Survival Horror: It's probably right behind you.
I willingly kept myself in the dark. I did not read any previews. I did not watch the American Horror Story-themed trailer. I censored myself from all things The Evil Within developed by Tango Gameworks, published by Bethesda, and conceived by one devilish Shinji Mikami (the creator of Resident Evil). All I saw was the opening teaser video that ominously looped on Vine with rotating visions of barbed wire and the scratches of a record player spinning "Air" by Sebastian Bach. Because what is torture without classical music?
At Bethesda's pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, I and a group of other bleary-eyed journalists were confined to a darkened room and forced to watch through twenty minutes of a hands-off demo. It starts off as a common detective case, which is a lie of course, as Detective Sebastian and his partner investigate a mental hospital filled with the fresh corpses of patients, doctors, and everyone else in between. Soon enough, the gruff, hard-bitten detective wrapped in a noir trenchcoat enters the security station, only to find a monitor showing live feed of several cops being murdered by a warped apparition in an ethereal hoodie that covers its eyes. He gasps as if he knows what the apparition is and he tries to flee the room, but it's much too late…
By his next conscious breath, he realizes that's he upside-down, his ankles tied by a loose thread, with just enough wiggle room to feel like a spring chicken on the assembly line. The smell of the rotting human carcasses surrounding him attracts swarms of flies and lures the monster to his feeding den. All that he can surmise through his blurry vision is that this hulking demon has a chainsaw and a growling appetite. Spotting the glint of a knife from corpse hung nearby, he sways for his life. With several pushes, he grabs the blade, cuts himself loose, and falls to the tiled floor. His legs have been battered and his state is desperately low. Stealth is his only friend now.
Detective Sebastian is a regular cop, not a Leon Kennedy or a roided-out Chris Redfield. He can't march over to a horde of zombies and falcon punch his way out of danger. Instead, he must creep around enemies and avoid combat where he can, not expending what little ammo he can scrounge and use against any walkers with glowing eyes on its head. Otherwise, if he's being swarmed by monsters, there's nothing better than a few handy grenades and mine traps set beside open windows that can take care of the oncoming horde.
What translates most about The Evil Within is that it's by far the best shot we have to seeing the (wonderfully evil) revival of the survival horror genre. Action horror has its place in the industry, but it's hardly a fair substitute for good ol'-fashioned survival horror. It's about conserving ammo and effectively bypassing threats the protagonist has no business fighting. It's about scaring the player psychologically without jump scares. It's about a brilliant sound design that understands the importance of silence. It's about walking down a hallway and then seeing a wave of blood crashing into the walls. It's about scaring the shit out of you with absolutely nothing.
The Evil Within, which as of now will only have a single-player campaign, will release for both current-gen and next-gen consoles in 2014.