The Evil Within PS4 preview – horror has a face that laughs at bullets

The evil within ps3

Shinji Mikami’s return to survival horror was always going to be at the fore of the revival populated by Outlast, Daylight et al, each dribbling their own brand of creepy down their chins as they wait in the wings. The Resident Evil creator wrote the rulebook for the genre back in ’96, then rewrote it again in ’05 with Resi 4. Is The Evil Within capable of making another cultural splash of that magnitude? Don’t rule it out. Seriously.

The Evil Within PS3 preview

We join the excellently named Detective Sebastian Castellanos near the game’s start as he approaches an asylum (of course he does) to investigate a disturbance, colleagues in tow. The scene-setting is endearingly anachronistic, paced like Mikami’s decade-old glories and full of references to them (the asylum approach cutscene is a frame-for-frame remake of Chris entering the mansion in Resi 1).

The Evil Within PS3 screenThis has greater ambitions than to reminisce about a bygone era, though. As Seb enters the asylum and promptly falls into another, nightmarish plane of existence, it’s clear that he isn’t going to save himself by shooting his way out. We encounter our first enemy – a knuckle-dragging, leather-aproned nod to Hostel – unarmed, moments after freeing Sebastian from hanging upside-down next to rows of corpses. He’s bruised, disoriented and vulnerable.

What follows isn’t a Nemesis-style gunfight, but a chase sequence through tight corridors, flanked by flailing tarpaulin and assorted viscera, spurred on by the sound of Mr Apron’s chainsaw. Shortly after surviving that escapade, we stumble upon one of the best-designed enemies we’ve seen in ages: a fringe-over-face, walking-with-broken-limbs horror movie girl who’s no less horrifying for being an intentionally OTT pastiche of contemporary tropes. To survive any scrap, you’ll need to assess the area for traps and opportunities to outwit your assailant – not reach for your holster.

Bethesda’s scare-’em-up is the headline
act in PS4’s horror show not just for the
name attached, but for its ability to get
under your skin & make you feel hunted

The Evil Within knows not to exhaust you by maintaining that intensity for too long, though – there are lulls in the journey that offer you the chance to explore and appreciate the filmic quality of each area’s lighting setup. There are shadows, and then there are knee-buckling, portentous shadows. Bethesda’s trueblood scare-’em-up is the headline act in PS4’s horror show not just for the name attached to it, but for its ability to get under your skin and make you feel hunted, relying on your wits rather than your trigger finger.