Hey anyone who's watching this! I've beaten my first game since posting this, so I thought I'd update even though it's not 2018.
Today I beat: The Evil Within
I put in 16 hours and 32 mins into beating this game on Survival Difficulty.
So this game is very divisive for me. When I originally heard of this game I was coming off of playing Outlast, which I found more frustrating than horrifying. So I didn't suppose I'd like The Evil Within either. After hearing the many recommendations found amongst the Allies, I decided to give it a go. I'm not much of a Horror game fan, but not because I don't like being scared. You see, as a player, I expect to die in horror games. A lot. But a common problem I see in these games is having to repeat segments of the game over, and over again. To the point where you're not scared anymore, just annoyed. The Evil Within does not fix these issues for the genre at large, but it does do some things right.
I'll start with the bad because I want to end on a good note. I absolutely DETEST how many 1HKO's there are in this game. Nothing grinds my gears more than a death that doesn't feel deserved. It's like a jump-scare. It's cheap and tacky. Why throw a mechanic in your game frustrates the player and slows down progress? I understand they want to raise the stakes of every moment, but there are ways the game does this properly already, which makes this bruise all the bigger.
In Horror games, there is meant to be a sense of dread and fear throughout the journey. I often feel drained after just an hour of playing games like this. The survival aspects, such as managing your resources and carefully picking your shots so as not to waste ammo, help guide the player into that experience. This kind of horror is carnal. We all fear of being without what we need to survive. In real life there's food, but in videogames there're bullets. And when you run out, it's basically GAME OVER, baby. That feeling of narrowly escaping a scene with your last bullet is so gratifying.
But where I think it succeeds it also blunders. I often found myself without any resources at all, being thrust into the next scenario without any possibility of getting more ammo. This forced me to run around a lot, and sometimes resort to punching to kill the enemies.
Another issue I had was with telegraphing. I didn't always know what my objective was throughout my time playing, especially during boss encounters. Do I kill the boss now or are they invincible? Am I supposed to go guns blazing or do I run for it to start a cutscene? Sometimes when I felt so stuck figuring out what I was supposed to do next, I resorted to a walkthrough. Similar games within the genre (The Last of Us) have perfected their way of telling the player where to go, what to shoot, how to take down the boss.
And those boss encounters. Hoo-doggie! I'd say the game shines in it's boss designs, but not necessarily when it comes to the fights themselves. Each boss has at least one 1HKO, and sometimes it's difficulty to tell if their vulnerable or not.
So why put so many 1HKO's?
My theory is that this game shows a lack of confidence. The Evil Within wants to be many kinds of games. Sometimes it's an action game. Othertimes, it's purely stealth-based. But unlike games that gave you a choice in these operations, The Evil Within seems intent of forcing the player to play each scenario in a certain way, or else face a huge disadvantage. If they had put more of a brute focus on the mechanics they do brilliantly, I'd have a better time playing.
The Evil Within has a sense of style so refreshing. It's cerebral, Giger-esque, and chaotic. In the early start of the game, Monsters and creepo's alike terrify the player, forcing them to act anxiously as their handgun bobs and waves just too far to the left. Running out of ammo, you duck into a duck shack, praying for just one more bullet. As you enter, a mirror cracks. A haunting player piano tune plays. A nurse with a ghastly voice waves to you. Is this the waking world or a fever dream? One minute you could be walking down a pulsating hallway, the next you wake up in a cold sweat in a hospital bed. All is strange in the world of The Evil Within.
The opening of the game left a great impression on me. Those early moments where I didn't know what to expect, and played very carefully. There were early signs of my signposting issues, but big eyed and bushy-tailed I fought through it.
When I found my first key I was so excited. The hint of secrets to come? YES! I went on to love opening the safes for a random prize. It matched that same feeling I mentioned of shooting out a boss with my last bullet. But here, a small game of luck can mean the difference between surviving another wave of baddies, or spilling your brain juice.
Speaking of brain juice: YES, RPG mechanics! Building my own version of Sebastian gave me control as a player to choose how I wanted to play. Don't like how floaty and inaccurate the handgun is? Increase the accuracy! Looking for a challenge? Don't upgrade it! And tying the mechanic with something as thematically bizarre as "Green Gel," as the game calls it (I'm just gonna keep calling it brain juice), is nothing short of brilliance.
In the end, I enjoyed my time with the game. I believe it needs more polish overall, especially in the technical department. If it did anything totally offensive, it's those darn one hit kills that force me to restart entire scenes over and over again. Otherwise, I'd say it's an experience that, while with it's own stubborn faults, uniquely tells a story and experience I can only imagine in a videogame.