Nicely done, Bethesda. You got us to pay attention to something we otherwise might have tossed in the “yay, press release” bin.
If you’re just joining, meet The Evil Within, a survival-horror game that’s no relation to the 1970 film starring Bollywood actress Zeenat Aman, the 1993 film starring Drew Barrymore, or the fifth episode of Blade: The Series. Bethesda confirmed the game’s existence this morning after teasing two oblique looping VINE clips — one juxtaposing barbed wire and Bach, the other depicting a mysterious figure and combusting sunflowers.
Why such a pedestrian title? Who knows. Maybe it’ll be ironic. More likely it won’t, because, well, “Dead Space,” “Resident Evil,” “Deadly Premonition” and all that. Not that titles need be profound; “BioShock Infinite” isn’t exactly lyric poetry.
Bethesda says the game’s in development at Tango Gameworks — a newish game studio founded in 2010 by Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami — with a projected 2014 release (for both current and next-gen consoles). I’m no great fan of the early Resident Evil games, but Mikami wrote and directed Resident Evil 4, which is where the series got interesting. Plus: God Hand and Vanquish, both games you might not have played, but should.
Let’s talk about the trailer, which despite wallowing in cliché, actually manages to be scary. First, the stuff you’ve seen before…
The sublime against the disturbing: the vinyl LP of Bach’s “Air on the G String” played on a harpsichord. Recall the scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Anthony Hopkins pounds the life, literally, out of his captors, as Glenn Gould’s 1955 performance of the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations plays. Poor Bach, relegated to backgrounding shock video.
The psyche ward from hell: shots of darkened hallways in a grubby institutional facility with rogue wheelchairs, jaundiced cage-lights and scuffed doors with tiny square windows (cribbed from a ScrapeTV image of a “mental hospital door”?). With a bit of luck, this’ll just be backstory and we won’t have to slog through another building with padded cells, hellish boiler rooms and sepulchral torture chambers.
The Thing lives! Slithering musculature? Fingers like knitting needles? Arms and legs where arms and legs should never be? Take a bow, John Carpenter, you’ve inspired another alien, ax-murdering, Lovecraftian freak.
Tool benches are creepy. Especially ones with bolt cutters and needle-nose pliers. Of course anybody sitting in a dim-lit, desolate mental ward torquing barbed wire can’t be right in the head.
People in body suits (or armor, or weird monster-skin) are also creepy. Rubber suit guy in American Horror Story was spooky enough before he hopped into bed with Connie Britton…and so is Pinhead’s glass-covered cenobitic cousin at 0:38 here.
Speaking of Hellraiser… That blood-birth sequence at 1:28 is so Frank…until the extra limbs and tentacles show up.
As for the non-clichéd stuff…
It’s a live-action trailer; live-action game trailers are rare. Live action games vanished decades ago, post-The 7th Guest, Gabriel Knight and Wing Commander III. The idea’s reemerged in recent years as a kind of marketing adjunct (I’m thinking of Microsoft‘s Halo 4-related trailer and miniseries, or Bethesda’s Skyrim thing). Do we care that the game itself won’t look as authentic as the trailer? No, but I know it’s a pet peeve of video game purists.
Bethesda doesn’t want you thinking about weapons (for now). As Tom Chick notes, guns (and combat in general) are M.I.A. here. That said, don’t bet on a combat-free experience a la Amnesia: The Dark Descent. According to Mikami, “My team and I are committed to creating an exciting new franchise, providing fans the perfect blend of horror and action.” Plus: Barbed wire could be weaponized. And wait a second…is that Evil Mirror-Verse Thor on the elevator with the bloody cape and spiked warhammer at 0:55?
But wait! It seems we may know a little more about The Evil Within after all: While Bethesda’s playing slow-drip with info about the game in the U.S. (there’s more to come next week), Gematsu noticed Bethesda’s Japanese press release for Psychobreak (the game’s Japanese name) and reports the following about the story (don’t hold the translation against Bethesda):
When Detective Sebastian and his partner rush to the scene of a gruesome mass murder, a mysterious, powerful force is lying in wait for them. Witnessing the killing of fellow police officers one after another, Sebastian is then attacked and loses consciousness. Waking up in a land where monsters are wandering about, Sebastian has to fight his way through a world of death and its close friend madness in order to understand what’s going on. Sebastian has to face his fears in order to survive on a journey to discover what lies in the shadows of that mysterious force.
The press release also mentions limited resource-based gameplay (like most survival horror games, then), trap-based puzzles you can wield against enemies and an Amnesia-like angle where the game’s scenery morphs in response to your actions.
None of that really moves me at this point, but I haven’t played a genuinely scary survival horror game in ages, so fingers crossed.