The Evil Within Review (PS4, 2014)

This one's really polarizing, it seems most people who played this either really liked it or really hated it, and I think I can see why. There's things the game does very well, and then it screws itself by asking too much of the player. The game plays at a movie aspect ratio, so there's black bars on top and bottom of the screen present at all times. Lots of people complained about them, but they didn't bother me. It rather seems like the developers made good use of the graphics processing power they saved from those pixels, because the game looks really good for a PS3 release with great character models and proper visual direction. The Evil Within actually manages to create a scary atmosphere by restricting the draw distance, so when it's dark in game it's really dark and you stare into a deep black (assuming your monitor is properly calibrated). Most games today get this wrong and merely display dark areas in a tint of dark grey that looks flat and boring - apparently not many devs know about the importance of contrast in creating impressive visuals. I found the game worthy of playing for this alone. After all there's not many games with a real, oppressive horror atmosphere coming out these days - you gotta take what you can get.

The story I liked for what it is. It's not a literary masterpiece, but works well enough and had me interested enough to keep playing in order to find out what was going on. The gameplay is where it gets tricky. I liked that the game offered a bunch of tricks to make it more than a simple shooting game, but not so much that it often expected me to be a near complete master of its mechanics. Some areas are a real slog to push through, like scenarios where the player has to run away from an invincible monster while paying attention to his surroundings. There's parts where you get repeatedly punished for not being capable of clairvoyance, knowing exactly what to do while a demon which kills you in one hit chases after. A few areas have the player locked in a gauntlet with masses of enemies coming after them, which seems fair on paper considering the type of special weapons one can use to hold off most enemies, but with so many coming after one it's easy to slip and just die, and much more frustrating to have to replay these parts from the beginning. The last couple of chapter were especially bad in this regard and almost had me just shelve the games on numerous occasions. Still I really enojoyed the good parts and don't reget having played this one. There's a lot of things The Evil Within does right that others could learn from, and there was a lot of potential for a truely great sequel with the bad design decisions worked out. Too bad the sequel apparently went in another direction is an all new game, not comparable to the first.