The Evil Within hands-on: the game survival horror fans have been waiting for

Borrowing from the classics is no bad thing

It takes, on average, seven handgun bullets to kill a standard zombie in Resident Evil 2. Alternatively, you can use two shotgun shells (one if you aim for the head), two shots from the bow gun, or one shot from the grenade launcher or magnum. This is precisely why the monsters of Resident Evil have lost their ability to scare; boil them down to their mechanical parts and each one becomes an act of attrition rather than an uneasy encounter with your own mortality.

When The Evil Within was first teased over a year ago, the initial trailer suggested it would feature the kind of psychological horror that you couldn't reduce to simple numbers - that didn't fall back on the old tropes of wayward entrails and tedious blood trails. So, when approached with that expectation, the classic survival horror scares that it actually provides can be something of a disappointment. But, if you can get past that, the pleasantly anachronistic gameplay The Evil Within provides is enjoyable for old school genre fans. Instead of a brand new game, think of it more like a Resident Evil Greatest Hits compilation and you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

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The demo begins with me standing outside a mansion that's Arklay in all but name. It's smaller, perhaps, but there in the grand foyer are the sweeping branching staircases, the cold marble floors, the dark wood panelling and the oddly antiquated decor. Just off the main hall is the dining room where S.T.A.R.S members Barry and Jill were utterly baffled by the sight of a pool of blood. Here's the door you'll have to come back to later once you have the requisite number of puzzles solved, there's the save room twinkling with calming classical music, though here Mikami has replaced Resi's Moonlight Sonata with Clair de la Lune - literally moonlight for moonlight.

I've never been to this place before, yet I know where to find extra ammo and other items because I know exactly where they'd be in Resident Evil 4. And I know that I'll need to conserve that ammo obsessively, because there will, inexorably, be more monsters in this mansion than there are bullets to kill them. Stealth kills are an option, but these enemies are difficult to sneak up on, especially when they're actively trying to hunt you down.


Adding to the stress of trying to solve puzzles in order to progress is the fact that you're constantly being stalked by ghostly antagonist Ruvik, a creepy looking dude in a hood who will randomly appear at regular intervals to chase you through the mansion halls. Like Resident Evil 3's Nemesis, Ruvik is a force of nature that can't be harmed or slowed down in any way. If he touches you, your health will be drained to just north of nothing. And if, or indeed when you run from him, you'll need to keep an eye on the bodies littering the mansion's darkened hallways. Regular enemies must be burned or they'll reanimate, much like the crimson head zombies of the original Resident Evil remake, and like ammo, matches are in short supply, so you'll need to be practical about which bodies you dispatch permanently and which you risk leaving alone.

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