Review – The Sinking City

It’s time once more, the stars align, strange eons come to pass and death may even die. It began with the flood, and will end with The Sinking City.


  • By Lovecraft, For Lovecraft: The Sinking City is not just an open world investigative action/adventure/horror title, it’s also a love letter to the Lovecraftian mythos. There are elements of Lovecraftian fiction in every aspect of the city, its cases, its characters and of course, the plot itself. Streets named after important locales, avenues sharing names with important mythos characters and even advertisements for a certain medical doctor all Lovecraft fans will recognise.
  • Weird Tales: The cases and the main plot in The Sinking City are wonderfully weird, twisting and twisted. There are characters that seem closer to primates than humans, other closer to fishes (that gorgeous Innsmouth Look), sacrifices, rituals, good ideas that backfire, bad ideas that go horrendously wrong and weirdness galore. Best of all is the main character becomes rather savvy in the madness taking place around him, even if and especially because he’s also descending into insanity. By the end, when faced with the weirdness he will casually state “you’re rather normal, at least by this crazy city’s standards,” when meeting an NPC. I love this. Also, in case it needs saying, the story is gripping and fun.
  • It’s a Mad World: The Sinking City is a bad place, it’s despair-ridden, maddening and incredibly cold towards outsiders. People in the city are at their wits end, and even the help you provide in solving their cases doesn’t make their lives any easier. In fact, on learning the things you discover, their lives are more likely to take dark turns. I love this, it’s pure Lovecraftian goodness, as are the grotesque apparitions, both the spectral and the physical monstrosities you encounter.
  • Fear is the Mind Killer: As with every Mythos game, there is a sanity meter and fun things happen as it lowers. The most common are audio-visual hallucinations, visions of creatures and your own grim future—seeing yourself hang from a noose—but as it gets worse, you’ll eventually have to contend with the figments of your deranged imagination in physical ways. This was a genius decision in my opinion, having your insanity sometimes spawn new enemies that aren’t really there but can still hurt you. Best thing is that if you take the sanity medkit aka anti-psychotics, they vanish instantly.
  • Fortune favours the Bold: There are infested areas in the Sinking City, where the Wylebeasts, the monstrous creatures that came into the city with the flood, have taken over and created nests for themselves. These areas are full of loot and crafting materials but are deadly to explore. But if you’re clever, lucky, brave or all of the above, you can make a killing without getting, well, killed.
  • Sherlock meet Lovecraft: Frogware is, of course, the wonderful people behind the Sherlock Holmes series, one of my absolute favourite video game series in the world and The Sinking City inherits many elements from that series, from deduction boards to scene reconstructions. This is a game where exploring every corner in a crime scene is recommended as it may just yield the right clue. Best of all, you can set the difficulty of the detective side to expert, where there are no hints on how to proceed, truly challenging your detective instincts.
  • Find your own way: Clues, important locales, crime scenes, houses and nests are all over the city, but it’s up to you to find them. You have the map of the city and often vague addresses, meaning you gotta open the map, find the right streets and place a marker for where you think the objective might be. But after that, it’s all exploration, on foot, on boat, whichever way you can.


  • Underwater Slog: I think the intent was for the underwater segments to be tense, dangerous and uncomfortable but they’re really just boring. There’s very little to do but walk or fall or climb your way to the glowing exit and occasionally shoot some horrific fish thing in the face to stun it and leave it behind. There’s very little tension.
  • Survival Horror Syndrome: Your first encounter with the Wylebeasts will be horrible, especially when you first encounter the really big onces with multiple limbs and teleportation abilities. But as with every other survival horror game, once you’re a walking armoury, there’s very little to fear. Hell, the moment I unlocked grenades, I didn’t fear a single thing. Also, Lovecraft is more about fear of the unknown, and with so few enemy types, the unknown doesn’t last too long.
  • Elementary Watson: I find cases are too simple in The Sinking City, at least compared to previous Frogwares games. Cases are more or less a series of trips to visit locales, pick things up, maybe uncover something with your third eye and then piece together the clues in the deduction board—which more often than not is click on everything with everything. There aren’t any juicy puzzles to create new clues, like the stuff in Crimes and Punishments and The Devil’s Daughter. It’s a shame.
  • It’s not Inns-Mouth, it’s Inns-Muth: Ok this is just nit-picking and a personal gripe but the correct way of pronouncing Innsmouth is INNSMUTH, like Plymouth, Dartmouth, Portsmouth. Inn’s-Mouth is just wrong and caused me to lose more sanity than the horrors in the game.

Underrated Gaming – The Suffering

When you think of horror games, there are series and titles that quickly come to mind, be it survival horror—gaming’s go-to horror subgenre—or any of the other variations, titles like Resident Evil or Fatal Frame are ever-present in our shared gaming consciousness. But there are series that fall off the wagon somewhere along the way, underrated and often completely forgotten by new and old players alike. Today, I’m talking about one of those and one of my all-time favourites: The Suffering. Continue reading Underrated Gaming – The Suffering

Review: Stasis

You wake up on derelict ship, with no memory of how you got there. The walls are bloodied and something stalks the halls. You need to find your family but a part of you just wants to climb back into the tube and put yourself in Stasis. Continue reading Review: Stasis

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 puts you in control of four characters, searching for answers in a hostile island and a way out, before fear consumes and changes them—literally so.

Genre(s): Survival Horror

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Release Date: February-March 2015

Played: Full Season + 4 hours Raid Mode

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox360, Xbox One

Purchase At: Steam


  • Terrific characterization.

  • Strong survival-focused gameplay.

  • Strong Japanese voice cast.


  • Bad environmental design.

  • Repetitive documents.

  • Uneven plot pacing.



I still remember the announcement for RER2. It came during a week when female members of our community were under fire and the women’s role and portrayal in games were under debate. When they announced Clare was coming back, I honestly thought, “This is what we need, one of the original female badasses, Clare Redfield!” Capcom definitely nailed the timing for their announcement.

And that is one thing Resident Evil: Revelations 2 does right: character portrayals. Clare isn’t the same girl we met in Resident Evil 2 but one of the senior Terra Save agents. She’s strong, decisive and courageous, but without losing her humanity, which is harder to do than you’d expect—most of the times writers just cross the line into Impossible Hardass.

It's all about Kafka!
It’s all about Kafka!

With Clare is Moira Burton, Barry’s daughter and the most foul-mouthed character in all of Resident Evil. What I like most about Moira is she shows significant growth during the story. At the start she refuses to even hold a gun because of a childhood trauma, but by the end she manages to push herself beyond it. I liked that development and it feels real and believable…you know, even with the crazy genetic monstrosities.

The rest of the main cast consists of Barry himself, coming to the island where the plot takes place (I’ll get on that in a bit) a few months later than Clare and his daughter, hoping to find answers to her fate. Barry is a rock of a character, acting as the strong and collected one to his companion, Natalia, an 11-year-old-ish girl. Where she falters he’s there to offer support and as such he doesn’t evolve as much as the rest, but is instrumental in the other character’s development.

The nonsensical skill tree
The nonsensical skill tree

RER2 doesn’t waste time in setting up its premise. During the opening cinematic, an assault team attacks and captures all Terra Save workers at their yearly corporate party. When Clare wakes she’s in a mysterious prison with Moira and fitted with a strange metal bracelet. The bracelets change colour depending on the person’s state of mind, going from green to a deep red the more frightened they become. The island is home to savage mutants like those found in Resident Evil 4 and 5 and there’s a woman, The Overseer, constantly taunting them and driving them closer to fear and despair.

Clare and Moira’s half is all about survival and finding out and stopping The Overseer’s plans. Barry’s half is about finding his daughter, arriving on the island 6 months after Clare’s initial chapter, following an SOS. He meets Natalia, a young girl surviving on her own, and with the mysterious ability to sense monsters and even their weak spots. She met Moira & Clare in the past and guides Barry to where they last saw each other.

Tourniquets are the way to go...unless you're out of herbs!
Tourniquets are the way to go…unless you’re out of herbs!

