The Evil Within is a frustrating amalgam of confusing game design and irritating mechanics, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its own set of interesting tidbits, albeit those that seem to have been culled from a game of a much higher pedigree. It makes sense, of course, that Shinji Mikami should reach back into the past for inspiration, but these design decisions seem to be more than just inspirations for the game.
Here are five ways The Evil Within channels Resident Evil 4.
1. Breakable boxes for items
True, there are breakable boxes and items of that ilk in other games, but the way protagonist Sebastian Castellanos poises himself when he’s busting up wooden crates brings to mind visions of Leon Kennedy, raising his knife to break through the crates hidden around the game to receive ammo, herbs, or other items. In a game placed in a modern and recognizable urban setting like The Evil Within, placing items in other containers would have made more sense, but using wooden crates feels much more like an homage than anything else.
2. Traps Abound
How many times did you find yourself running around in Resident Evil 4 and then exploding into a million little bits? A trap was always to blame, wasn’t it? The very same principles apply to The Evil Within, where you’ll fall victim to tripwires and bear traps that will ensure you’re cursing your controller or tossing it straight into your television because you’ve got to restart from different checkpoints over and over again. Disarming them is a lot more frustrating in The Evil Within since you’ve got to position yourself directly beside tripwires (shooting them in Resident Evil 4 was addictive) but it’s the same principle.
3. Instant Kills Galore
One of the more frustrating parts of The Evil Within and Resident Evil 4 before it is the fact that there are a variety of ways to lose your life in the blink of an eye with no chance to avoid it. Although The Evil Within makes things a little less frustrating with a checkpoint system instead of having to go back to your last save, players will find themselves restarting again and again. In fact, the first enemy players will meet in The Evil Within will more than likely take their life while they are left defenseless. Following that, a host of chase sequences and just plain random enemies will chew your head off or cut you in half.
4. Good Gun Syndrome
After a long and troubled road through survival horror, nothing feels better than finally finding some heavy firepower, whether it be an RPG or a Magnum. Unfortunately the game’s atmosphere and persistent sense of dread can lead players to constantly hoard all of their most powerful guns and ammo. In Resident Evil 4 it lead to me almost never using an RPG or Grenade unless I had ran out of ammo for my lesser weapons. I found myself doing the same thing in The Evil Within: I would hoard all my grenades and explosive bolts in anticipation of an even bigger baddie and would end up having to use them at the most inopportune time as I ran out of ammo for my handgun and shotgun. To an extent The Evil Within has alleviated this a bit by allowing players to craft crossbow ammo out of spare parts, but I still found myself having to waste explosives on standard Haunted.
5. Horror Shell Shock
One of the most scary things about the original Resident Evil was not a constant barrage of enemies, but the unique combination between silence and loneliness combined with fear of the unknown, and the horror of the inhuman creatures which players had to combat. Resident Evil 4 changed this formula to focus more on the tension of constant combat against overwhelming odds in a horror setting. The result of that formula however, while creating an enjoyable game, did so at the sacrifice of some of the sheer terror of truly not knowing what was around the bend. For me this created a kind of “shell shock” instead of the anxiety caused by the question “Is there going to be a zombie in this room? Can I survive?” As the door on the loading screen creaked open, I found myself choosing combat as a matter of course. Although I still felt the tension of overwhelming odds, when I met an enemy I was not frightened, as I had already slaughtered hundreds of Ganados and gigantic beasts. The Evil Within seems to attempt a melding of classic survival horror and the action-horror of Resident Evil 4, but the constant attacks and encounters along with the chase scenes leave me anxious, but not terrified.
But Is This a Good Thing?
With two games having the same director, one could expect similarities. However, The Evil Within, in addition to the similarities mentioned above plays like a sequel to Resident Evil 4. With all the praise and acclaim that Resident Evil 4 has garnered since its release in 2005, some may ask “Why is that so bad?” I feel that in a genre that needs revitalization desperately, that the godfather of Survival Horror, Shinji Mikami, missed the opportunity to once again make his mark in the world of video games. However, it’s up to the players to decide if this game will truly stand the test of time.