The Evil Within was released on Tuesday and it seems to have divided people pretty heavily. It has between a 72 and 83 on Metacritic depending on what platform you look at. This isn’t a bad score spread, but you’d think that the game deserved a 0 from how people have been talking about it. I understand that disappointment can lead to phenomenal overreactions, and the internet is a naturally vitriolic place. But I have a few problems with the hate being slung so inelegantly at The Evil Within. Firstly, unlike the recently released Destiny, it wasn’t overhyped. It was certainly promoted, but not as the second coming. Rather, what we got was the general advertisement of a game. This doesn’t set up unwieldy expectations for most people. Second, and most important, though I’ve read the complaints in full, I don’t understand how anyone could hate this game. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest games on current gen platforms at this moment. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at The Evil Within, why people don’t seem to like it, and why I disagree utterly.
Let’s get right into the core complaint as I see it – the graphics. People have been deriding the game as having sub PS3 graphics, often referring to it as a PS2 game. PC gamers, in particular, have been guilty of this. In some ways that is understandable. For PC gamers, the game is a pure console port. Nobody held their hand or made a game to specifically take account of their powerful rigs. Thus, 30 frames per second off the bat and a resolution that could be dwarfed if PC gamers were allowed to natively tinker with it. Off PC gamers specifically now, the fight between 30 and 60 frames per second has never been stronger than this generation, and gamers have been bitterly tearing apart games that go sub-60 even though most console games do. The Evil Within is one of them. So, automatically, you have what people would call performance issues. In addition, the character models are not spectacular. Clothing and weapons are fine, but faces and the way characters move seem a little out of place with all the new hardware around. One character, for example, is a young man. They showed this by making his face largely devoid of wrinkles or expression. Unfortunately, because of the character model limitation, he looks plastic.
These are legitimate concerns, but I have a hard time finding out reasons why they matter. The character models don’t look fantastic, but they are definitely above PS3 quality in detail and texture. More importantly, the environments are clearly beautiful to look at. 30 frames per second may not be ideal, but I have yet to play a game where I have truly cared. Don’t get me wrong, I love 60 frames per second, but I’ve been gaming since Super Mario Bros. I don’t need 60 frames per second to love a game. The way I see it the problem is entitlement. I hate the throw that word around, believe me, but it seems apt. Gamers expect current ten systems to provide something spellbinding graphically, as do PC gamers. When games don’t meet these expectations – vitriol. As we shall see, some of the complaints about this game involve gameplay, but most revolve around the graphics. I cannot stand when a game is judged on its graphics over gameplay. If that were the case, I’d hate Mass Effect 2, which also has hideous character models, which were not acceptable at the time.
Another graphical complaint is that there are two bars over the screen at all times, one on top and one at the bottom. This is a stylistic choice that was put in to mimic older horror movies and give the game a cinematic feel. It is jarring. However, after fewer than two chapters, you stop noticing it all together. I understand the knee jerk reaction over this one, but, in all honesty, it truly became a non-issue for me, so I don’t understand how this can hold people back.
The next bit I want to talk about is the gameplay problems. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to lump them all together so I don’t spend all day writing about them. The main thrust of the problems is that the gameplay is dated. It isn’t. People compare it to PS2 shooters, or, more commonly to Resident Evil 4, fairly often. This doesn’t mean that the game is one out of the PS2 generation. The upgrade system is detailed, the combat is fun and fluid, and there are some really great ideas revolving around the various elemental crossbow bolts as well as matches. There are also a lot of recycled ideas, but there are a lot of recycled ideas in every game out there. People call the gameplay clunky. It isn’t. I’ve played many games with clunky combat. This is not one of them. Your character moves like a real person. It is easy to learn how he will move and how much to push on the stick to get him to do whatever you want. You are deliberately underpowered with a lessened sprint bar and a weak melee. This does not make the game clunky or inept. It was purposely designed this way to increase the survival horror aspects of the game.
Finally, the last bit I want to cover is that the game isn’t scary. This is something I want to deal with quickly – the game isn’t scary to you. As a horror fan, I haven’t been scared by a movie or video game since I was a child. In fact, I have never been scared by the horror aspects of a video game. What is scary about the video game is the hopeless situations, the fact that any enemy might kill you at any time. This is why I find games like Dark Souls infinitely scarier than most true horror games. The Evil Within doesn’t scare me. It might scare younger audiences, but I’m too jaded to its scares at this point. However, it does frighten me in the sense that the enemies in the game are vicious even on normal mode, and you’re always running low on supplies. In that sense, The Evil Within is a success.
There is so much to love about this game. Part of me would like to write about it again next week and actually talk about the aspects of the game that really shine to me. That might actually happen since I’m going to be so busy over the next two weeks. Anyway, the point of this post wasn’t to talk about the game’s virtues. I have been seeing non-stop hate for this game since release and I simply don’t get it. I understand not everyone will like every game. That makes sense, but the level of hate is jarring. Hopefully these unsatisfied people move on soon, so those of us who want to talk about the game won’t get lost in seas of threads about derision and those two little black bars.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer