Shinji Mikami is a man with a pretty peerless catalogue of games to his name. Many of the titles he directed are held in extremely high regard over here at Midnight Resistance, so you can imagine my surprise when The Evil Within appeared to be, at first, a bit rubbish. The first few levels rely on some forced stealth and very linear play, completely at odds with this game’s spiritual predecessor - the legendary Resident Evil 4.
Stick with it, though.
Come chapter 3, you’re sneaking through a village of the damned like you’re an underprepared Leon S. Kennedy, utilizing limited resources to best a horde of monstrous bastards. Chapter 5 has you running for your life from some horrific beast that makes you uncomfortable even sharing the same virtual space with. Chapter 6, you’re dumped in an open castle ruin and expected to deal with all the enemies found within its grounds in whichever manner you can. It is bloody brilliant.
I love how a Mikami game always has you evaluating your current situation. There’s always plenty of ways to get through a section of The Evil Within, but you’ve got to deal with all the variables. I’ve barely used the stealth since the mandatory stuff at the start, instead favouring using the brilliantly named ‘agony crossbow’ and its various different bolts to set up traps and create advantageous situations for myself. However, I’ve regularly found myself having to adapt and change my tactics on the fly, due to a plethora of reasons. How’s my health looking? How many enemies are there? How much ammo do I have for a specific weapon, or just ammo in general? You might have some master plan to get through an area but that one misplaced bullet or unexpected enemy and it all falls apart quite quickly. You will panic. You will have to survive. On the other hand, you might stumble across a box full of ammo for some superb weapon and suddenly your best laid plans will go out the window for another reason!
It’s such a thrilling system, because you’re always in this weird position of being in control of your character’s situation, but always teetering on the edge of chaos. Equal measures really fun and pure stressful. It’s a trait shared by most of Mikami’s games, as well as other classic action games, like the Halo series.
Clearly, a winning fucking formula.