Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Surviving The Evil Within, Chapter 3: What was that noise?

at 6:00 PM
So, if it hasn't occurred to you yet, things might get kinda spoily from here. Probably not plot-wise, but it's impossible for me to narrate the gameplay without revealing monsters and their locations. It's been a pain just finding screenshots without seeing every last twisted boss. At least it's made me confident that chainsaw guys and zombies are just the tip of the iceberg.

At the onset of "Clause of the Horde" Sebastian and I pulled ourselves out of the muck and started working our way into the village on the other side of Chapter 2's stone bridge. Approaching through the mist, the town square seemed quiet. Nothing was amiss - nothing except the bodies hung upside down below a wooden walkway. I busted through the window of the nearest house and was startled by a loud beeping - that's when Sebastian exploded into a dozen pieces.

Restarting from the checkpoint I returned to the same window and this time ran into a corner as soon as I'd hopped through. The beeping died out as I moved away from the entry point, and turning around I got a look at a new type of exploding trap: the exploding trap. A quick tutorial window told me I could sneak up to exploding traps to disarm them, so I gave it a try and was snapped into a QTE minigame. Not ready for what was happening (other traps are automatically disarmed when you press A), I failed Sebastian and he exploded again. Returning a third time, I timed a button-press for when the rotating dial crossed a safe zone and the trap was safely disarmed. I moved past another one, dropped by a safe house, and made my way through the upstairs until a cut-scene was triggered.

Here Sebastian joins up with Dr. Dave and some very confusing dialogue. The doc points out a heavily guarded gate as the only escape from the village and suggests one of us should create a distraction so the other can make a run for it. Then he says "you're the one with the gun..." and gameplay restarts. Now, maybe I'm stupid, but I could not figure out from that line who he was suggesting should be the diversion. I kinda assumed he meant me, since gunshots would grab the zombies' attention. Before I had a second to think it over, I heard zombies breathing down my neck and he streaked off across the square yelling "HEY, LOOK OVER HERE!!!".

So he meant he would be the one getting their attention. Whatever. I made a run for the gate and got immediately swarmed and killed by zombies. So... did the diversion not work? Did I not understand what was happening? When I retried I went with a different route, this time going behind the houses, but there were still zombies everywhere and I couldn't open the gate - not to mention my diversion had locked himself in one of the houses. Still confused, I decided to ignore the "make a run for it" plan and just hid in a closet while Dr. Retardo did his thing.

From the closet I could hear loud rasping zombie mouth-sounds, so I knew I wasn't alone. After a minute or two it looked like no one was going to waltz by and invite a stealth kill, so I wandered out and headed down the hallway. That's when I heard footsteps on the roof or a ladder thudding against the wall and two baddies splashed through the window right on top of me (RE4). With exactly two bullets to my name I dished out a couple swats and made a run for the basement. On the way I took out one of my pursuers by ducking below a trip-wire that he blindly triggered. The other went down with an ax to the head (the occasional expendable ax provides a one-hit kill identical to the torch). There was one more zombie waiting in the basement, so I carefully lined up a headshot and splattered an unreasonable amount of blood across the room.

It definitely felt nice (heart-pounding, but nice) to get some fast-paced spontaneous gameplay going. There were enough bullets in the basement (four) to take out my attackers, but the pressure was so high that I was taking the immediate reflex solutions which let me continue to conserve ammo. That said, I took a lot of hits and used up all my healing items in all that fumbling around. Maybe the smartest thing would've been to run and re-hide after I had been spotted, but I was alive and armed, so I kept going.

Though there were no other monsters in sight, I was still surrounded by wheezing, gurgling sounds that reminded me they could be anywhere. Let me tell you, the moans these things make are so much creepier than your run-of-the-mill "braiiiiiiiiiiiiins"ing. They sounds like demonic cats trying to hock up barbed wire hairballs. I'm desperate to kill enemies just to clear the air of that awful fucking noise.

After sneaking out of the first house I shot my way through two more zombies into a barn that looked mostly empty. Again, it didn't sound particularly empty, stirred by metallic scraping sounds, more groaning, and even some pig squeals. I collected some supplies in the rafters and moved on.

