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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Evil Within.

Transcript Edit

I was hiding behind a wall in an abandoned insane asylum with my face pressed up against an advanced buildup of mildew the other day when a mysterious figure in a big coat and a hat sidled up and said "Hey, you like your Outlast and your Amnesia and your creepy horror based around hiding from things and having the defensive capability of a Kinder Surprise, right? Why not check out this game we made, called The Evil Within. Look, you're in a creepy hospital and have to sneak around a chainsaw murderer."

"Looks like my cup of tea," I said, but then I reached the end of the starting section, which coincidentally marked the end of the E3 gameplay video I'd seen, and the game went "Bored now! Let's have a car chase."

What?

"And here's a pistol and a shotgun and a crossbow that shoots lightning somehow. And now you're in the woods massacring zombie farmers and avoiding traps that only the twitchiest caffeine-riddled paranoid would be able to anticipate."

Wait a second, I recognize that voice. Resident Evil 4! Why this deception?

"Look, I'm just having some trouble with the kids right now. Resident Evil 6 has started identifying as a sea urchin."

Sigh!

Yes, remember last week, when I said after Alien Isolation, "Hey, maybe AAA has finally remembered how to do subtlety and horror." Turns out it was just a beautiful dream that vanishes on waking. 'Course, to expect subtlety from Shinji-RE4-God Hand-Vanquish-Shadows of the Damned-Mikami is to expect birthday cake to drop out of a donkey's arse. But the teased opening of the game being so blatantly unrepresentative of the rest of it is the final straw that adds gameplay videos to the list of shit from E3 you can't trust, alongside prerendered trailers and every word that comes out of everyone's fat, stinking mouths.

Of course that's just my expectation. Had I expected another Resident Evil 4 I wouldn't have said no, because Resident Evil 4 was the big dog's biscuit and it worked, because it combined over-the-top splatter violence with a sense of ironic B-movie camp that walks the line between intentional and unintentional comedy. It's about rescuing the president's daughter, for fucks sake, whereas The Intel Inside doesn't really have that, instead it has...nnnnnothing.

It plays like somebody said "Hey, make a horror game!" And somebody else said "Okay, what about?" "I've just told you, about horror." "No, I mean what happens in it? What's the context? What are the major themes you want to work with?" "Horror, horror and horror. Jesus Christ, just do it, why are you so difficult to work with?" And so the result is this undisciplined mishmash of horror set pieces and imagery barely justified by a toilet tissue flimsy plot, populated entirely by stock characters. 

The protagonist, for example, is Grim Hero Category 27A, Dirty Harry Subtype 9 (order now and get free trenchcoat and drinking problem) together with a straitlaced by-the-book partner and a woman who happens to be there, whose chief role is to be the woman who happens to be there. "He investigates the disturbance at an evil hospital, whereupon the three of them are swiftly captured and separated and then horror... happens," he said as he blew out his cheeks and waved his hand dismissively. "So how about the horror's happening because reality is being overwritten by a deranged disfigured scientist's twisted subconscious? And also he's half ostrich and rides a unicorn from space and- you're not listening anymore, are you?" "Yup, sounds good, just do it. Call me if you need money, I'm off to the cocaine tasting." 

But having established that the deranged disfigured scientist, Antagonist 5F Subtype 3, is changing the world in accordance to his whims, the game has no continuity whatsoever. Like you'll get through the angry farmers, then the world will wobble like a freshly spanked buttock and BING! You're in a church, or BING! You're in a sewer, or BING! You're on the New Jersey turnpike with a seagull up your arse. So all you can do is plod from scene to scene with no sense of how far you've gotten or what remains to be done to resolve the conflict. 

It's the kind of setup where you could rearrange all the chapters in random order and no one would notice. And I'm pretty sure that's exactly what they did. The amount that characters know about the situation goes up and down from dialogue to dialogue. I'm pretty sure at one point the protagonist offhandedly mentions the name of the villain without having been told it at any point. And the difficulty curve resembles Claus von Stauffenberg's handwriting. Some boss fights in the midgame kicked me up and down the poorly lit hospital corridor, whereas the final boss made a huge song and dance and then died cause I wiped my nose on his tie. 

Combat is almost exactly the same as RE4 with the same inability to shoot from the hip and the same camera mounted on the stop sign sticking up the main character's tight beautiful arse, albeit with black bars along the top and bottom of the screen to both create a cinematic effect and reduce visibility in the hope that the dodgy texturing could slip by unnoticed. 

Unlike RE4 though, there's the stealth elements that seem to be so emblematic of generic combat these days, the usual sneaky back-stab and throw-able distractions, but since 99% of the combat in this game begins with the enemy ambushing you, the only reason there seems to be for having stealth elements is to get into the big boy's club and to taunt you with what could have been. Once the game introduces character upgrades and not a single one is stealth-related, we finally realize that the stealth has the same role Peter Dinklage had in Destiny: mainly there just so that we can say it's there. 

Upgrades can only either make guns incrementally better or sew a new ammo pocket in your grim detective trousers. So every time I flailed drunkenly at a room full of crates and found nothing but upgrade material, I would despair, because I didn't need one second shaved of the pistol's reload time or the ability to hold another seagull up my arse, what I needed was some fucking bullets! Whoever worked out the ammo distribution had apparently bought into the delusion that we were doing the sneaky survival-horror thing as opposed to the "electric crossbow bolts" thing. And you can only hold enough bullets to get you about four-and-a-half seconds into a workplace massacre. 

So what we have here is a game that demands discipline from the player while showing no discipline in itself. No discipline in the design: here is a boss monster you can't kill until you solved the puzzle in this area, here he is again three chapters later, but now he can be killed because who gives a shit. No discipline in the story either: "Oh no, I'm inexplicably turning into a zombie! Oh wait, no I'm not. Sweet, let's never bring this up again. In fact, let's not give any aspect of the story any fucking closure even at the end, because we once saw the word 'intrigue' written on a shithouse wall, and that's about as far as we understand the concept." 

All in all, the game's like driving to Alice Springs: a whole lot of effort to end up fucking nowhere. 

Addenda Edit

  • The beagle within: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • The Shinji Mikami care in the community program: put a bag on their head and find them work at a lumberyard supplier
  • I know a very good seagull extraction specialist

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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