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The Evil Within, free on the Epic Games Store, is a Halloween treat

Shinji Mikami’s post-Resident Evil game has flaws, but is worth revisiting

Protagonist Sebastian Castellanos aims a shotgun at The Keeper, an enemy with a safe covering its head, in a screenshot from The Evil Within Image: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

This spooky season, consider The Evil Within, the debut horror-action game from Resident Evil co-creator Shinji Mikami and the debut game from Tango Gameworks. This flawed but frightening horror game is currently free to download (and keep) on the Epic Games Store — and is available through both an Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Extra subscription on consoles.

The Evil Within, with its mix of surreal scares, stealth, and survival horror, exists in the space between the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. There is a copious amount of gore. In the first couple hours, protagonist Sebastian Castellanos will find himself sliding down a slaughterhouse sluice gate, wading in a pool of blood, and digging through a rotting cadaver in search of a set of keys. There are Saw and Hostel levels of gore and gristle, jump scares, and chase scenes involving chainsaw-wielding butchers. The Evil Within is not for the squeamish.

But as survival horror games go, it has glimpses of greatness — that would shine much stronger in its 2018 sequel, The Evil Within 2. After a rough few hours, The Evil Within starts to hit its stride; it’s worth seeing it through for the full 10- to 12-hour playtime.

As noted in Polygon’s original review of the game, “The Evil Within has great moments where the excellent combat and creepy environmental design come together. But those moments are fleeting, inevitably sapped of their delightful terror by design choices that feel trapped in the glory days of a decade ago.”

Sebastian Castellanos crouches with a shotgun in hand as he watches a spider-like monster creeping through an underground facility in a screenshot from The Evil Within
You like crouching? This guy crouches
Image: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks

It has improved over time, however, with developer Tango addressing some of the game’s original quirks, like the fact that The Evil Within once forced a letterboxed aspect ratio on players. And in 2021, when it came to Xbox Game Pass, Tango quietly added a bunch of new features to The Evil Within, including a first-person mode, field-of-view options, and a tweak to stamina. (Sebastian can now sprint for a full five seconds, compared to his usual three, on default stamina levels.)

Tango also added an option to make the game much easier, with infinite ammo.

There’s a catch on some of those new options, though. If you want to use The Evil Within’s first-person mode (which is a little janky) and unlock infinite ammo, you need a account, which you must log in to use. This is, of course, a completely unnecessary and annoying barrier that Bethesda maintains in the PC version available for free through the Epic Games Store — particularly since the publisher retired its in-house launcher in 2022. But, hey, if you have an existing Bethesda account associated with an email address from that time you tried playing Fallout 76, this might not be a hurdle.

The Evil Within is more than nine years old now, and it has its share of quirks and shortcomings, but it’s still a pretty good survival horror experience. You can’t beat the price of free right now, and maybe it’ll convince you to give the more experimental The Evil Within 2 a chance.

If you do want to give The Evil Within a chance, you have until Oct. 26 to get it free from Epic.

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