Hands-off preview: The Evil Within is gruesome, intense and surreal
The Evil Within has managed to generate quite a buzz since Bethesda and developer Tango Gameworks released the cinematic trailer a few weeks back -- a trailer worthy of getting totally stoked over. It set the tone for what could be a great survival horror game from genre legend Shinji Mikami. I recently got an extended look at The Evil Within during a Bethesda media event, and while the game wasn't playable, several minutes of gameplay were showcased to help paint a clear picture of what players can expect.
Two things really stood out right from the get-go. The first was the beautifully dark atmosphere of the game. The brief outdoor sequence featured gothic architecture and a fittingly cloudy sky. Our protagonist Sebastian entered the building, but things switched to an equally brooding tone that now featured dim lighting reminiscent of horror flicks. This could all be considered the obvious visual direction for this type of game, but it's worth mentioning due to just how pure the style was to the horror genre.
The other thing that stood out to me was the definite Shinji Mikami vibe that's been incorporated into this game. Mikami was previously revealed to be the director behind this experience, and it definitely shows. From the over-the-shoulder view that harkens back to the Resident Evil franchise to the claustrophobic feel of the level design, the Mikami style is inherent throughout The Evil Within, and that's in no way a bad thing.
Aside from the director's distinctive approach, there are a variety of elements that help The Evil Within exude a grotesque and almost surreal style. One scene where Sebastian was trapped inside a room filled with hanging bodies sported blood splattered all over the walls, creating an unsettling environment for both the protagonist and the player. To make things even more insane, a shrouded character could be seen through the door as he hacked away at a victim. Oh, and while all of this was happening, Bach's beautiful musical piece "Air on the G String" played on, creating an even more distorted sense of insanity and torture.
As far as the actual gameplay is concerned, Evil Within approaches a more traditional survival horror design. From what I saw, the action wasn't that heavy, instead depending on the player to come up with ways to progress and thrive in the environment that aren't as direct as blowing an enemy's brains out. This included setting up traps for mobs of zombie-esque baddies, causing explosions as these creatures entered through windows, and hiding inside a tight locker while a massive chainsaw-wielding character chased after Sebastian.