The story itself is the usual Resident Evil fare of crazy viruses and deranged genetic experimentation that ultimately becomes so out there you lose all interest in it. But in its episodic storytelling, RER2 splits the reveals very well between its two story arcs, keeping you interested and asking questions until it finally shows its hand. The works of Franz Kafka, The Metamophosis in particular, are at the core of the plot, just taken literal and to the extreme. This game’s writers don’t believe in subtlety.

The narrative split might be good but the pacing is uneven between the Clare and Barry segments—some are plot-heavy while others are combat-centric—and it doesn’t take long for you to learn or figure out everything about the story, making some of the last episode’s climaxes fall terribly short.

Resident Evils have always supported their narrative with documents strewn around the environment and RER2 continues this tradition but there are too repetitive and useless documents. I don’t mind backstory if it adds to the experience, but it feels as though they enough documents to make sure that you’d pick up at least one. It’s even worse considering much of what the documents tell you the characters later mention in cutscenes.

In terms of visuals, they’re around the same quality as Resident Evil 6’s, which isn’t surprising considering they both use the same engine. For this game, it’s not graphical quality that I look for, because I know it’ll be good. What I care about is the little details and the overall environment and creature design, which are some of the elements the horror will hang on. One thing in particular that stood out for me was how bad the lip-synching was. I played the game originally with Japanese audio (more on that later) and even switching to English didn’t make the lips sync-up with the words. In fact, the lips barely move.

Monster design differs greatly between Clare and Barry’s segments. Clare’s enemies are more akin to the wild enemies from The Evil Within, self-mutilated and with heavy body modifications, while Barry’s are more traditional RE monstrosities and desiccated zombies. Clare’s work very well the first time they show up, but lose their effectiveness as a visual fear stimulus very quickly. Barry’s on the other hand remain effective for much longer, especially since they are very difficult to kill if you don’t target their Ouroboros core.

Bleeding is extremely dangerous in RER2
Bleeding is extremely dangerous in RER2

Sadly, the environments themselves are dull, drab and lack any form of atmosphere and rehash locations from previous titles—prison facilities, derelict villages and ruined buildings. There’s even a moment in Episdoe 2 where you must survive an assault from enemies while inside a building, killing enemies before they jump inside. Sound familiar? Setting the game in a wider open area presents challenges, that I understand, but I do wish they had done a better job, made them much more interesting. The environments also clashed with the accounts from the documents—you should have seen more remnants of the previous occupants, more signs of violence. Instead of helping the immersion, this clash countered it.

Clare's enemies are fast and strong!
Clare’s enemies are fast and strong!

Music is largely absent from the game, coming in during high-stress sequences with the appropriate tense music and almost at random during investigative and exploration segments. These pieces are moodier and eerie but the volume is low, almost like background noise and often drowned out by other sounds. It left me to wonder what the point was. The moody bits are very good but with the bland environments, there’s not much they can do to help the immersion opportunities the visual side already squandered.

I played the game in Japanese first, as I often do with Japanese games. I still used English text for subtitles. I have a less than rudimentary grasp on the Japanese tongue but I can tell right away when the English script is departing radically from the Japanese one. For example, Moira doesn’t curse in the Japanese version, not as much, but instead says “Saiyaku,” which literall means Disaster but you can take it—transliterated—as “This is the worst!” which is also Barry’s common catchphrase, a shared mannerism between parent and child. The voice acting is generally good but I find the Japanese to be superior, as there’s a lot more strength put into the performances. The American cast falters during emotional sequences. Pedro’s actor in Japanese sounds genuinely terrified and panicky during the Episode 2 village sequence, while the American doesn’t and the emotion he portrays doesn’t match up with the character’s body language.

Natalia can sense monsters, even through walls. Pretty handy for stealth-kills!
Natalia can sense monsters, even through walls. Pretty handy for stealth-kills!

The gameplay remains very much like Resident Evils after the 4th instalment, with the over the shoulder camera and aiming. It’s a style I like very much and allows me to headshot enemies as much as I want to, which I enjoy doing, just to test my accuracy. You can instantly switch from the main characters (Clare & Barry) to their partners and you’ll need to as most of the ‘puzzles’ revolve around doing two things almost at once with the characters, such as pulling levers in separate rooms. Only your main characters carry weapons, the secondary ones have melee attacks and are just there for support really. Though the AI partner did finish off a few enemies for me when I was out of ammo.

