Adam thought The Evil Within was a fine game, but that its letterboxed screen size was a hindrance - a technique that would have been best used sparingly, rather than for the entire length of the game. Rich Stanton thought that the technique was well deployed, increased tension and was never put towards creating cheap jump-scares. Parts of the internet, meanwhile, thought that the black bars were probably a technical fault rather than a deliberately-employed artistic technique.
Whatever you think, you'll have now have to make a choice: a patch has just been released that lets you turn the black bars off, change the frames-per-second cap between either 30 or 60, and other tweaks.
Bethesda and Tango Gameworks had previously detailed the debug commands that would allow you to tweak these settings yourself, but it's significant that they're now options available in the game proper. I find the debate over technical issues in games tiring, but I do like thinking about the blurry lines between authorial intent and where players should be able to interject themselves into the design of something.
In the article linked above, Rich makes a good case for Shinji Mikami - the lead on Evil Within, plus Resident Evils 1 and 4 - as a designer who makes every decision carefully and with a specific intent. Does that mean everything in the game is his vision, and shouldn't be touched? Or should players be able to choose between The One True Canonical Option and mucking about with thousands of variable, a la Skyrim and its many mods?
Here's the full list of things you can now fiddle with:
- Frame lock settings added
- In settings, you can now toggle between a 30 FPS and 60 FPS cap
- Letterbox setting
- UI toggle to disable the letterbox bars
- Fixes gameplay issues when running at >30 FPS
- Fixes for visual issues associated with removing letterbox framing
- Achievements now work when console is enabled
- Fix for game starting in windowed mode on first run
- Minor localization fixes