Written by Jonathan Wojcik
REVIEWING EVIL WITHIN MONSTERS
So we're completely done with Resident Evil monsters, and we covered the entirety of Silent Hill a couple of years prior...are...are we out of current horror game franchises?! It sure does seem like slim pickings out there...but one little title and its sequel have been requested off and on for a while now. Debuting in 2014, it seems clear that The Evil Within was, in fact, Bethesda's hopeful effort at throwing its own hat into the same survival horror ring as Capcom and Konami, distinguishing themselves from either psycho-supernatural horror or fantastic science horror with a storyline that's sort of both and neither...it's complicated. We're not gonna get heavily into the story or characters, especially since I haven't even actually played these two games. They were kind of divisive, and not quite successful enough to really take off running into the next big name for scary gaming, but how do the monster designs fare? Wellll....
It's not a survival horror game without an equivalent to "zombies," right? That seems to be the common logic, anyway. Personally, I was already tired of the trope by the time this game came out, and I havr to say I find these zombies fairly cornball, visually. All that sets them apart from the infested and infected humans of other series is their origin story, but the central hook of Evil Within - the driving force behind the monstrous phenomenon we encounter - is just novel enough that I'm not so sure I want to spoil it here. What I can say is that these people literally had the "evil within them" brought to the surface, though I feel like that could have been illustrated better than by what ultimately look more like d-list cenobites.
Variant haunted encountered in one of the DLC scenarios are definitely more interesting, and I wish this writhing mutant flesh had just been their motif from the beginning. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's much cooler and scarier to me than simply "mutilated" people.
Some haunted in some scenarios also have big, glowing boils on their bodies, and are apparently on their way to becoming these things, which are pretty nifty! The way the head dangles, there's an impression that the pulsating glob is really the true organism, and you really needed a video here to appreciate HOW pulsating of a glob we're talking about. The ribs flying out like giant teeth is always a fun gimmick, and then the thing just holds you in place while it explodes all over you! Monsters that just stagger into you and explode have kind of lost their novelty to me through sheer exposure, but the combination of living bomb and jaw trap is an interesting one.
This monster used to be a person with "multiple personalities" (dissociative disorder), now manifesting as a human and monster form forced to share a single body. Another that's a little corny, and maybe not all that tactful. What's more interesting is their hidden attack:
For whatever reason, the Alterego can fling forth a tentacle from the middle of its chest, on the end of which is a four-limbed parasite with a back full of larvae. I'm not sure what this is supposed to represent, but it's cool at least.
I'm not really selling this game too well, am I? The Sentinel doesn't do much to change that; it's a giant, mutant wolf created by a scary cult laboratory underneath a church, kind of, which also doesn't all exactly exist, kind of. Like I said, it's complicated. All I can say I appreciate that much about the Sentinel's design is the extra, more human eyeball sticking out behind the dog eye. Funny!
Crawling, scary baby things you have to stomp. I feel like they were hoping this would be more shocking and controversial.
This monster manifests from a major villain's "desire to be unseen," combining humanoid, reptilian, fish and cephalopod characteristics in a slimy, tentacled monster that can turn invisible.
The Quell also has a secondary mouth you can miss in a blink, which shoots out to chomp your head off not unlike the jaws off a juvenile dragonfly. Okay! Still nothing wildly innovative, and the creature overall has kind of a forgettable design, but, okay!
Alright, here's something really interesting! This monster was cut from the game as a boss battle but remains as a hazard, and as far as nightmare sea beasts go, it's not a bad effort at all; a truly massive humanoid warped into a ghastly "mermaid," its face dominated by lipless jaws with dental headgear bolted to its crooked collection of human teeth. Pretty rad! More brutal and visceral than what I tend to find "scary," personally, but overall I support her and I support what she's trying to do.
Another fairly nice one! It feels like a lot of things I've seen before, admittedly, but I still like it. Its origins are unknown and the villain has no control over it, so apparently it just wasn't meant to exist even in his screwed-up world.
It resembles a bloated blob of melded bodies with hairy, spidery legs and a number of hoses in its orifices, so I guess I like it because it feels like an homage to Junji Ito's Gyo. It can shake maggots loose from its body as an attack, and according to the character designer, it achieves eternal life by constantly feeding on its own excrement. I don't think that works, but whatever. Maybe it does here.
This is a game full of gauche imagery, but Trauma here takes the cake. It represents the way the bad guy's religious dad was mean to him, so it's like, a crucified heretic with a mutilated, blind face. Very subtle, guys. I gotta say this has me kind of yawning.
This one, on the other hand,is an incarnation of the bad guy's sister who died in a barn fire, so her monster form is associated with flame and constantly screaming. Once again it's something I've seen before, but the presentation is alright. It's subtler than Trauma, that's for sure, with a perfectly normal face that I think is honestly much scarier than a mutilated or ghoulish one could have been.
Now I know we've ALL seen a bunch of people melted together into a giant blob, lots of times, but this is another of those cases in which just a single detail saves an otherwise mediocre design, and maybe you've guessed that I just adore the big, bright, almost cutesy eye on the end of that one stalk. This game really could have used more absurdist imagery like this, a different kind of goofiness to break up the goofiness of all their edgy gore and rot.
THE AMALGAM ALPHA
The "perfect" Amalgam is the game's final boss, and while it loses the adorable periscope, it gains an interesting domed cranium, giant hands, a bloated stomach and overall looks more like an alien you might see in Star Wars or a more child-oriented horror game, which I really like about it. I like that all those people finished merging into a more symmetrical monster and the result is this purpley doofus. Admittedly however, it stands out more because so many other monsters in this game just don't really stand out.
Amalgam may be the final boss, but we're reviewing Keeper last because it was presented as basically the series mascot. Comparisons to Silent Hill's pyramid head are unavoidable here; they're similar enough monsters that it's difficult to call it anything other than a knockoff, but to be honest, I actually find the Keeper a little cooler as a concept. That safe can burst open into a bunch of flailing meat tentacles, it can use actual safes as its own personal teleportation doors, and there's even a point at which Laura climbs out of its head. Its purpose is to collect the heads of anyone who learns too much about the realm it protects, and it keeps those heads in the big, metal basket on its back.
If Pyramid Head didn't already exist, I'd find the Keeper a highly creative villain. Since Pyramid Head does exist, I just have to consider the Keeper to be a nice and fresh spin on the trope he established.
NOW we've got something good. Real good! What, you don't think a floodlight with sexy legs is cool!? I really like the idea of being stalked by a monster with a big, blinding light for a head, I'm always a fan of armless humanoids and the simple combination between rusty lamp face, bloody sheet body and curvy gams in high heels is so much more ridiculous than the rest of this game that it just feels a whole lot more fun, and still feels like it would be fun in a game with more creative monsters overall.
And what's REALLY fun about her, as is the case with many other monsters out there, is where she hides her mouth!
Yeah, she's not a human in a funny suit. Shade's entire torso is just jaws! AWESOME! This is the monster they really should have pushed as their mascot, but she was only added later in a DLC scenario. It's not really a good sign when the one monster that shows me something new(ish) isn't part of the main game by default.
The Evil Within wanted to be able to compete with the Big Guys of horror gaming, but while reasonably well crafted, its enemy and boss designs - the most important part of this genre - all feel as if they lack a certain creative spark. They're "good" monster designs, they're competent, they show commendable effort, but nothing strongly sets them apart from countless monsters that have come before them. You could drop any one of them into one of those other series, and nobody would know the difference.
This is, at least, slightly rectified by the second game, though it's not without its own set of issues. I was originally going to roll both of them together into one review, but I think we'll split them up after all!
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