Battle Points (BP) are back, used to upgrade your characters with the obligatory skill system, increasing some of your base abilities and the effectiveness of items. Some of the upgrades are pretty useful but most are worthless. For example, one of them increases how effective Green Herbs are, but even without it they already heal you completely. The only point in getting that ability is unlocking the one further down the tree. The tree itself makes no sense, with abilities having thematically unrelated ones as prerequisites. The previous Green Herb skill is a prerequisite for the Charged Melee attack skill, for example.

RER2 gives you a dedicated “Pick-up” button that works well for consumables but the game then alternates between it and the “Use” button so many times I found myself shouting “Make up your mind!” at the screen. At some points it prompted me to pick up items with one button then with the other, leaving me irritated and confused.

Speaking of weapons, RER2 features a crafting system for secondary items. You can use bottles to make up to four kinds of bombs—Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs for example– and cloth for tourniquets, as a minor healing kit and to stop the bleeding effect, and disinfectants, for clearing your HUD of monster goop. The latter isn’t really useful due to the very small number of blinding monsters. Weapon upgrades return from the previous game and they work exactly the same, providing mostly passive bonuses such as increased damage, capacity or reduced recoil. Golden Upgrades give your weapons new powers. They aren’t necessary but they do help, especially the rare ones, and I found myself exploring the dreadfully bland environments looking for secret chests.

In terms of enemies and combat, Clare’s are much closer to the original RE series’ bullet sponges, taking in tons of damage before falling—though headshots help and it’s why I go for them. Barry’s on the other hand are much closer to the Resident Evil 4+ style of enemies with weak points. Bosses, for either character, fall into this latter category, with a single weak point you first need to reveal before actually damaging the boss.

Language Moira!
Language Moira!


Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s gameplay and characterization make up for some of its design and narrative flaws, and while it’s not the deepest of stories it will keep you hooked until the end and beyond if you like to indulge in the RPG-esque raid mode. It’s a flawed game, definitely, but worth a shot, even if it fails at the horror half of Survival Horror.


4/5 – Exceptional

Review: The Evil Within

The Evil Within is a Survival Horror game developed by Tango Gameworks and ‘legendary’ designer Shinji Mikami, the mind behind Capcom’s Resident Evil. It promises to takes us back to the roots of the genre.

The Good

  • Surreal settings
  • Good visuals
  • Solid audio

The Bad

  • Disjunctive storytelling
  • Incoherent Plot
  • Inconsistent gameplay and atmosphere
  • Too many one-hit deaths
  • Weak horror
  • Boss rehash
  • Pathetic final boss
  • Punishing resource scarcity
  • Shallow crafting
  • Bad trap design

I was a big fan, still am, of the original Resident Evil games. I always thought they were very well designed, a combination of good action, puzzling and creepy atmospheres. With that mindset I expected a lot from The Evil Within. I expected to find what Resident Evil lost when it shifted to action. I expected the game to frighten me as I had seen other genre titles do in the past, such as Fatal Frame or even Dead Space.

The Evil Within failed to meet even one expectation, leaving me sorely disappointed and thinking I had just wasted a good birthday present (because it’s pretty damn expensive). I overestimated Shinji Mikami’s abilities and got a subpar game because of it.

The intro, it doesn't last very long nor does it build any atmosphere!
The intro, it doesn’t last very long nor does it build any atmosphere!

It’s not that it’s entirely bad, it’s not, there is potential in every part of the game’s design, but it just doesn’t come to fruition and feels unpolished.

Let’s get the good parts out of the way, because there aren’t many. The visuals are very good, from the brightly lit set pieces to the gloomy corridors, and especially with the more unreal locations and sequences. The use of shadows is brilliant and could have done a lot for the game’s mood if the rest of it didn’t ruin it. There is some reuse of locations, especially the mental hospital, but it’s not too bad. One point I hate though is the film grain and letterboxing (the black-bars on the top and bottom), which only limit your field of view and make noticing things very difficult. I lowered the grain to about half and there was still too much of it. The soundtrack has some very moody tunes, and the sound effects in the creepy locations are spot on. But as with the visuals, the rest of the game undoes whatever the sound design could have accomplished. Voice acting isn’t bad but no dialogue is believable, though I’m more willing to pin that one on bad writing than bad performance. I will say Leslie’s the best character in terms of voice performance. You can feel the angst, the fear and despair in him, which is more than I can say for everyone else.


