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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Evil Within - behind the scenes of Bethesda's newest franchise



I join the queue of video game journalists eager to catch a glimpse of what, up until now, has been a tantalizing and terrifying blood filled trailer.

Shinji Mikami walks out to an attentive audience, explaining the concept briefly in broken English before allowing his translator to take over a more in depth discussion of the gameplay levels we’re about to see.

Mikami describes The Evil Within as a “terrifying game taking survival horror back to it’s roots”. “Pure” survival horror he calls its, jokingly adding that it has no “boring QTE’s”.

You play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, called to the scene of a crime at a mental hospital, and drawn into a dark and evil world unlike anything you have ever experienced before. With limited resources and ammunition, you must use other skills, including sneaking and your wits, to destroy your enemies.

The lights go dark, the anticipation heightens, and before we even see any visuals, eerie music fills the room.


Visually this game is gorgeous, even at this early stage, with realistic looking lighting and water effects, beautifully modeled and textured characters, and already there is a sense of the dramatic in the storytelling.

The music and sound effects are also superbly designed, really adding to the sense of ambience permeating this demo. In fact, already I am getting chills watching the opening sequence, and the tension in the room is palpable.

The voice acting isn’t misplaced in the slightest. In so many games you get a sense that it’s scripted (which of course it is, but it shouldn’t seem that way), but The Evil Within hits the mark at every turn.

You begin by walking through a mental asylum, where dead bodies greet you at every turn. You and your colleagues don’t know what to expect, but you know right away there’s some weird s**t going down. It only gets weirder of course when a semi-invisible guy is caught slaughtering guards on camera, and then looks right into the camera and sees you watching him. He promptly disappears and reappears right behind you.

The actual gameplay starts with you hanging upside down among a host of other bodies as a guy is being decapitated next to you. Of course you manage to escape, there wouldn’t be much of a game otherwise, but as you try and sneak out there is a sense of urgency as you are acutely aware your gaoler might turn and see you at any moment. The drone of flies and the tinny classical music playing over a loudspeaker is so provocative that you can almost smell the blood and decomposition.

What follows in this, the opening level, is a headlong flight from your captor, that is reminiscent in part of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head chases, combines with the maniac from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You need to be constantly cognisant of the position of your attacker as you sneak through the shadows to avoid him.

So much of this game is about quick reactions, if you turn the wrong way, if you hesitate for a moment too long, you’re not getting out of it alive. There are continuous surprises thrown at you along the way, constantly keeping you on your toes.

Later we’re shown another level demonstrating combat, where headshots must be used to take out the deformed creatures attacking you, or if you manage to bring them down, be sure to set them alight with the matches you’re carrying if you don’t want them to rise again.

This is a third person perspective game, with the camera positioned just behind the protagonist, and this coupled with the music, the character design and the monsters, seems to draw obvious comparisons to Silent Hill. This is by no means a bad thing, as it brings together all the best elements of “pure” survival horror as Mikami calls it.

The Evil Within is weird, creepy, gory but in so many ways it looks like the game that might just spark my interest in the survival horror genre once again. Of course there’s no current release date attached to it yet, so in the meantime we wait, in the hope that this is the survival horror game you’ve been looking for.

Credits: Bethesda Softworks YouTube channel
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