that wasting shots is a definite no-no and if you are going to shoot, shoot to kill and do not miss. This scarcity of ammo further reinforces your feeling of vulnerability in this terrifying and disorientating place and forces you to find other ways to dispose of your enemies such as sneaking up on them and going for the stealth kill or using the environment around you as a lethal weapon. But there are still some situations where none of these options are valid so the only thing you can do is run away and hope for the best. Being able to identify how to handle different situations and identifying which ones are no-wins that you should run away from is one of the trickiest things to get used to in the early game and early uncertainty may cause quite a few deaths before you get a feel for it. This is not a game where you run forwards feeling confident and powerful dealing with anything that comes your way easily and on the fly. You creep slowly into each new room carefully and feeling very unsafe evaluating it and it’s contents thoroughly and gradually developing a plan of action.
Some ways into the game, you are provided with a unique signature weapon for which you can craft a variety of special ammunition. But again, the materials to do so are quite rare so even this becomes a special use weapon as well reserved for dire circumstances. It does however provide some pleasant variety to the usual by the numbers array of hand weapons. There is also the added bonus that some enemies will not stay dead unless you set them on fire. And as usual, your means of doing this are limited. So it is another tense gamble trying to guess which ones will rise again and which will not as well as trying to cluster multiple enemies together into one fireball.
One other thing that you will notice as you move through the chapters and acts of the game is there there is no real continuity between them. It is unclear how one location is connected to another and sometimes you can just be mysteriously brought to a new location with no rhyme or reason. This disjointedness of events and areas with no logistical or physical coherence again heaps onto the mountain of madness that is occurring around you and over time starts to make you question the sanity of your character. He is losing his mind? Is everything I’m seeing an illusion? Is this place real? Was the last place real? All you can do is press forward and hope you can find out.
As you press forward you will also become acutely aware of his revolting the set-pieces are as well as the creatures that inhabit them. This is especially true of the boss monsters that you will encounter which at times can be almost nauseating and genuinely scary when they are running at you full pelt. One unfortunate aspect of some of the boss fights is that they are linear and scripted requiring you to perform specific actions to damage the boss or move to the next area. This can sometimes cause the player to feel lost unaware of the correct action to take and result in death or worse, wasting bullets. Thankfully, there are not a lot of boss fights like this and most of them are quite enjoyable challenges and extremely satisfying to see these hideous things go down at your hands.
The Assignment DLC
The Assignment has you taking on the role of one of your associates from the main game, Kidman, who is mysteriously absent through most of it and only pops up inexplicably every now and then. In the assignment, you find out the answers to some questions that were left rather ambiguous in the main plot line and you also discover that Kidman is not quite who she claimed to be.
Sadly, the game-play of The Assignment is an enormous let down compared to that of the main game. Whereas in the main game, you have plenty of choices of how to deal with situations in the form of shooting, fire, environmental hazards, stealth, etc, in The Assignment for 99% of the game, you only have one option: stealth. The number of times you have a weapon capable of killing an enemy can be counted on the fingers of one hand and for the rest of the DLC episode, you must make your way through purely by remaining unseen. You must avoid the enemies, hide from them, distract them but never confront them.
This drastic change of pace was a huge disappointment for me as I despise being forced to use stealth. It’s okay to be able to sneak up behind an enemy and take them out quietly. But to have to sneak past and leave them alive and keep sneaking past repeatedly, usually failing and dying many times, completely rubs me the wrong way. Sadly the added exposition of the story could not save this extremely annoying stealth based DLC episode and it was much more irritating than it was enjoyable. Even the boss encounters had you sneaking around trying to stay hidden and then sneaking up behind them to strike a blow in the back of the head before turning tail and running again. Not the way I like to play a game at all. I prefer my fights face to face. Avoid this one unless you’re desperate to know all the answers.
The Consequence DLC
The Consequence takes a slight turn for the better with some more options and additional combat spaced throughout it (you actually get a gun!) but sadly there is still too much forced stealth in it for my liking. Most of the same thoughts from The Assignment apply here. You play as Kidman again and it provides a few more answers to questions but in my eyes, it’s still not worth trudging through the maddening stealth sections.
The Executioner DLC
The Executioner episode is an extremely drastic departure from the previous DLCs and everything else in the game so far. In this one, you play as one of the nastier boss monsters from the main game and do so in first person perspective switching briefly to third person for some of the nastier finishing moves. In extreme contrast to the all-stealth-all-the-time Kidman episodes, the executioner is all attack all the time. The Executioner DLC is essentially a boss rush where you step into the shoes of a huge and horrifying monster and engage in a number of head to head battles with even huger and even more horrifying monsters.
As soon as you realise this, it quickly kills the initial rush you get from being in the shoes of such a powerful character. When you start this episode you will think that it will be a walk in the park because your character has so much capacity for destruction. However when you realise that most of your time will be spent fighting even stronger beasts, that feeling of superiority quickly wanes and you will soon realise that you are on the back foot again. Only at least this time, you can smash things in the face with your huge hammer and toss the smaller enemies around like they are made of paper.
You acquire additional weapons and items throughout the course of this adventure and can upgrade them much in the same fashion as you do in the main game but you will rarely stray too far from your trusty giant hammer. Unlike both of Kidman’s DLC episodes, the Executioner’s is much more enjoyable despite being much less relevant to the story.
The Evil Within And DLC Review Summary
The Evil Within is a worthy successor to the mantle of the Resident Evil games. I would have preferred this to have been Resident Evil 6 rather than the actual Resident Evil 6. Just replace the bulk of the monster enemies with zombies and bingo. It provides a well-adjusted balance between fear, stealth and fight or flight game-play where no situation has an obvious solution and each one requires careful planning and forethought. The one weak point is the plot and this just seems to have been hobbled together as an after-thought to allow the designers to create the environments precisely how they wanted and string them together with little regard for having to worry about disturbing the narrative because there basically is no narrative. Besides this lack of coherence, The Evil Within is one of the best survival horror games in recent years because instead of going full retard and all out action like the newer Resident Evil games, it provides a more thoughtful and balanced approach to the game-play. It mixes the excellent action with stealth that is not overly tiresome, the need for careful resource management and countless horrifying and WTF moments. An easy recommendation to anyone who enjoys the action or horror or stealth genres as it provides a superb mix of all of them.
Unlike the main game, the Season Pass for The Evil Within is a bit of a mixed bag. The first two Kidman based episodes add a little more to the story but are big let downs unless you are a lover of stealth and the Executioner episode is a jolly action romp change of pace but quite inconsequential to the story.
Final Score: 4/5
The Evil Within on Steam
The Evil Within Let’s Play footage