With Resident Evil, RE2, RE3, the original Resident Evil 4, and even the likes of Dino Crisis and its sequel under his belt, it’s not surprising that The Evil Within isn’t the first Shinji Mikami survival horror game that most people would name. But that doesn’t make it any less valuable, and if you enjoyed his other work or the genre in general, I’d mark The Evil Within as a game you owe it to yourself to try – and it’s a free game right now, so don’t miss your chance.
The Evil Within was made by Mikami and his studio at Tango Gameworks after he stepped out from under the umbrella of Platinum Games following work on Vanquish. It was designed, to hear Mikami himself tell it, as a return to “true survival horror games,” where “the player confronts and overcomes fear,” which he felt bigger games in the genre had been increasingly moving away from. Now, you can discover the results for yourself, as it becomes a free PC game for the week.
Detective Sebastian Castellanos is investigating a mass murder incident when he’s suddenly thrown into a mysterious alternate reality; a dark place filled with horrifying, otherworldly creatures intent on violence and a mysterious apparition of a man in a white hooded cloak. The result is a tense, atmospheric adventure with limited resources, ample psychological introspection, and an eerie rendition of Claude Debussy’s Claire de lune that’s never quite as reassuring as I wanted it to be.
For its part, The Evil Within certainly drags the needle back towards the ‘survival’ side of the horror spectrum as Mikami had intended, routinely encouraging you to avoid direct conflict with more powerful foes. You almost never have the upper hand in The Evil Within; far from it, in fact, as Castellanos stumbles through crumbling hospitals, disused railway stations, and nightmare-laden flesh tunnels. It even borrows concepts from Mikami’s past such as the option to burn grounded foes, although here it serves more as a quick finisher than Resident Evil’s resurrection prevention.
Tango Gameworks doesn’t shy away from action altogether, however. You will, at times, be forced to contend with several enemies at once in more open combat, although it certainly feels far more about dealing with fewer, deadlier enemies than the comparative hordes found in the likes of Resident Evil 4. Nevertheless, the shooting feels weighty and impactful, when you’re forced to use it.
The Evil Within is a free game via the Epic Games Store from Thursday October 19 to Thursday October 26, 2023, and it’s yours to keep once claimed. You can get your copy here. That’s not all, however, as you can also grab indie puzzler Eternal Threads for free this week – simply head to its respective store page to get that as well.