The Evil Within is getting a lot of polarized reviews.  I feel I must reassert my stance.

Game’s bad.  And here are some bonus reasons on why:

I neglected to mention in my initial review of the game some of the technical stuff.  In this era of gaming, I don’t find it necessary to point out graphics and audio quality.  They’re pretty much “gimmes.”  Provided they’re not bad, they’re not worth commenting on.  As long as it doesn’t take away from gameplay, you have a lot of wiggle room and style is just so much more important.

Since it’s clear this game lacks a style of its own, it becomes a lot easier to see the flaws.

Let’s start with the camera.  The camera is impractical and too zoomed in.  It is obviously borrowed from RE4, which was revolutionary at the time, but is something the industry has refined and moved past.  Going back in time for that camera and not compensating with a decent aiming system is just bad design.  Worse, it interferes with the stealth and melee gameplay.

The poor audio quality is unforgivable.  The audio in cutscenes is grainy and sounds like the actors were recorded in a bathroom.

And let’s come back to a huge mistake the horror genre often makes.  Torture porn and jump scares are not true fear.  There is a place for them.  The Evil Within decides that “constant” is the best approach which couldn’t be more wrong.

I appreciate being grossed out by a good barbwire enema.  The scene in the Silent Hill movie in which Pyramid Head tears the skin off someone is awesome.  Part of what makes that scene so intense is that he doesn’t go around ripping the flesh off everyone he encounters 2 minutes into the film – I mean I assume he’s the kind of guy that would.  That he has a patchwork quilt of flesh draped over his recliner is a given.  But waiting to see it and allowing it to happen to a character I know is what makes it so good.

The Evil Within rockets you into a vat of blood immediately after the opening cutscene.  You’re promptly shown torn apart husks of meat and a classic fat guy performing impromptu surgery on some nameless victim.  The gore is so obviously a prop that it takes away from the experience that could’ve been.

The flaws don’t end with style though, they bleed into gameplay.  There is such a constant supply of spikes and bombs and barbwire that it feels like you’re playing Super Meatboy.  It’s not scary if it’s expected.  There are some many traps that it’s just part of the gameplay and starts to get comical the amount of ways you can die.  Add in about four jump scares per hour, I actually averaged it, and you have a checklist of what not to do in horror.

The cardinal sin of a horror game is not being scary.  Spoiler: this game isn’t fucking scary.  When a story fails to generate tension, lean on the gameplay.  When the gameplay relies on too many props and has a character that walks around quipping “where am I, what is this place, of fuck another vat of blood.” I lose my patience.

“Survival horror” is trendy right now.  The video game equivalent of slapping a “GMO Free” label on an action adventure game.  And while the game does make an effort to begin as survival horror, it quickly takes a backseat.  The moment you get a sweet fucking crossbow with explosive ammo or can upgrade your HP and Damage, you cease to be a survival horror game.  Limited supplies just don’t cut it.  Especially when all the problems with the horror part of it exist.

Did I mention there’s a forced “maybe I’m just crazy” thing and journal entries about a dead child and alcoholism in my last review?  Oh I did?  Mentioning it again.  It sucks.

Honorable Mention:

There are flashes of Mikami’s creativity.  I actually liked the way the game would shift between tone and environments with little warning.  If it weren’t for how absolutely heavy-handed all the other elements were, it would’be been quite successful.  There are also some really awesome monster concepts.  One near the end of the game, we’ll call him Fishhook Gallows, is particularly bad ass.  I’m talking Pyramid Head cool.  Pyramid Head is cooler, mind you, but that has to do with his symbolism and integration into the story.  It’s a shame the main villain is so offensively bland.

I get the sense that Mikami is experimenting.  The experiment fails but is a necessary step in the advancement of the genre.  Future games will (hopefully) learn from the suck of Evil Within and be better for it.  In that way it’s a lot like the original Resident Evil that made Mikami famous.  RE had many flaws and was over-celebrated.  But it had to exist so that RE2 and Silent Hill could be born.  I’m not suggesting a sequel for this game – that would be terrifying – but there is some credit due here.

The Point:

The tragedy is that The Evil Within could’ve been a successful experiment.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t a complete video game experience.  It lacks originality and isn’t executed well.  It’s a clumsy Frankenstein’s monster.  Several other video game experiences are sutured together and lacquered with gallons of blood.  The formula could work but doesn’t here because of some glaring technical oversights, bad story, and a stunning lack of nuance.