E3 2014: What Is Evil Within Shaping Up To Be?

One of the less talked-about games in all the shuffle of E3 is The Evil Within from Bethesda and Shinji Mikami. A bit of new footage and commentary from IGN has started to brighten my hopes for the game by revealing more about its structure.

There’s always been a feeling Evil Within is trying to recapture the feel of not only Mikami’s Resident Evil 4, but also games like the original Resident Evil. We just hadn’t seen much of any evidence of that. Pretty much every trailer I’ve seen for this game has been some kind of scripted event or maybe a chase sequence from a monster. I’ve seen little substance to back up Bethesda’s and Mikami’s claims.

IGN’s latest E3 demonstration is the most I’ve ever seen this game actually look like the aforementioned classics. We see them running through a mansion-like area that probably deliberately evokes RE1, specifically the Gamecube version. Plus the Bethesda spokesman confirms Evil Within is in fact not a linear game and that it will require some exploration. From there we can only speculate how all that will play out.

I don’t think we’re going to see exploration and puzzle-solving at the same slow pace as older survival horror games not only due to the combat focus, but also the differences between the hardware of today and the hardware of the mid 90’s. If you go back to those old games you realize part of their pacing came from the fact that every individual room was its own self-contained environment isolated by loading screens because that’s all the original PlayStation could handle. In today’s games, starting with RE4, players and enemies can freely run throughout an area the size of RE1’s mansion at a much quicker and more immediate pace. Resident Evil 5’s RE1 mansion replica proved that, and the whole environment felt smaller because of it.

Evil Within could end up feeling a lot like RE4 where individual sections are simply larger areas (Amnesia: The Dark Descent is another example). If that’s true, what’s gonna be the balance of combat versus exploration or puzzle-solving? All-in-all it’s looking like Evil Within could end up sitting somewhere in-between older survival horror games and newer action horror games.

Can it be argued some games have already attempted this balance? Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6 kind of tried this for a few minutes at certain parts, but didn’t really succeed. People like to say this of the first Dead Space game when looking back from Dead Space 3, which is a straight-up shooter. However I always thought even the original was an action horror game.

I think if you want a real survival horror game on today’s consoles you should probably wait for Frictional’s SOMA. It was never going to be a mainstream genre, but I’m just hoping Evil Within can strike just enough of a balance between satisfying fans of that genre and satisfying the demands of the retail games market.

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