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The Evil Within Preview: Not What We Hoped For
The Evil Within has left me completely confused.
Other than the latest horror game from Shinji Mikami, I have no idea what it is. I don’t know what it’s about, what’s happening in it, or why. I don’t know anything about the main character. I don’t know why a large monster with a box on its head is chasing me. And, to be honest, I don’t know why Bethesda even bothered to show it off at PAX East 2014.
The live demo started with the main character Sebastian plummeting to his near death in an elevator. Why was he in an elevator, you ask? I have no idea. The demo started with a cold open that never connected itself to the story in any way. For all I know, he could have been on his way to a dentist appointment.
Once the elevator slams into the ground and Sebastian crawls out, we see a city devastated by what looks like an earthquake. As we walk through the environment, however, we learn that it’s not an earthquake at all. Instead, different parts of the ground are shifting, jutting from the Earth’s surface with violent jerks. Visually, it reminded me of the recent DmC: Devil May Cry, where the scenery around Dante frequently distorts itself as he moves through the environment. What worked there as a neat visual trick, however, only serves to make everything in The Evil Within‘s demo all the more confusing. Why are different sections of the Earth jumping around? What’s worse: why isn’t the main character reacting to it in any way?
Seriously, Sebastian is either the most jaded and hardened of individuals or the most high-functioning of lobotomy patients. During the entire live demo, not once did he appear to be in any sort of trouble or in any fear for his life. Each time the world shifted around him, each time a zombie approached him in the city, and even when the aforementioned box-head demon was chasing him, he acted casually, as if this was yet another average day in his mundane existence. How are we to feel tension and fear when even the main character doesn’t exude them in the slightest?
There are apparent zombie-like creatures that have popped up all around the city, and the only way to kill them is to beat them mercilessly or shoot them using one of your many, many weapons, then to walk by and light them on fire. Why do they light on fire? Are they zombies created from some horrifying oil leak crisis? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
What I do know about the zombies is that they are one of many enemies that suffered from some critical AI issues. When the first armed zombie began spraying bullets in Sebastian’s general direction, the man playing the demo for us ran past the zombie and opened fire on him using a pistol. Instead of facing Sebastian and continuing his attack, the zombie decided instead to continue to fire where Sebastian had been, meaning that a bug in the AI didn’t track the player’s movement. This wasn’t the first time AI issues popped up, either; during one section of the game, a bottle crash against the wall failed to draw the attention of an enemy AI, resulting in an embarrassing death for our demo player. Later on, a shot to the stomach of one enemy caused its head to burst into an eruption of blood. This happened twice.
Animations were re-used, environments looked bland, and a complete failure to communicate anything about the premise of the game resulted in one of the weakest demos we saw at PAX. Normally, I would try to be positive and say that there’s still plenty of time to work these issues out, but with a release date set in August, things are not looking good for The Evil Within. Granted, this may just be a poor demo not at all indicative of the final product, but I can’t help but share the same sentiment of our demo player when he was mistakenly consumed by an enemy character after its AI failed to work properly: nervous, with his head in hand and an expression of disbelief written clearly on his face.