The barbed wire net has been lifted, oh horror game fans, for the secrets of Beacon Mental Hospital. Three detectives enter an asylum and then are swept into a dark world where they must survive tin odds against grotesque creatures and the manipulations of a vicious man. Resident Evil’s creator Shinji Mikami recently released a new game The Evil Within, and with it comes a companion artbook.
The concept art starts out with the main characters, their standard forms juxtaposed with their states during infection. Both two-dimensional character designs and 3D renderings are fascinating to look at, though they are often very reminiscent of other games. It is the second chapter that kicks off the real glory of a tormented mind. The art of the main villain figures and periphery creatures reveal a blend of Western and Japanese concepts. They are the gorgeously gory monstrosities that make this game so textured and rich. Maimed bodies, mutated beasts, and humanoid figures with inhuman heads populate the pages with their array of blood soaked weaponry. Each one gives hints to a larger backstory, creatively displaying the warped people trapped in undeath. Environments and props are complement the visceral reactions with their details of massacre and ruination.
The art is beautiful, but with this backstage peak it is quite evident that game was made by and mostly for males. Sebastian Castellanos, the protagonist, has a pretty generic physical design: he is conventionally tall, grizzled, and white (or at least white passing). Both Castellanos and the deliciously scarred Ruvik both possess tragic manpain backstories regarding the deaths of women. Julie Kidman, the female rookie detective fills the protagonist ‘chick quota.’ She is supposed to be 27 years old but Nakamura says that “Her design is intended to portray an innocent girl coming into womanhood.” There are four pages of her concept art, all focusing on her fashion and ranging from a few badass and practical outfits to a lot of unnecessary revealing clothing. Kidman’s actual design is mildly sensible by comparison, but a police detective probably wouldn’t be running around in high heels and a black bra under a white shirt without a bulletproof vest. She is not the only useless npc eye candy though (thank you for Joseph Oda). Oda is the only man of color here, with noticeably less variety in his concept art (no ripped stockings or garters for him), but is still quite effective at being pretty.
Art of Evil Within is a lovely showcase of the rich creativity of horror game aesthetics. The story itself suffers a bit in depth and originality, but most of the designs of creatures and environments are a delight to see for the bloody of heart.