One of the many "behind closed doors" demos we saw during Bethesda's E3 2013 booth tour was The Evil Within, a sinister reentry into the survival horror genre by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikam. He was actually on hand to deliver an introduction, speaking in rough English until he handed over the dialog to a translator.
Bethesda's move to publish this title is a surprising one, but it also shows that the company is working to break free from the first-person railroad steered by its own Elder Scrolls franchise and id Software's shooters. The game focuses on protagonist Detective Sebastian Castellanos who, along with his partner, is initially sent to investigate a brutal mass murder of the residents at a local asylum.
During his investigation, Sebastian catches something cowled and ghostly seemingly killing three of his officers on the asylum's CCTV camera system. The thing then disappears and re-emerges behind him, knocking him out. When he awakes, he finds himself -- along with the other officers -- strung upside down from the ceiling amongst other hanging dead corpses.
He eventually sees what I refer to as the Butcher move towards him and then off-screen. The thing then proceeds to hack one of the fellow officers – who is still alive --in half with a machete, then drags the bloody upper torso away to a table in the distance to continue his hack-a-thon. All this time the detective is hanging still until the Butcher heads to his table, and then proceeds to swing himself until he can reach a knife protruding from a hanging dead body and free himself.
This is a third-person title that heavily relies on stealth. In the following scene, the Butcher moves out of sight, triggering the weaponless detective to search for a set of keys that unlocks the door leading out of the grisly torture chamber. Once he gets out, he spies the exit and tries to leave the asylum, but instead triggers and alarm, alerting the Butcher to his whereabouts. Thus begins a very slow "chase" through the asylum in search of another way out.
At one point, the Butcher catches up with him – and I'm thinking his pursuit is slow on purpose like a cat stalking a defenseless mouse – and gashes his leg open with a chainsaw. In another scenario, he sneaks into a tool closet and waits for the thing to exit the room. The Butcher also manages to direct him into a room with circular saws threatening to dice up our hero from both sides. Clearly this is a maze packed with traps intent on causing the most pain as possible. However the detective finally manages to escape the asylum nearly in one piece, only to discover that the world he once knew has been demolished.
Actual gameplay took over from this point, revealing The Evil Within to be something of a third-person zombie shooter. Once he leaves the asylum, he wanders into an abandoned building and begins to gather weapons -- anything can be used. Eventually the zombies begin to appear, most of which have huge spikes sticking out of their head, chest and more. One even emerges from a pool of blood and guts, taking notes from Clive Barker's Hellraiser, a scary, multi-arm thing.
"We're making a truly terrifying game. Really, the player will experience unimaginable fear," Shinji Mikam said during the demo's opening. Indeed, the game generated a lot of tension, especially during the moments when Sebastian spent most of his time creeping through the asylum. The Butcher means business, and you connect with the hero just like you would in any horror movie. Only here you're actually moving the protagonist, making survival even more personal.
The Evil Within uses id Tech 5, but has been modified for a third-person perspective. Tango was reportedly drawn to the engine because it's super-flexible" and "very clean", that it was perfect for what the studio wanted to do with animation and dynamic lighting.
The Evil Within is slated to arrive on Windows PC, the Xbox One and Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles in 2014.