My First 5 Hours of The Evil Within

Its nearing the four-year anniversary of Bethesda’ Softworks The Evil Within and after the release of The Evil Within 2 last October I thought it was a fitting time to start playing through this series and document my first few hours.

As it stands I’ve played 4 hours and 52 minutes of The Evil Within, survived attacks from formidable foes, waded through pools of blood and been scared out of my mind. The opening section of the game sees Police Detective Sebastian Castellanos thrust into an ungodly world filled with nightmarish abominations. Game play is sectioned off in The Evil Within through chapters which immediately reminded me of Resident Evil Revelations and Resident Evil Revelations 2 however it quickly became apparent that The Evil Within was an entirely different representation of the zombie genre.

Visually there is a monotone colour scheme for The Evil Within, one which is a constant throughout the game. The Evil Within also installs fear in the player with a strictly cropped screen to play with. One of the first things I noticed was the immediate uneasiness this cropped visual gave me along with a niggling feeling of anxiety. To fully take in the environment I had to move the sluggish camera around dark and abandoned rooms rather than admire them without turning Sebastian’s back to the shadows. Horror is amplified in other ways too, one of the most notable which always sent my heart racing is the simple act of opening doors. Similar to the cropped screen sight is limited as Sebastian enters new rooms as the camera zooms in so that his frame fills the view, meaning that enemies lurking in the next room are entirely invisible.

The first village that I encountered in The Evil Within immediately reminded me of Resident Evil 4 but in this iteration, I was more concerned about being stealthy and avoiding the reanimated villagers scattered through the bleak remains of a once bustling town. In the Resident Evil games, you’re stocked to the max with powerful weapons and ammunition and health is plentiful, even on its easiest setting on the first level of the game. The Evil Within immediately distances itself away from the standard convention of easing in players gently. In fact, The Evil Within’s take on survival horror means that the first village in the game immediately reminded me of Central Yharnam from Bloodborne with its endless mobs of angry relentless corpses. And anything that reminds me of Bloodborne is a good game in my books.

The Evil Within differentiates itself by focusing on a heavy supernatural element. As Sebastian progresses through the game he’ll be continually be warped between worlds and pulled into distorted environments all of which are eerier than the last. I found this to be very interesting as I’ve only ever played games which are firmly set in one dimension so, playing the game under the constant niggling feeling that at any moment I could be transported to another dimension was both irritating and exhilarating.

During my first five hours of the game I came across the abomination of Laura, in the form of one of the early bosses in The Evil Within. The Evil Within makes it clear that fire is an important weapon in this game and even deceased enemies should be burnt to prevent reanimation. Laura is a skulking creature who bursts out from dead bodies and is effectively immune to bullets, but she is deathly afraid of fire. For the first time in a while I found myself very intimidated by a boss fight because I had a handful of bullets which did nothing to my adversary. My health was low and probably for the first time in the game I had no matches to burn Laura. I felt completely terrified.

However, I found myself a big fan of the components of this boss fight once I got into it, working with the environment Sebastian can ignite barrels of flammable liquid, trap Laura in incinerators or light bodies on fire as she attempts to retreat and travel around the arena. Her sudden fast speed manoeuvres filled my heart with panic and left me scrambling to get out of her way, and for good reason too. If Laura manages to get a hold of you’ll be locked in her combo’s where she’ll kill you without mercy. Normally with initial bosses you can deal with a decent amount of damage from bosses, the occasional kick, bite or slash won’t do too much to you, not in Laura’s case though, getting cornered by her is almost always fatal.

After I finally defeated Laura I felt an immense pressure lift off my shoulders, The Evil Within felt challenging yet not hard enough for me to warrant pulling my hair out at every twist and turn. And with at least another five to six hours of the game left I imagine that I will have the remainder of The Evil Within under my belt in no time at all.