Psychological Horror in The Evil Within Franchise.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve finally played The Evil Within franchise! I assumed that my play through of The Evil Within and its sequel The Evil Within 2 would mirror the zombie killing thrill ride I experienced in other zombie games such as Resident Evil and Dying Light, but I wasn’t quite right!

It quickly becomes apparent when you play The Evil Within (read my post on the first few hours here) that, although the game is grounded in survival horror, it’s also indebted to psychological horror. The Evil Within begins in a hospital where we’re introduced to a parallel world, known as the STEM world, where everything is dark and nightmarish abominations roam freely. Sebastian continuously moves between these worlds and, as he does, his mind is manipulated to create the perfect psychological horror experience. Jump scares are commonplace and long corridors filled with supernatural encounters set your heart racing.

Once you had settled into the environment of The Evil Within the game slightly loses its psychological horror edge. The bosses (especially the Keeper and Laura) become more annoying than frightening as the unpredictability of the strange world built within Ruvik’s mind becomes familiar. The Evil Within however still does produce scares without relying on the cliché jump scare formula. The eye of detection at the top of the screen opens slightly every time you wander into the lair of an enemy, once the eye is fully open they can see you. Sometimes however, you can’t see them, meaning you’ll be twisting the camera around frantically to locate your adversary. The entirety of The Evil Within is cloaked in shadows, and the majority of environments are monotone and dark, connotating themes of death and despair.

As the game concludes, the world becomes more unstable as Ruvik becomes weaker. The finale is set in a strange world, where objects are frozen hovering in the STEM world as if caught in the eye of a tornado. The boss battle here is slightly intimidating but pales in comparison to the minor details which made the main game so eerie. Thankfully the second instalment to the franchise emphasises these touches even more to make a truly terrifying game.

The Evil Within 2 improves on the first game immensely. Sebastian once more finds himself in the unstable world of the Union, a world formed via STEM technology and supported by the mind of Sebastian’s daughter whom he initially believed perished in a house fire. Whilst the enemies in the first The Evil Within (known as the Haunted) were slow and weak, the zombies esque Lost in The Evil Within 2 are aggressive and fast. Chapter three of the game sees Sebastian trying to locate signals within a town in the Union. Although it seems abandoned, hordes of the insane Lost viciously attack Sebastian as he attempts to save his missing daughter.

The Lost may be feral and aggressive but in The Evil Within 2 they’re the tip of the iceberg. Just like its predecessor, smaller touches to the game create an eerie atmosphere that increases the tension felt by the player. The houses that Sebastian enters will be dark, with poorly lit corridors and hidden enemies. When these elements are paired with the knowledge that there are deadly enemies nearby it’s easy for smaller events to set the heart racing. Once the player gets deeper into the nightmare these elements only get more intense.

Inquisitive players might have the misfortune of meeting eerie foes known as Anima. These ghosts appear only to their chosen victims draped in tattered robes with dark long hair, along with calling Sebastian’s name they sing an unsettling rendition of Claire de Lune which the player can use to gauge distance from them. My first encounter with an Anima was in Juke’s Diner where, after viewing the memories of a man who committed suicide, the atmosphere grew cold and the screen fizzed as it struggled to stabilise. Fighting an unknown enemy in a confined space was terrifying, the fear only increasing when I realised that the door was now locked and to escape, I would have to defeat her. Not only is her form ghastly her sound effects are haunting. Her creepy calls for Sebastian and other sounds come through the controller as well as the television. This means that any players who thought they could alleviate the fear by having the volume set low cannot escape the full experience of these optional encounters.

Ultimately, in both games it’s the execution of the smaller horror moments which makes these games so memorable. The clichés that we expect when playing games of this calibre are present, but because of the implementation of them and the attention to SFX and visuals everything seems dangerously intense. Utterly unique, The Evil Within franchise offers up a level of horror which guarantees scares, thrills and sleepless nights.