An overwhelming, entirely unexpected death
The scraps of painting are tucked away at opposite ends of the mansion, and--much like the puzzle they belong to--are not flagged up or explained in any way. Just finding them takes a while, but as for getting close enough to note down the required information Yikes. The first painting, for instance, is on the mezzanine of a library. Theres already a female mutant stalking the room on an erratic patrol path, and it takes some tense and ballsy stealth-stalking before I can put her down with a silent knife to the head.
Upstairs, I find myself on a rickety, ring-shaped platform, with the painting on the other side and a dead mutant between me and it on either side. As I step forward, one springs up. Then the other. Im surrounded. I back away from the first, hoping I can burst his skull before I step backward into the clutches of monster number two. Before I can squeeze off a second shot, theres another flash. Ruvik appears directly behind be and kills me in an instant. The second zombie doesnt even get a look in. Shaken and confused, I restart, wondering how the hell something so brutal has just happened, seemingly at random. On my second attempt, I discover something very important. And brilliant. You see The Evil Within has...
Completely unpredictable monsters
My second time through the library, theres only one zombie lying on the ground upstairs. Ruvik remains staunchly absent. I count my blessings, but feel Ive got off too easily. Im alive, but the tension is now rising with every second that Im not attacked. This becomes a consistent theme as I explore the mansion further. As it turns out, while certain enemies will appear, scripted, in certain areas every time, some others have more general behaviours. Sometimes they turn up, sometimes they dont. Sometimes their numbers will vary, or the timing of their appearance will change. Ruvik himself seems to be on a randomised timer, capable of appearing anywhere you might be, however inconvenient.
Factor in the knowledge that it takes very specific treatment to permanently kill an enemy in The Evil Within--namely burning the body or exploding the skull, both of which require desperately rare resources--and thats a hell of a scenario for mixing up the bloody cat-and-mouse game. In The Evil Within, if you relax in the knowledge that youve learned all the threats in an area, youre actually in more danger than ever before. And as for dealing with those threats, that's all about...
Knife-edge, tactical combat
Some things you need to understand about The Evil Within's combat. Firearms will put enemies down, but only temporarily unless you take the time to finish them off. The sound of gunfire will bring other monsters in the area straight to the party. Ammo is incredibly scarce. Stealth kills are silent, but take a lot of risky maneuvering. In short, fight stealthy, quick, and smart, and if in doubt, just get the hell away and hide. And with Ruvik, hiding is the only option.
Fortunately, Sebastians array of throwable lures (wine bottles are most abundant in the mansion) open up the option to distract, divide and survive. His most important tactical tool, however, is his crossbow. Take, for example, the group of zombies that invade the library as Im trying to leave. Ducking behind a desk. I fire my sole electric trap-bolt near the door, creating an electrified trip-wire, BioShock-style. That gets one of them, but there are three more. One falls to a silent arrow. The other two start patrolling aggressively, so I run back up to the top floor. I have one arrow-mounted proximity mine, so I embed it in the ladder as I hide again. After scrabbling around for a bottle, I hurl one down to get someones attention. My trap works. Boom. But the last mutant is now very agitated, and the last stealth kill is going to be very tricky indeed.
The hindrance of a 'helpful' health boost
There is a health upgrade system in The Evil Within, but in-keeping with the personality of the game, it will only help you out while delivering a simultaneous kick in the teeth. At a later point in the mansion, I discover a special health syringe. Im told that it will permanently increase my health capacity, but that there will be side effects. Checking around to make sure that Im as safe as can be, I give it a go. Immediately everything goes to shit.
My vision is blurred to the point that I can barely make out my surroundings, let alone navigate them. Then I notice that in the centre of the blur, near where the door once was, something is moving, and its speeding up. All I can do is literally blind-fire and hope that a) I hit whatever my target is, and b) my flailing shots dont bring all the other undead boys to the yard. A few seconds later I have an empty clip and a corpse at my feet, but no idea whether the monsters appearance was scripted to coincide with my health boost, or a dynamic coincidence. Thats the great thing about The Evil Within. Its impossible to ever know. All I do know is that the syringe has increased my bar by a grand total of about 5 pixels. Damn you, Mikami, you glorious bastard.
So there are my findings from my most recent wade through the bloody mire. Thoughts? Excited for the return of real Japanese survival-horror, or do you still fear rock-punching. Let me know.
And while you're here, check out some of our related content. For all the nitty-gritty details on The Evil Within, have a look at our Road to the review article. And if you want to keep things on a general survival horror bent, check out our list of the Best horror games.