The plot is a mess. It’s the typical story of breakthrough but cruel medical experiment gone wrong, with the characters dealing with the fallout. It’s so by-the-numbers in its premise that from the moment you meet them, you can predict what will happen to each of these cliché characters. Characterization is weak and flat. Castellanos, the main character, has an alcoholism and family loss backstory that doesn’t tie into the game’s plot nor is it referenced at any point. And going by the portrayal, they could have given him any background and he’d still be the same surly bastard. It’s even more jarring when the background notes portray him as an idealist and you see he’s anything but. It’s an attempt to humanize the character by giving him a dramatic backstory to care for him, but for that to be effective we have to actually give a damn about him. The worst realization I had while playing was that the character was ultimately meaningless, and he could have been silent for how much his words matter in any given conversation. The game also makes the mistake of reuniting and separating you from the rest of the cast almost every chapter, giving you very little time to actually give two damns about them. The disjunctive chapter storytelling helps sell the surreal and nightmarish nature of the story and setting but makes it so the game has to have catch-up chapters to give you exposition. Because you jump around from place to place, you can’t delve deeper into the mysteries and therefore the game has to have tell-not-show moments when it tells you what’s going on.

Each level, because that’s what the chapters really are, takes you to different places with very linear layouts. There is room for exploration, but it’s shallow at best and not always available. Some stages are just a series of corridors. Even the highway and city levels, with arguably the greatest potential for diverging paths and exploration rewards, act as nothing more than glorified arenas. While the locations themselves are surreal, mixing ancient villages with higher technologies or some mind-palace labyrinths, they are ultimately wasted by the game’s lack of consistency in tone and atmosphere. At times, the game is about exploring areas and finding monsters on the way, and at others, it just throws wave after wave after wave of enemies for you to use your dwindling resources on. When it does the (shallow) exploration with occasional confrontations, it comes close to being an actual horror game, but switches things up without building up any suspense, let alone fear.

When it works, the game’s combat handles beautifully but the problem is it doesn’t always work well. To give you an example: at one point I had very little ammo and had three creatures in front of me. Shooting them all wasn’t an option as they’re all bullet sponges. I thought of dropping them to the floor and then using a match to burn them all thus instantly killing them (in this game a match is more powerful than a Magnum). I then thought to myself, “I’ll shoot their legs, then burn, it worked on the last guy!” But I found myself wasting all my ammo because shooting them in the leg only sometimes makes them fall down. It’s the same with headshots, sometimes the heads blow up, sometimes they split in half, and sometimes they just don’t do anything. There is a severe lack of consistency when it comes to the combat mechanics. Oh and don’t even consider melee. It just tickles enemies, even if you continue to wail at them like a maniac. The first hit will stagger the, but the rest won’t even faze them and they’ll just see it as an opening to attack you. The only way melee works is by taking the weapons from fallen enemies but they work for one hit then they vanish for some reason. It’s the same with torches; they’re worth one instant kill, that’s it.

That brings me to another point, The Evil Within’s one-hit-kill-mania. At any given time if you don’t have full health, which is almost a constant thing, enemy attacks can simply one-shot you. You get it for the big prick with the chainsaw because it’s a bloody chainsaw! But when it happens even with zombie-dude number 3, you start getting quite irate. When monsters grab you, there’s a 50/50 chance of the button mash prompt to escape to show up or not. Bosses, which the chainsaw maniacs are, all have instant death attacks. If that wasn’t enough, there are hundreds of one-hit kill sequences, from traps to sudden-camera-shift chase sequences. I have never played a game that has made me groan as much as this one. I kept saying, “one more bullshit death thing like this and I quit.” One particularly appalling sequence has you going into a series of rooms with two switches, one of them opens the way out and the other kills you instantly. There isn’t any way of knowing which one saves you other than trial-by-death, which I consider lazy puzzle design…and I’m being generous. By the end there’s a worse one, which has you running from a massive blade, but the camera shifts from your back to the front. Sounds good, right? That way you can tell there’s a blade coming, right? Well, how about if I told you there are suddenly puddles in front of you that bring you to a dead stop and which you can’t see because of how zoomed in the camera is? That’s exactly what happens. The only way of getting through is dying enough to know the puddle pattern. It’s appalling design.

