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Uni finished The Evil Within
Action games generally operate on the concept of player empowerment, granting the tools to overcome any challenge without a scratch, as long as players have the skill to realize that potential. Meanwhile, horror games operate on the concept of player disempowerment, giving the bare minimum in order to foster a tense atmosphere, so balancing the priorities of each genre seems like mixing oil and water. Resident Evil games are famous for trying to do so, but they usually break into a horror-centric first half and an action-centric back half, without a true blending of the concepts. The Evil Within meanwhile actually managed it, but had to alienate players in some key ways in order to do so. Firstly, the logic behind the story is nearly impossible to follow at first, leaving players unable to find their footing, confused at why the progression is so jumpy and unfocused. Then, the mechanical restrictions feel like they’re equally arbitrary: Sebastian can only initially carry about twelve bullets, and not even a full healthbar’s worth of recovery. He can barely run at all, and in order to alleviate any of this, you may have to bank up green gel over the course of multiple chapters. It can seem like the game is simply trying to make action feel scary by stressing out players with cheap deaths, but once you commit to learning the game, a brilliant method behind the madness reveals itself. While the story is mostly nonsense, the abstract nature of it allows for level design suited to a wide variety of challenges. With new mechanics being introduced at a steady pace, players are constantly kept on the backfoot, and thus disempowered, even as their growing mechanical knowledge empowers them. The shallow capacity for supplies is an obvious form of disempowerment which prompts players to spend resources cleverly, but their abundance between each fight empowers players to use their entire toolkit freely. The upgrade system empowers; the below-par baselines make unupgraded stats more of a problem in the face of scaling challenge. For every give, there’s a take, and thus, a harmony between action and horror is reached. As stated before though, the “take” for that brilliance is a frontloaded sense of disempowerment, with players having to get through most of the game before they’ve experienced enough character growth and skill development to redress the balance. So, I really can’t blame anyone for bouncing off of this game, but I also truly believe that as of today (less than a week away from RE4 remake), it’s the best merging of action and horror in gaming. Resident Evil 4 is pure satisfying action, Dead Space commits to bloody horror, but The Evil Within is purely… both.

1 day ago

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