Bethesda has been hyping up their new horror title The Evil Within for a while now with a slew of trailers and screenshots. Going into the hands-off gameplay demonstration, I had expected to experience the type of horror game that would stand up to the psychologically trying content that had been shown in the past. Instead, this demonstration of The Evil Within left me unfrightened and generally unimpressed.
The demo introduced us to a cityscape, distorted and morphed by the evil forces at work. The ground is jagged and uneven. Entire city blocks raise and lower in an instant, providing a precarious environment for our protagonist Detective Sebastian Castellanos to navigate. This world is a bleak one, full of disrupted streets and saturated colors. The deformed city serves both as a visual representation of the pure destruction present and as a mechanic for helping the player to progress through the level. The world is washed out and dead, yet at any moment the roar of shifting landmasses could confront the player. As our presenter moved through the level, aspects of this broken landscape changed his path. Neon open signs lights, still flickering away despite the damage, lead players through the area. At other times, the player may be walking down a seemingly straightforward path only to have the ground shift away from them, leading them in an entirely different direction.
This time around, the demo seemed to be focusing on creating and establishing the environment in which The Evil Within takes place. We were shown a sparse amount of combat in this first half when Detective Castellanos is confronted with some undead looking firefighters. A few shots quickly downed the foes, but players are also given an option to ignite the corpse after shooting it down. Matches are limited and during the time of our demo we were not shown what happens if you fail to cremate a foe. From here our protagonist progressed through the landscape, exploring both the torn up, open world and the insides of a few buildings in passing. The close to this half of the demo featured an enemy hidden beneath a pool of water. Our presenter approached the lake, where a quick scene showed a mysterious underwater enemy pull a supply cache below the surface of the lake. In an effort to distract the fishy foe, the player picked up and tossed a bottle into the water before making his break for it. Unfortunately the beast was not fooled and the giant, mutated fish leapt up from the depths and devoured our hero.
The demo here abruptly cut to a completely different type of landscape. While our setting before had been wide open and changing, this one was anything but. We were staged in a scene out of nightmares. Rusting iron bars divided what looked to be a decrepit underground chamber into sections. The entire thing felt like a cross between a forgotten engine room and a mental asylum, which to say the very least is incredibly creepy. As our protagonist begins to explore, his vision distorts and is overcome by red tints and blinding static. White noise builds as a figure rises from the mist covering the ground. The distortion clears as the action-horror tones of the game are thrown into full effect. The remainder of the demo was spent solving simple horror puzzles and killing this big baddie, who looks like alternate costumed Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. The combat shown off here was impressive, focused equally on dodging and outsmarting the enemy. The player can kill him in the traditional fashion, by pumping him full of ammunition, or less conventional methods can be utilized including environmental traps and specialized cryo-ammo.
This demo felt like a demo, which is to say I felt like I was seeing a bullet pointed list of features rather than an actual game. The presenter went down the list of things you are able to do in the game, but I never saw the reborn horror game I had expected to see. I know from other media I’ve seen that The Evil Within can deliver on the atmosphere it has been marketing so far. My impressions from this hands-off demo alone left me feeling disappointed. Hopefully my feelings on it will come to change as the game nears its release date in August.