One of the many one-hit-death moments in the game. There's an abundance of these!
One of the many one-hit-death moments in the game. There’s an abundance of these!

Bosses are a monumental pain in the arse, there’s no other way to say it, not only because of the previous point and the close-quarter nature of every encounter, but because the game keeps bringing them back. With a handful of exception you will often fight the same boss three or four times. The first time you encounter them, you appreciate how surreal they are in their design but by the third, you’re just annoyed you have to have the exact encounter again.

The fights themselves vary greatly in challenge, mostly depending on how many resources you have, but you will die at least once to some of them, such as the dog-thing, with hard to avoid lunges and barely any openings to attack. The final boss on the other hand is the complete opposite, shifting incoherently to big set pieces, a mounted assault cannon with unlimited ammo and the Shinji Mikami Rocket Launcher staple. It’s a weak end encounter, a dreadful boss design and it doesn’t match the rest of the game.

A guy with a safe for a head IS NOT SCARY, no matter how weird the screen gets when he pops up!
A guy with a safe for a head IS NOT SCARY, no matter how weird the screen gets when he pops up!

Overall, The Evil Within’s challenge is based on resource scarcity. You will rarely find ammo on the ground or dropping from enemies, and when you do, they hold very few rounds. It’s not uncommon in this game to be surrounded by enemies, finding a handgun ammunition pickup and getting one bullet. It’s pretty standard-fare but The Evil Within takes it to frustratingly punishing levels by setting you up against large numbers of enemies every time, followed by one or more bosses. It forces you to use the resources you’re trying to keep, no matter how intelligently or strategically you play, as the aforementioned inconsistent combat plays into it as well. Worse still is how randomized the drops are. There are some fixed ammo drops, but if you die, other drops will change on reload, which more often than not will hinder you instead of working to your advantage. I once found four shotgun shells in a box, then died and found nothing breaking that same container. It’s even worse considering how unhelpful the camera is when it comes to pick-ups; you have to be looking exactly at the item to pick it up and if the camera even twitches a millimeter away, you can’t pick the items up. It’s yet another layer of frustration to this game.

I mentioned the unbalanced mechanics, but another part of the ‘challenge’ comes from some of the enemy designs, which are just bloody unfair. Like the invisible zombies in the hospital, the only way to register their position is to watch out for puddles or moving equipment, but even if you manage to hit them they remain visible for just a fraction of a second, making it night-impossible to follow up your attack. When they get you, anything less than half-health means they kill you. It’s one of the most frustrating sequences in the game, and the frustration actually kills all the mood the game was trying to build. Also, for a cop, the main character can’t really run, getting tired three seconds into the sprint (about 6 second when upgraded) and then needing almost twice that long to recover—except on the pre-determined chase sequences where he has unlimited stamina. It feels unnecessarily and unjustifiably punishing. It makes avoiding enemies and bosses sometimes feel like an exercise in futility and as a matter of fact, it’s sometimes easier to let bosses hit you, except for those you know will kill you if they touch you. Enemies can also stun-lock you to death, another thing that happened quite often when I tried to reposition myself for an attack.

One of the worst mistakes The Evil Within ever did was showcasing the bosses in the trailer! The lost the element of surprise!
One of the worst mistakes The Evil Within ever did was showcasing the bosses in the trailer! The lost the element of surprise!

Another problem with the drops is how it ties into the upgrade system, because of course there is one (what game nowadays doesn’t have one). Every container has an equal chance of giving you ammunition or health, which you desperately need, or Green Gel aka Upgrade Goo. On the upside the upgrades are mostly meaningful, with the exceptions of the melee attack, which takes your wild flinging from poor to mediocre at best. The downside is some of the upgrades are nonsensical. I get upgrading weapons your own innate skills, but are you seriously telling me you’re injecting yourself with green goo to increase your ammo carry capacity? Does the goo transform into extra pockets? It’s nitpicky I know but it feels tacked on only to force the scarcity, to prevent you from collecting ammo which you’ll desperately need, and which happened to me over the course of the playthrough more than once. Upgrades also become so expensive that even collecting every bit of green gel will make it impossible to improve some stats.

