Lights off, nappies on! It's Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within
Fear, thinking and vulnerability abound
The Evil Within
Then The Evil Within falls onto my doormat and I’m transported back to my horror gaming origins of Resident Evil. The dark reverie of Alien: Isolation is broken and things start to get messy. I’m suddenly gagging instead of crying with fear and frustration. The tone has definitely changed from Diane Arbus to Wes Craven.
Sparks fly at the asylum
God bless you, Bethesda, for bringing Shinji Mikami and his new studio Tango Gameworks on board. Mikami is a gaming legend and was director on Resident Evil 4 – nuff said. So I’m expecting great things from The Evil Within. Hummm, on first glance though its feeling all too familiar and just plain silly. Can this Silent Hill/Resident Evil mash deliver?
Sebastian the main character, in the employ of Krimson City Police Department, obviously takes himself and his unfortunate situation far too seriously. Boy band hair aside, he’s a dead ringer for Chris Redfield.
"Good evening officer, what appears to be the problem?"
The radio crackles with an APB that takes us straight to a spooky blood-splattered asylum. Everyone is dead apart from two survivors, so it’s time to check the security cams for some sense of how this massacre has occurred.
This gives me the first glimpse of fleet-footed vampire lookalike Ruvik, making me feel like I’m in an episode of The Strain. From the beginning, Mikami’s talented hand in the design is apparent. Those years of refinement make gameplay slick and smooth, especially when it comes to shooting a lumbering zombie in the face – accompanied by some meaty moist sound effects and literally buckets full of blood.
Knife work if you can get it
But trust me, you’re going to need a match to permanently put these Texas Chain Saw Massacre extras out of their misery. It was easy to get drawn in, spending time setting up complex obstacle courses for zombies involving electric bolts from my crossbow, tripwires and bombs.
I am sure to collect all that sweet zombie brain juice to flip through the looking glass and level up in my own personal electric chair, watched over by my own candy striper, Tatiana. Abilities, weapons and storage can all be levelled up.
When not hanging from a meat hook or dragging myself out of a cesspit, there were lulls in the action where I can explore areas and smash idols to gain keys. Still, always keep an eye out for invisible worm faced assholes, as not every monster is defeatable – for example Ruvik the invincible rent-a-ghost in his Assassin's Creed hoodie – so sometimes it’s best to run.
The threat of combat is always present but in no way did I ever feel as truly terrified as during Alien: Isolation. Yet I was often intrigued and excited when strange world events began to take place in Krimson City and the surrounding architecture starts coming over all Inception on me.
The narrative is slowly pieced together by snippets and memories about stem test experimental drugs to synchronise brain waves to create a collective consciousness. It doesn’t take long for me to realise there are much larger things afoot here and Mikami surely has some fireworks up his sleeve.
With Alien: Isolation I knew why I was there and, more or less, what the game had in store for me. The Evil Within holds my attention by being much more shadowy and surreptitious with its agenda and narrative.
The Box Man cometh
Will these two games refresh the horror gaming genre by placing the emphasis on vulnerability? To be sure these two games are disconcerting, spine-chilling, unsettling and very hard. Alien: Isolation has managed to change the power dynamic, which is unsettling and thrilling but it seems my hope that The Evil Within would be more Heavy Rain than a third person Fear was unfounded, alas, as it’s pretty much just a zombie shoot-'em-up. Indeed, Boxman and the chained up Sadist reminded me far too much of characters from Shocktoberfest at Tulley’s Farm. ®