I made the mistake of playing a long preview of The Evil Within horror video game on a full stomach. I had eaten filet mignon. It wasn’t pretty as one of the first things I had to do in the game was slice open the abdomen of a corpse in order to pull a door key from his guts. The scene seared itself into my mind, and it makes me nauseous even writing about it.
But that’s the intention of Shinji Mikami, the creator of the zombie-killing Resident Evil series, and his team at Tango Gameworks. They want to scare you out of your wits. They want you to feel like you need to have a barf bag handy or to play while you’re wearing diapers. And most of all, they want you to think that it is far more stomach-churning and scary than any Resident Evil game.
Bethesda Softworks is publishing the survival-horror game for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS3, and Xbox 360 on Oct. 21. Like the Wolfenstein: The New Order shooter that just debuted, The Evil Within is one of Bethesda’s big hopes for branching out beyond its Elder Scrolls and Fallout role-playing games. Repulsive as it is, this game tries to maintain a measure of creative consistency throughout in an effort to make it one of the best-darn-terrifying horror games you’ve ever played. It has movie-like cinematic scenes and a mysterious narrative that will scare the bejeezus out of you.
“The demo is about long enough so that you can play it as long as you can stand it before you need more blood in your face,” said Pete Hines, the vice president of public relations and marketing at Bethesda, at a press briefing. “It’s very dark in there.”
He put us into dark cubicles with black curtains. We had a “panic button” to press so that we could call for help if we needed it. I played it on a PC, but the game will be playable on the Xbox One and PS4 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo event in June.
As you can see from the images, the undead creatures in this game are a step above the gruesome zombies you’ve seen in other games. Many of them have their throats ripped out or spikes through their heads.
These creatures are naturally more aggressive, but you start out unarmed or with only the weakest of weapons. At the beginning, the police arrive at the scene of a gruesome mass murder at an insane asylum. Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners run into a mysterious and powerful force that is sending the undead, known as “the Haunted,” at you wherever you go.
In the introduction, something knocks Sebastian unconscious, and he awakes to a maddening nightmare that mixes horrifying undead attacks with gruesome human experiments. Last year, Bethesda showed off the beginning. This time, I played Chapter 4 and Chapter 8 — all the way through. And as expected, this is survival-horror at its worst, or best, depending on your perspective on relentlessly bloody and violent games, wrapped in a chilling narrative where the tension is even scarier.
In these scenes, you go into rooms knowing that you’re walking into cruel traps, with lots of zombies and not enough ammo. Your main hope is to turn the evil creatures against each other and use your wits to create ambushes for them.
The creatures are very real, but you’re literally moving through a nightmare. A hooded enemy is your constant foe. Whenever you beat a trap, he changes the entire setting and drops you into a new nightmare. Corridors, walls, doors, and entire buildings morph into something else. The dark and misty environment is creepy. When you find a lantern, it’s quite a relief.
In Chapter 4, I found myself playing Castellanos in a village at night with a doctor as my companion. One of the doors to a home was lit, so I moved there first. The movement is plodding and slow, like in a Resident Evil game. Inside, I loaded up on some supplies. Then I moved into a room where a dead-looking doctor was operating on a body on a table. I could only see that doctor from behind at first, and he was making some grunting noises.
When he turned around to face me, the doctor recognized the undead surgeon as his brother. The brother turned around and revealed himself to be quite dead, with all sorts of wounds.
I fired the customary gunshot to the head. His head exploded, and he dropped to the floor. And then I lit the body on fire. Melee attacks will not kill the undead, but they may buy you time so that you can run to a better combat spot or reload a weapon. To really dispose of them, you have to burn the zombies that you’ve disabled. But the problem is there aren’t many incendiary sources. Offhand, you can carry around five matches at any given time. I figured the doctor’s brother was worth a match.
I looked at the body on the table, which had a long knife wound from his neck down to his lower belly. I moved around the room at look at an X-ray on the desk. It revealed a key inside the stomach of the body on the table. So I had to take a knife and rip down the belly wound to pull out the key. Of course, I had no choice in this matter. I found myself getting annoyed at being manipulated by the game designer to feel repulsed. In fact, I was so annoyed that I wasn’t as surprised as I might have been because I trained myself to expect the lowest of the low. Even with this kind of guard up, you can’t help but be surprised and frightened.