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Published on April 17th, 2014 | by Justin Smith

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The Evil Within: PAX East Preview

The Evil Within was probably the game I was looking forward to seeing most at this year’s PAX East. It’s a Shinji Mikami directed game which looks to be a spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4 (his last Resident Evil game). Seeing as though Resident Evil 4 might be one of my personal favorite games to ever be made, I was looking forward to seeing this game demoed. I did not get to play it, but Bethesda did show off two gameplay demos at PAX East, both of which I believe were new.

The first demo was in an outdoor section in a post-apocalyptic setting. A devastated city-scape with empty streets littered with destruction. Most of the demo was quiet and brooding, an atmosphere I really liked. I think good horror relies on a balance of such quiet and brooding segments sandwiched between moments of terror. The camera and movement looked exactly like Resident Evil 4, but I think they have adopted some improvements others have made in the third-person-shooting genre such as being able to move while aiming. Anyway, Sebastian (the main character) wanders through these streets for some time, while the environment shifts around him. Distant buildings will plunge into the abyss below while a little later the ground in front of Sebastian will break apart and ascend upwards. One particularly alarming segment had an alleyway slowly closing in on itself as Sebastian traveled through it. The end of the demo had Sebastian shooting at some enemies which looked to be sort-of zombified humans. They moved fast for a zombie though and some carried weapons. Overall it looked like very similar shooting mechanics to Resident Evil 4, with the added benefit of moving while shooting.

The second demo was in a dark asylum type environment. The action picked up quickly with Sebastian being chased by a large hulking butcher with a massive metal helmet. Very reminiscent of a Nemesis-type character, the beast was relentless. He didn’t look incredibly hard to dispatch, as the player could kill him after a few well placed shots. But the beast would respawn shortly thereafter someplace close by and continue the chase. If he reached Sebastian he could deplete the player’s health in just a couple hits so the tension to stay away was indeed very high. While running from the butcher the player had to complete a series of simple puzzles, most of which required just turning some valves and opening up new areas. At one point Sebastian looks to have made it to safety, with an impenetrable fence between himself and the butcher. But the beast was clever, killing himself and respawning on the same side of the fence of Sebastian which allowed him to continue the chase. It did remind me a great deal of something you would see in Resident Evil, which to me was a good thing. I think this game really does have the potential to be the next Resident Evil 4.

Potential is the key word here, though. While I really liked what I saw, it does need some improvement. Chief among the improvements is Sebastian himself. The benefit of third-person action over first person is the fact that the character you are playing can emote. That’s not really what Sebastian does. Other games in the same genre have main characters that react to what is happening around them, which goes a long way toward getting you hooked into the horror. But, the fact Sebastian does not so much as flinch even in scripted sequences kind-of dampens the horror. That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily a deal-breaker. I think the game’s setting, visuals, and shooting mechanics look solid enough at this point to keep my interest. It just could use some polish. It does come out at the end of this summer so there are still a few months until it goes gold. So, the fact it needs a bit of polish isn’t terribly alarming – a few months of work can go a long way.

I would say my personal hype for seeing this title and the demos they showed left me a bit disappointed. But, as said I think it has a ton of potential. The framework is there for something truly horrifying and amazing. And with the mind behind of the best games ever created directing it I think it’s still one to keep an eye on.


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