A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to hang out with the great crew at Bethesda games and get a bit of a sneak peek at what we can look forward to from them at not only E3 this year but over the next year coming as well. They’ve got a lot going on and with the video game industry being on the edge of next generation hardware drops they’ve come prepared to blow minds with some absolutely fantastic gaming experiences.
Not knowing what to expect with this being my very first PR event for Canadian Online Gamers I sat down in the presentation hall full of anticipation and waited for the lights to dim. Why dim them when you can go BLACK and scare the daylights out of me with a first look at Tango Gameworks ultra scary ‘The Evil Within’!? We saw two portions of the game, first being the prologue to the story and second being an area called Perth House later into the game. Without a doubt I can say that despite being fairly early into development this looks to be shaping up to one of the creepiest, goriest and flat out most terrifying survival horror games ever made.
In the intro we see main protagonist, Sebastian, approach the Beacon Mental Hospital with his partner and other police to answer an unknown distress call. Visually you know right away that Sebastian needs to turn his ass around, get back in his police cruiser and drive as far away from this place as possible. However, just like every good horror movie you wouldn’t get anywhere at all if the main characters made the smart decision and decided against walking into the creepy basement of a 200 year-old house while the power is out. The mental hospital is a massive structure that looks almost cathedral-like with spires and towers and just has a very foreboding look to it. It’s a taste of what’s to come as the art direction is very gritty to say the least. Upon entering, Sebastian and his partner come across one of the facilities doctors who quite clearly looks scared beyond what his brain can handle. Again, keeping with the theme of ‘making stupid decisions’, Sebastian separates from his partner who stays with the doc and, well, gets himself in some neck high crap. Checking out a guard surveillance room he sees a camera focused on 3 armed police officers shooting like mad at an unseen enemy. Suddenly a hooded apparition flashes in view and after taking out the officers flashes right behind Sebastian and LIGHTS OUT.
Waking up hanging by his feet from the ceiling Sebastian bears witness to some sort of behemoth creature butchering corpses that are hanging all around him. When asked by another attendee at the event what this creature’s name was producer Masato Kimura fired back ‘Chainsaw Guy’ jokingly indicating that they still quite obviously have a long way to go in the development process. The rest of the scene involves Sebastian navigating his way out of the bowels of the mental hospital with Chainsaw Guy relentlessly stalking him. The fear here was so much more palpable than many other survival horror games as it relied a lot less on the sudden scare factor and a lot more on the tenseness of staying hidden and choosing every single step wisely. In one sequence Sebastian finds himself hiding in a locker as CG rips apart the room before his eyes and despite trying to stay macho in a dark room full of other dudes I found my heart rate speeding up and my sissy boy fight or flight reactions kicking in. It was flight, by the way as I would have run like a dog with its tail between its legs.
Rounding out the sequence Sebastian finally breaks through the front doors of the facility only to find the city sunken down into the ground in stepped tiers as some sort of gateway has been opened to parts unknown. A really great way to end the prologue as there was an audible ‘holy shit’ murmur amongst the crowd.
Moving into the Perth House level we get a bit better of a look at the horror survival gameplay aspect. Sebastian is attempting to make his way out of a hellish looking old home with nothing more than a handgun, a lantern and some matches. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so difficult if Sebastian wasn’t also being plagued by visions watching the landscape change right before his eyes in spots. In an interesting piece of gameplay I noticed Mr. Kimura attempting to knee cap one of his zombie like corpse aggressors as opposed to going for a headshot. When he finally took down the creature he set it ablaze to finish it off. Asked about this he told me that there’s a focus on ammunition being at a premium so a great tactic is to fall your enemies to the ground and burn them instead of pumping endless rounds into them. I can only imagine that being down to 6 rounds in a room full of the devil’s worst biting at your ankles that the intensity would be ramped up to 11 for sure. Finishing the preview off Sebastian is subjected to some crazy visions of being transported into some industrial facility basement as a river of blood crashes through the door in front of him. Clearing his head he makes his way through the door to see a multi-limbed demon form out of a puddle of blood and stalk him in a manner very reminiscent of the scene where Samara crawls out of the TV in ‘The Ring’ which as far as this pansy is concerned is one of the scariest damn movie scenes of all time. I’m sure my reaction to this was exactly the one desired by the folks at Tango as I recoiled into my chair and attempted to make my peace with God before being ripped to shreds.
Throughout the gameplay I noted the distinct lack of a traditional HUD. The health indicator was nothing more than a red line at the bottom of the screen and as a whole the information presented on screen was minimal at best. Kimura said that at this point the health indicator itself is still in development but a very important piece of the storytelling puzzle is to do everything possible to keep your attention in game and not distracted by outside sources. He said to expect that the final product would likely stick to a HUDless format allowing the player to focus on nothing more than the horror unfolding on screen.
With only a short glimpse as to what’s in store for ‘The Evil Within’ it’s hard to tell at this point what might make it standout from other experiences in the survival horror genre. One thing I noticed right away is that despite being developed by a Japanese dev team the game has a decidedly more western feel than your typical Resident Evil game. For a gamer like myself who has a hard time staying interested in the Japanese style of game this could be a draw into a genre that I’ve largely stayed away from in the past. At any rate, early into development the general feeling is that every department is on the right track. Sound, visuals, gameplay and fear factor seem to be on track and the overall experience comes across as very cinematic and top notch. There will be lots more information to come over the next months as development chugs along so I’m really looking forward to getting a deeper look.
Shut off the lights and pick yourself up a bulk sized package of Depends to prevent any unwanted messes and prepare for a terror fest. Keep checking back here on the Canadian Online Gamers Network for more information as we get it.