PAX East: The Evil Within Preview

It has been four years since Shinji Mikami, the father of Resident Evil, announced he was starting his own Japan-based studio under the name Tango Gameworks. In more recent years, he has acted as the Director on the influential action game Vanquish and collaborated with Suda 51 onShadows of the Damned. The first game to come out of Tango Gameworks is set to release in only four months time. The Evil Within promises to deliver a survival horror experience, which Resident Evil has strayed from for quite some time.

At PAX East 2014, the line for The Evil Within wrapped around multiple corners for all three days that the show floor was open. The presentation that I was privy enough to be a part of, didn’t divulge any additional plot elements and besides a brief video introduction from Shinji Mikami, not a single word was uttered.

The first demo at PAX East, puts Detective Sebastian Castellanos inside a metropolis ravaged by crumbling buildings and building shooting upwards towards the sky infested with blood-thirsty inhabitants that move and act quite similar to the infected villages in Resident Evil 4. The camera panned numerous times during the demo to show off the expansive nature of the city, showing off the visuals of everything moving around Sebastian. The only person not impressed was Sebastian himself. It didn’t matter if two walls were closing in on him, or his next step would send him into a deep ravine, he remained silent and completely obvious to the happenings in the environment.

I made a point to ask the publisher Bethesda that was at the event regarding my observation and I was ensured that certain elements of the game are still being refine and polished up in time for launch. It wasn’t specified at the event, but I’ve come to learn that the areas shown are quite a few hours into the game, so seeing the devastation and the zombie like creatures weren’t new to Sebastian.

The zombie-like beings attacked both alone and in groups, but nothing more than a few were shown on screen at once. It may have been just for the demo, but Sebastian employed a full arsenal to dispense of anything in his path. Heads exploded with carefully placed headshots and bodies were flown back with immense force with the powerful shotgun. The demo also showed Sebastian burning bodies, but nothing has been noted about what happens if you fall to do so. Much like in the recent Resident Evil games, the enemies have some intelligence, shooting blindly in Sebastian’s general direction with different types of weapons.

The second demo was received much more favorably from the audience cheering throughout. One of the games Nemesis style antagonists, Boxman, hunted Sebastian across a dimly lit basement/boiler room area. A few shots with a shotgun or revolver will explode the metal head of this grotesque creature. Entering a new room or section however will see him reappear out of thin air. At one point he appeared off screen and gave the entire audience a scare when his massive weapon come crashing down over Sebastian. The demo was short, but I counted that Boxman appearing at least five times, maybe more as I lost count when the presenter almost died from an attack. Thankfully, he had an overpowered healing item that fully restored his health (I’m sure it was modified). The crossbow was shown off to an applause as the special bolts can be used to freeze or explode targets. The bolts can be crafted at any time. Switching weapons slows down the action to a crawl, but doesn’t pause the game to keep the tension high.

While I don’t expect every game to mimic the way Nathan Drake would reach out for walls or have a comment about everything that happens, but Sebastian’s character felt static and detached from the game.

With four months to go, “rough” would be a apt way to describe The Evil Within. The frame rate was hitchy, and textures seemed muddy up close. The expansive vista of the city impressed, as did the way the environment constantly shifted. The enclosed basement area had fog/mist covering much of the environment and added to the tense atmosphere.

I hope the talented team at Tango Gameworks can polish up the presentation prior to release, as the gameplay from a hands-off perspective seems to be on par with Resident Evil and The Last of Us. The Evil Within certainty had flashes of survival horror, but I won’t be able to judge the game as a whole until the retail release in August.

The Evil Within