Last month saw Shinji Mikami, the celebrated creator of the Resident Evil series, return to the genre he helped shape with The Evil Within from Tango Gameworks. The title harkens back to different eras of Mikami’s career, from the scary beginnings of the original Resident Evil to the action landmark that is Resident Evil 4. It even goes a little further than that, revisiting themes seen in the overlooked Shadows of the Damned before eventually making a few marks of its own. The title was met with a mostly positive reaction from critics and consumers, suggesting that it could have a future ahead of it. Its terrifying blend of psychological horror and intense action also make it a unique candidate for a VR adaption.
The Evil Within prides itself on unpredictability. Cast as police detective Sebastian Castellanos, players begin the title by investigating a gruelling mass murder incident at a hospital. It’s not long before Castellanos and his colleagues face a mysterious supernatural foe, eventually embarking upon a lengthy descent into madness. It’s common for the player to suddenly be transported to entirely new environments and encounter increasingly horrific enemies along the way.
Using the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus head-mounted display (HMD) could open up entirely new ways for The Evil Within to inflict its brand of horror. Players often visit a sort of hub area fashioned as a hospital in which they are subjected to a number of psychological horrors. Disturbed patients seemingly come and go, mysterious paintings and artefacts appear at random and distant noises force the player to grip their controller a little tighter. Imagine this kind of atmosphere-building in an isolated VR experience.
That said, some of these scares may not be as effective in VR. It’s important to let players acclimatise to the technology and new environments, and switching from a derelict village to the laboratory of a disturbed scientist with the click of a finger could prove a little too disorientating. VR presents the potential for whole new forms of psychological horror, but they must be handled responsibly.
The title’s stress-inducing combat (meant in the best possible sense) means that enemies can suddenly arrive in droves at any moment. As with Resident Evil 4, the player’s job is to manage the horde, making sure each enemy’s position is accounted for as they keep them at bay. A HMD’s ability to allow players to aim independent of movement could add a crucial new layer to this brand of combat. Think of being backed into a corner with enemies ever advancing and desperately searching for an exit as you empty a magazine into the horde, or bravely checking over your shoulder as a boss chases you down a corridor.
Hopefully The Evil Within has a future ahead of it and hopefully that future include VR. This is a unique horror experience that offers its own blend of scares and thrills. Horror may well be one of VR’s most popular genres one day, this and is one series that could be leading the charge.