The Evil Within Experience: An open letter to Bethesda and Tango Gameworks
Guys, we have a problem.
Earlier this week I eagerly awaited a new survival horror game by one of my favorite game designers Shinji Mikami. I asked Francis to let me cover the review and absolutely couldn’t wait to play the game. But this… this is sick. No, I’m not talking about your excessively gory visuals border-lining on juvenile (don’t worry we’ll get there). Today boys and girls we are going to talk about poorly executed PC ports.
I don’t even know where to start, but I’ll try. Lets start with the misuse of id Tech 5. I’m a huge fan of John Carmack, its one of the VERY few twitter feeds I actually enjoy reading. From following what I understand of this engine over the years, and playing the games it was made in, I gathered that id Tech 5 is meant to essentially dynamically scale to maintain performance (frame rate) as well as handle a very large amount of graphical data if the hardware is there to support it. This has led to issues that definitely condemned RAGE and was well executed by Wolfenstein: The New Order. Why then would you make a technical decision to lock the game to a swap interval of -1 essentially locking the game to 30fps for most people who own 60hz monitors (or 72fps for me because of my 144hz monitor)?
That makes no goddamn sense.
You used an engine specifically for the purpose of NOT having to do that and some genius decided to build a game more unstable than Charles Manson around said swap interval anyway.
Now, I’ve played some very poor PC ports and really ended up loving them. I absolutely adore Dark Souls even though it took a member of the community to unlock the internal rendering resolution of 1024×768 to be able to scale to 1920×1080 as well as uncap that framerate (In less than a day, Durante you are a hero) when the developer said it couldn’t be done. In addition to that building it on Games for Windows Live, one of the worst network infrastructures for gaming ever conceived. That’s abominable and I happily forgave and defended the game anyway because it was freaking great.
Back on track let’s start this experience to the consumer viewpoint. You decided that your game was worth $60 USD on Steam. That bugs the shit out of me, the only game of value I’ve ever spent that much money on Steam for was Skyrim. Charging people more than $49.99 for your single player romp on Steam is just unacceptable, you know who else does that? Activision with Call of Duty. As much as you probably wish you had those numbers, it’s not going to happen and people shouldn’t tolerate you trying to emulate them. On top of that apparently your new untested IP is worth 80 dollars according to you because it offers an extra 20 dollar season pass. Hmm who else should we copy with our business strategy? I know, how bout Randy Pitchford because he’s just a swell man that everyone respects.
I bought your game and committed to the review but boy did that leave a bad taste in my mouth from the start. I would have let these things go, and wouldn’t currently be vomiting venom all over my keyboard if it wasn’t for your actual product once I got it installed. The first thing I noticed was the horrific input lag of the mouse cursor in your menus, the striking lack of graphical options, and my first of many crashes to my desktop. I had to do some research to try and fix your game before I started playing, and boy that is just what I absolutely love out of a 60 dollar experience. After haphazardly patching it up and learning to deal with 30fps again after playing every game I own perfectly in 144fps with my brand new Nvidia GTX 970 I noticed that the game just looked bad. Some of your textures look like they come out of the PS2 era. In fact your character models look inferior to games from the PS2 era as well (i.e. Silent hill 3 and Final Fantasy X).
Also can we just take a moment to talk about how games aren’t film. It’s not okay to try and make your game run 23.976 fps (I’m looking at you The Order 1886), depend on copious film grain to hide your shit textures, OR ADD A GODDAMN LETTERBOX TO YOUR GAME. This serves no purpose other than pissing people off, and yeah you can “remove” the letterbox with a debug command but you’re actually just zooming in the camera giving you an even poorer field of view (which there is no adjustment at all for). I know many game designers wish they worked in film, but you don’t. Stop trying to blur the lines between the two mediums.
Let me finish this segment by saying that I’m not a videophile. I’ve played tons of games throughout the years that I still enjoy with low visual fidelity and which I still consider extremely well realized and artistic. It’s just these just absolute SHIT design and technical decisions that drive me up a wall.
With that out of the way let’s get on to the game. We start off with our protagonist Sebastian Castellanos responding to a call for assistance dealing with a violent situation at a nearby mental hospital, with some other people I guess. The game sure as hell doesn’t seem to care about the other people in the car so why should I. Bad shit happens and we wake up hanging upside-down in the torture fun-house of a spooky scary leather-face wannabe. After a short scripted sequence you have a stealth sequence around this enemy with a ton of places to hide and the ability to throw bottles really far away making it a total breeze. A super scripted hallway ensues for about 10 minutes leading into a cut-scene about nothing. Let’s just stop there. The story obviously didn’t seem to matter to anyone making this at all. There was no character development; you barely learn anyone’s name. It’s just edgy visuals for the sake of being edgy.
It’s not even horror.
The game just strings you from chapter to chapter in “spooky” set pieces with generic enemies to shoot or stealth around. Once you actually get to start playing the game it has horribly janky controls on both mouse and keyboard, uninspired design, and the worst thing a game can be: boring.
This first play session broke my spirit, I would have never continued playing again if it wasn’t for the review. I had contacted Francis and asked is it really worth reviewing such an unremarkable game. He reassured me that we’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t review bad games. This is absolutely true, I hit the pavement and started to take the game up again a day later once I let my mood settle to be fair in the games judgment.
Over the last two days I cleared about a third of the game on its normal difficulty, started to hit a stride with it, didn’t particularly enjoy it but I was getting somewhere. Then I got to chapter 6, which takes place in what appears to be some type of castle ruin. My game crashed 26 times in this chapter, but I kept going anyway. Eventually, after a difficult segment my game crashed before an auto-save point (oh yeah don’t put auto-save points in survival horror games that’s stupid) I saw those same stupid un-skippable splash art screens each time I rebooted this piece of shit. Eventually I broke, I stopped playing at that point and began writing this review. I give up, I REFUSE to continue playing your unfinished “60 dollar experience.” The sheer audacity of this situation is just mind-blowing. How could you ship this in your right mind?
I could go on for pages upon pages, I’m so disappointed in all parties involved. If there was a medium for me to actually take a shit on paper electronically I would do it, but I’ll settle for this:
Final Verdict: 1/5
-Sean “Roundabout” Boyce
P.S. Stop using id tech 5 until you fix that texture pop issue. Toodles.
Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One ; Publisher: Bethesda Softworks; Developer: ; Tango Gameworks: Players: 1; Released: October 14th, 2014; Genre: Survival Horror; MSRP: $59.99