The sequel Resident Evil 4 fans always wanted.
Let's face it. The horror genre isn't what it once was, especially in the third-person action realm. Back in the early days of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, the clunky controls weren't looked at as a flaw, insomuch as a way to build tension for the player. Since that time, gameplay mechanics have been refined, and in an effort to appeal to the widest audience as possible, studios are making their horror games more action-heavy, with fast and responsive controls. Sadly, this has ripped a lot of the horror out of the experience.
Thankfully, Shinji Mikami, the brilliant and twisted mind behind the Resident Evil franchise, has stepped back up to the plate with Tango Gameworks to create The Evil Within, a game that clearly aims to bring back the magic that faded from the horror genre ever since the release of Resident Evil 4.
Speaking of which, if this can't be classified as a spiritual successor to RE4, then I don't know what possibly could be. The gritty and grainy visual style looks so much like the GameCube classic it isn't even funny. (Which is good.) Plus, the game's protagonist, Detective Sebastian Castellanos, not only looks but also moves a whole lot like Leon S. Kennedy. During a hands-off demonstration, I watched as Castellanos slowly navigated through decrepit and desolate city streets while an unsettling hum filled the air. Sound design is key to any good horror experience, and The Evil Within has it in spades. It's those subtle cues that put you on edge.
After a whole lot of exploring without much combat to speak of, Castellanos came across some horrifyingly disfigured creatures that looked an awful lot like zombies. After slowing to take aim, the player blasted away the foes with his trusty rifle. He then proceeded to burn the corpses by igniting the lifeless bodies with matches from his inventory. It was at this moment that I realized the game's slow pace only served to add to the intensity, making every action count, far from the twitch run-and-gun experience the more recent Resident Evil titles have somewhat become.
In another section of the game, Castellanos found himself trapped in what appeared to be some sort of rundown sewer. Then came the real threat, as a horrifying figure with a box on its head started to approach, hell-bent on murdering the player. The slow and deliberate way in which "Boxhead" moved toward the Castellanos all without saying a word was disturbing to say the least.
Fortunately, the player was able to pull up the game's weapon wheel and arm himself with a crossbow, which reminded me a lot of the Torque Bow found in Gears of War. After firing an explosive arrow into the figure and barely escaping, Castellanos continued to navigate the dark hallways as the sound of banging started to fill the air. Lo and behold yet another Boxhead lie in wait, hammering on a now broken valve to fill the room with steam, making it difficult to see. At this moment, I began to feel a sense of panic well up within me as the player attempted to evade the foe and get to a safe location.
The fact that a third-person action game was able to conjure fear within me, even though I wasn't even holding the controller, is a testament to the expert design of The Evil Within. From its unnerving sound design to its slow and tension-filled mechanics, Mikami's latest will certainly please horror fans when it launches on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PS3, and PC this August.