Bethesda, if you’re reading this, I’d like to apologize in advance. It’s not that I don’t love you – in fact, your company puts more heart and soul into its games than most. And it’s not that you haven’t treated me well. When the chips were down and I had no way into your booth, your PR attendees looked down on me with pity and gave me an on-the-spot invitation to your media showings. It’s just that, well, the stuff you had to show just wasn’t that good. It wasn’t bad, no… far from it. But it certainly lacked the soul and forethought I’d expect from your studio. Well, enough with the apologies, here’s how it all went down.
The Evil Within
From the mind of Shinji Mikami, the guy who brought you Resident Evil, comes another survival horror game with “evil” in its name, The Evil Within (1). The characters are police (2) investigating a mental hospital that used to be a mansion (3) and are soon overrun by zombies while low on ammunition (4). Throw in some oddly timed voice acting and you’ve got (5) obvious giveaways this is Resident Evil all over again.
Whether you view that as good or bad is up to your personal taste. Kotaku agreed with my assessment and came away fairly positive (though still skeptical). From the footage I saw, the “horror” elements seemed a little too simplistic to actually be scary by modern standards. In one segment, the main character has to sneak around a hospital while a lunatic with a chainsaw searches for him. There’s only one entrance, one exit, and two or three hiding spots, so the game seemed to play itself.
Likewise, there didn’t seem to be much strategy when the mangled psycho chased Bethesda’s employee down a hallway. He basically just held his analog stick away from the chainsaw.
Yes, these are early parts of the game and yes, they were moody, but can a game be scary when the player is reacting to a very concrete threat in a very linear way? Compare this to Dead Space or even Dark Souls 2, where the player feels a constant, nebulous dread. Death isn’t coming from a chainsaw, but it’s implied at every step. As such, these titles seem scarier because they make the player’s every choice feel weighty and final.
All could be forgiven if later game segments seemed deeper, but they weren’t. Cornered in a small cabin, the demo player found his temporary domicile surrounded by the undead. But it just so happens he found three proximity mines and, wouldn’t you know it, there were exactly three entrances to the house! Perhaps this makes for good cinema, but good gameplay… not so much. Hopefully Bethesda can find a way to make The Evil Within less about the (obvious, chainsaw-wielding) evil without.