On my way to the next house I got a good view of a zombie's back and tiptoed up for a stealth kill... except a goddamn bear trap latched onto my leg and ruined that plan, causing me to waste another two bullets. When I got inside and took out another three foes head-to-head (with the help of a torch and some matches), I had two exciting discoveries back to back: an attache case (RE4) holding a shotgun, and a crossbow leaning against a barrel. The crossbow is a little unusual, but I'll talk about how that works in a later chapter. As a veritable walking arsenal (I had also picked up some grenades by this point), I was feeling pretty confident and plowed through another two houses, mostly relying on stealth kills and crossbow bolts.

In the attic of the final house (which didn't have to be the final house, it just happened to be thanks to my approach), I bumped into The Doctor. This triggered some more confusing dialogue, starting with "How did you open the door so quickly?" I assume he meant the gate out of town, but I hadn't even opened it yet, and even Sebastian's line (something like "Gimme some time, doc") acknowledged that. It just... is this bad translation or what? The dialogue doesn't connect. It's not like it's mysterious, it's just non sequitur after non sequitur. Like someone cut-and-paste rearranged the script.

Once I had the town cleared I checked out the gate, which of course was locked tight. Sebastian suggested we find a chainsaw to cut through the chain holding it in place, but I had pretty thoroughly cleaned out the place already, so I was a bit perplexed. Combing through a second time, I noticed the barn was still ringing with that metal noise and moaning. I took a closer look around the ground floor... and that's when the Chapter 1 chainsaw guy Kool-aid Man'd his way through a wall and sawed off Sebastian's head.

Something unusual about this chapter, which was set in a single free-range area, is that after every four or five kills I would see the game saving a checkpoint. Whenever I died, I was reset to the center of the area and I guess all the kills/pick-ups up to the checkpoint were remembered. It was hard to tell since the zombies would never be found where I remembered killing them, and my location got reset pretty far from where the checkpoint was recorded or where I died. In this case, when the chainsaw guy killed me, I didn't remember when the last save had been so I had to retrace my steps for a while, making sure I still had all my supplies, and even found a few zombies in new locations. I guess in theory it revives the tension that threatens to disappear on a replay, but realistically it was disorienting in a tedious way. Hopefully other areas don't suffer from this problem.

Since I now knew where Mr. C. Saw was hiding, I was ready for round two. I used my crossbow to place a couple proximity mines and got my grenades at the ready before triggering his appearance. It wasn't hard to drag him into the traps, but he was too fast to easily peg with grenades. My shotgun didn't seem to slow his pursuit, but thankfully two mines, a grenade, and ~3 shells were enough to put him in the dirt. Chainsaw in hand (sadly as a key item rather than a weapon), I cut open the gate and completed the chapter.

The thing that worries me about Chapter 3 is I have no clue how I would've beaten the chainsaw guy had I missed the crossbow or the shotgun, or even if there had been zombies still wandering around. If there's no other way to kill this guy than to clear out everyone leading up to him, that's action, not survival. It worked with my current approach, but I'm not sure what I would've done - except die a lot - had I stumbled across him when I was in the barn that first time.

Actually, I just looked it up, and there are a bunch of other ways to kill him. Still seems like it'd be hard if you haven't mopped up the zombies, but there is an alternate crossbow way and a complete no-weapon way (similar to Verdugo, U3 and most of the RE4 bosses). I also learned I missed a whole bunch of items :-(

Overall, the pacing of this area felt a little off. Going through houses became methodical and that whole intro with the doctor was just bizarre and confusing (I still don't know what the plan was and feel like the game was telling me to do something I extremely was not supposed to do). Also, three new weapons at once is a lot, as I suddenly went from completely outgunned to teeming with firepower. As a stage of RE5 this would be great, but Chapter 2 had such a perfect balance that by comparison this hits as overblown. I think realistically I don't have a problem with Chapter 3 so much as I just don't want the remainder of The Evil Within to be this. The game could definitely work if it continues to oscillate between the super-stealth of Chapter 1, the Goldilocks balance of 2, and the heavy action of 3.

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