My jaw dropped to the floor the second I saw Shinji Mikami enter Bethesda’s presentation room at E3. There I was, literally two feet from the man who invented survival horror, and he was about to show me The Evil Within.
I was not disappointed.
Mikami was quite excited as he proclaimed he was back to the survival horror genre for the first time since Resident Evil 4, and was on a mission to take the genre back to its roots, pure and simple. He told us to expect limited ammo. He told us that we’d be forced to sneak around enemies rather than confront them. He furthered that our biggest enemies in the game would be ones born from our own imagined fears.
Best yet, switching from Japanese to English, Mikami also said to expect “no boring QTEs” within The Evil Within.
It the hands-off demo that followed, we watched as our detective protagonist Sebastian arrived to investigate a strange occurrence at an insane asylum. After a rather Japanese sequence in which the detective tells his female partner to wait outside because there are dead bodies and pools of blood in the foyer of the asylum, the crazy stuff really starts to begin.
The developer playing the game made his way to a security room, where in true Resident Evil style, closed-circuit footage began to show a group of police officers firing wildly at an off-screen menace. Eventually, the ethereal enemy leapt into frame, instantly moving to dispatch the officers in a way that would have made the super-powered Albert Wesker proud.
Turning around, Sebastian found the menace was now directly behind him, and got stabbed violently in the head. It didn’t mean death — or hell, maybe it did, ala Silent Hill, but who’s to say for sure — as he woke up shortly thereafter, hanging from a meat hook and about to be sliced and diced by a huge hulking beast of a man.
I bring up the Silent Hill reference purely because the game put a grainy filter over the world at this point. The beast’s lair was right out of Silent Hill‘s Underworld too — blood, rust, flies and doom. Everything looked violent, and everything looked terrifying. Moreover, there’s far more going on at that point than we can be aware of, so instantly your mind begins to race with questions and potential answers… which usually just cause more questions to be asked.
The sequence that followed was a tense game of cat and mouse, as our weaponless detective had to first evade his captor, grab a key to unlock a door, and move on. The beast caught on to our plans, causing a tension-filled sequence as we ran down corridor after corridor trying to escape — and if you’re a Resident Evil fan who says you didn’t think of the Nemesis in this sequence, you’d be lying.
A lucky slice with a chainsaw tore up a chuck of Sebastian’s leg, making our attempts to escape even more difficult. As we tried to limp to safety, the game’s soundtrack swelled. We painfully crawled over and through huge metal obstacles that littered the bowels of the insane asylum, as the beast lumbered behind, easily throwing them aside. As it looked like we were about to meet our end, we futilely threw ourselves into an open elevator…
… and the entire scene around us changed. The beast was gone — and so too was the grainy filter — giving us a chance to catch our breath. I say “us,” and I mean it — the presentation had the entire room in its thrall at that point.
In short, the game excels at screwing with your mind.
We were then treated to another sequence, this time dealing with combat. The scene opens as Sebastian arrives at a house that’s just about to be overrun with baddies. Sure enough, I could hear a number of fellow journalists murmur, “it’s like Luis in Resident Evil 4,” and sure enough, men with torches were throwing ladders at the building’s windows in an effort to gain access.
Sebastian can shoot while moving, before you ask; and, as you’d probably expect by now, the game’s combat system works very much like that of Resident Evil 4, with an over the shoulder view while you take aim. The on-screen UI gives you an ammo count plus a tally of the matches you have on you; as you take out your relatively fast moving, grotesque and sort of zombie-like opponents, you’ll have to burn them to make sure they stay down. The crimson heads from the Resident Evil GameCube remake should be coming to mind right about now.
The Evil Within is up there as one of my favorite games of E3. It’s promising moments of pure horror, woven with desperate combat and tense hide-and-seek scenarios. most importantly, it’s not ashamed to blatantly roll out the elements that made Mikami’s Resident Evil games so great.