In 1996, a game called Resident Evil was released on the Sony PlayStation and invented a new genre.
There had been scary games before, and gory games before, and zombie games before – Doom was all of these, for instance. But Resident Evil was something new, something distinctly cinematic. And so the survival horror was born.
It had a story rather than a setting, and set-piece events that played out like the most terrifying moments in a Wes Craven film. It was actually worse than that, though, because you were an active participant. In fact sometimes it was so scary that you weren’t really sure you wanted to play any more. But at the same time, you didn’t want to not play either. And when a game toys with your emotions like that, it’s doing something right.
That The Evil Within manages the same trick is to be applauded, but it’s also hardly surprising given that the man behind it is Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. What is surprising is that nearly 20 years on from his first game, he’s moved on so little. Is that a problem? Only if you’re more bothered about history than you are about being creeped out.
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THERE WILL BE BLOOD
The Evil Within is a deeply unsettling game. You play Sebastian Castellanos, a detective investigating a murder who soon finds himself trapped in a nightmare world in which strange creatures roam through abandoned villages and blood is never far away.
We played two chapters, four and eight, and saw more of the red stuff than in a dozen Call Of Duties. But it’s far from a combat-filled slashathon. Instead, The Evil Within is a true survival horror in the RE tradition: ammo and health are scarce, and your best bet is often to avoid the various grotesques you encounter.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Chapter four starts outside of a ramshackle village. Various buildings are on fire and menacing sounds can be heard nearby. A doctor character appears and urges us to get inside. Though he has a beard, he’s clearly no fixie-riding hipster, so we decide to trust him. But before legging it into the nearest hut, we assign our weapons to shortcuts on the d-pad. Not that we get many. There’s a revolver and a shotgun, plus a crossbow which can be equipped with various bolts, but hardly any ammunition.
We also get a lantern, but using it tends to attract the undead like milkshake-hungry boys to Kelis’ yard. Plus, we get some matches. These are essential, because while a single headshot will down most enemies, they won’t stay down for long unless you set fire to them.