We aren’t professional media, so we have to shell out our own hard earned currency to buy the games we want to cover. Every now and then a game is so bad that we have to try and get some value out of it by trading it in. Here’s why…
Time Played – 3 hours (Chapter 4)
Time Owned – 3 days
Completion Status – Unfinished
It’s been a long time since I said, out loud, “fuck this game” and walked away from the screen only a few hours in. Evil Within is a 2006 game with some 2010 sensibilities coming out in 2014 on a console capable of so much more.
The problems start almost immediately, with an introduction full of one hit kills and very little direction or assistance. This idea permeates throughout all the chapters I saw, where very little effort is made to teach the skills needed to to use most of the games systems. For instance, one of the items scattered throughout the environments are matches, with which the game says that you can burn the bodies of downed enemies as well as things like hay bales or errant furniture. It did not, however, at any point tell me WHY I should be doing this. Bodies didn’t reveal more supplies, they don’t come back from the dead, and most enemies will just walk round the burning pile.
Dishonoured was a game that I feel did stealth right, giving you all the tools to be a ghost, while also providing a Plan B in case shit goes bad. Evil Within gives you no such leeway. After the exceptionally linear opening chapter, the game dumps the player into a much more open area with a fair number of enemies patrolling. By the time most games of this type wheel this scenario out, you have been trained in most of the game mechanics and this is the first chance you have to employ them in a way that you see fit. Evil Within is not one of those games. It’s entirely possible that you will start with no ammo and so have to rely entirely on stealth kills, which are very easy to mess up considering how poor the feedback is regarding enemy sight lines and when you are hidden. As soon as you are seen, you are basically dead due to the most useless melee attack ever seen in video games, and have to endure the long reload times.
Not only are they long enough to be consistently annoying, when they finally do finish they reveal the real horror of Evil Within, the checkpoint system. While the linear sections checkpoint reasonably regularly, the open areas appear to use some kind of mythical algorithm for working out when to save. Either it will save at the worst possible time in terms of supplies or not save at all, with a small stealth mistake sending you right back to where you started disregarding the last 20 minutes of careful sneakery. The latter is personally worse for me, as games that don’t respect the time I give them are the ones that cause the most frustration (I’m looking at you Dark Souls).
The slow loads are just the start of the technical mess that is Evil Within. It’s built on the ID Tech 5 engine, originally developed for Rage, and was known at the time for providing great levels of detail and 60 frames a second while making some concessions in terms of texture streaming. With this possible on the previous consoles, it’s insane to see this game barely hit 30. This is even more jarring when taking into account the ridiculous letterboxing on the entire game. I find claims that it was done for artistic reasons difficult to believe, considering how poorly the game runs despite not having to render a third of the screen.
I was cautiously optimistic for The Evil Within, with it’s gruesome horror leanings and esteemed developer lineage, but it has failed me in basically every possible way. It is a technical mess, lacks polish in the gameplay, and lacks even the kind of interesting story that has made me power through bad games in the past. Now that disappointment is over, it’s back to waiting and hoping that Silent Hills will fill the gap in my heart that Evil Within has left.