If you're a fan of the horror genre, I'm sorry for your loss. It's been a tough generation for fans of horror. Nearly every light at the end of the tunnel (new Silent Hill, new Resident Evil, Dead Space) has turned out either bad or so close to pure action that it doesn't deserve the horror subtitle. The Evil Within is Shinji Mikami's answer to the stagnation of the horror genre. At E3 he told us he wanted to take it back to its roots, and the great news is he seems to be right on track.
The E3 presentation went through the prologue of the game. You play as a detective named Sebastian, investigating a disturbance at a mental hospital. As Sebastian arrives he finds the squad of police cars previously sent to the scene abandoned, with no sign of the officers. Sebastian enters the mental hospital, and I was immediately struck by the atmosphere. It's not hard to make a mental hospital creepy, but the scattered dead bodies and moody lighting certainly pushed the point.
As Sebastian investigates he finds security footage detailing the murder of the other officers. A crazy ghost-like apparition stabs each officer, moving between them at incredible speeds before looking up at the camera. Sebastian immediately blacks out, and awakens hanging from a hook with a hulking butcher around him, surrounded by dead bodies. The butcher is cutting meat off of them.
It's a shocking beginning to the game, and your first task is to escape. In the prologue Sebastian has no weapons, and discovery will be death, but he triggers an alarm and is forced to flee from the hulking butcher. The butcher catches his leg, and the remainder of Sebastian's escape is slower, painfully limited.
Stealth takes on a big role in the remainder of the prologue, as the demonstrator stealthily dodged the butcher, hiding in a locker Amnesia style when he had to. The butcher would sometimes discover him, forcing a panicked retreat, knowing he's faster than the crippled lead character. This sense of panic and powerlessness was pervasive throughout the demo, and it concluded with Sebastian escaping the hospital to a world in ruins.
We were going to be shown the combat next, starting in a later part of the game with Sebastian in the woods in an area that looked very much like something out of Resident Evil 4. The protagonist entered a rundown shack, picking up a health pack similar to what you would see in Resident Evil as well, but then the graphics card they were running the demo on died, sadly ending our presentation.
Despite not getting as full a look at the game as I hoped, what I saw of The Evil Within has me genuinely excited. Horror hasn't been done this well on a home console this generation. As Mikami himself put it, it combines unimaginable fear with the triumph of overcoming those fears. The game launches next year on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.