Finally, there’s the crafting system, one of the things I had the biggest hopes for in this game. Early trailers showed the character building his own traps and ammunition and weapons, but it turns out the only thing you do make are crossbow bolts. Sure, there are a variety of them, but it feels shallow, as if it was part of a scrapped bigger idea. The bolts themselves also require upgrades but I didn’t really bother with them, too expensive for what they actually do (later on, enemies will use bolts against you and theirs work a thousand times better than yours do). You build them by collecting parts from the ground or dismantling traps. Each bolt has a part cost, and given you need to upgrade your carry capacity you can’t really have too many arrows of any one kind. But you can’t create your own traps, you can’t craft ammo and when you can create explosive, freezing, shocking and flamethrower arrows, you can’t expect me to believe you can’t rustle up a bullet, especially considering how intricate those bolts look!

This is The Evil Within's horror, Hostel and Saw, blood and blades. It doesn't work!
This is The Evil Within’s horror, Hostel and Saw, blood and blades. It doesn’t work!

Traps would’ve greatly expanded the gameplay. You can already use some traps in the environment for your own purposes though more than likely you’ll trip on them, as they’re really difficult to see unless you’re walking extra-slow. Trip-wire and bear traps work on everyone but for some reason the proximity/movement mines only detect you and dismantling them is pretty much a QTE, pressing the button at the right time to make the dial stop at the green zone. If you fail, you’ll either lose a chunk of health or just die, succeed and you get a couple of parts. By the end I stopped dismantling them and just shot them when enemies were close enough.

But what I consider The Evil Within’s greatest weakness/crime/disappointment is its weak horror. As I mentioned above, when you’re exploring creepy environments and you get enemies stalking the halls, the game comes close, but it never reaches horror. It tries to scare you through shock value, by overusing blood, guts and torture chambers. It might just be me, but after a decade of similar games and films, I’m completely desensitized to that brand of ‘horror’. It’s just garish, boring and uninspired, there is no chill factor, no eeriness, just a constant stream of pain. As I recently said during a podcast: “It’s the equivalent of having someone screaming in your face, it’s not scary, it’s just annoying!” And I maintain that position. Years ago, when no one had ever screamed in my face, it would’ve startled and scared the hell out of me, now I’m just done with it. The frustration part of the game’s shoddy design also helps kill whatever horror the game aims for. This was the most disappointing horror experience I have ever played. It also doesn’t help to have a goofy setting like this one; I mean I can’t take Krimson City seriously, no matter what game it is. It tries too hard (Krimson is crimson, like blood, get it?) and fails miserably.

I wish the game had used more of these, or given the surreal sequences more time to be actually effective!
I wish the game had used more of these, or given the surreal sequences more time to be actually effective! Oh and yes, you are escaping from a red cloud of death.

The Evil Within and Shinji Mikami not only fail miserably in reviving the genre or return us to the good old roots, but might also completely steer people away from Survival Horror. I am beyond disappointed, I am horrified by this game and not in the good way I expected to be. It’s punishing and frustrating but not in the fun Dark-Souls-y way but in the unfair “This is bullshit!” way.

The Mental Attic Score: Oh Hell No! I will never play this game ever again.

The Seduction of Horror

What makes good Horror? These past weeks, recording playthroughs with my good friend John Heatz and the 1001-Up crew, I’ve wondered about that, and I found the answer in Romance, Seduction and Sex; their principles and that of horror are similar, they just seek different outcomes; though interestingly enough, the physical side of them are astoundingly similar. Continue reading The Seduction of Horror

Dead Space Scarethrough

It’s that time again. Time for you to see me shiver & scream playing horror games. This time we’re playing one of my favourites, Dead Space, the first in the series and the best of the 3 (so far) in terms of horror. Continue reading Dead Space Scarethrough