Today was the big sort of, almost reveal of Shinji Mikami’s first new title since forming his own studio, Tango Gameworks, in 2010. The game was formerly known as Project Zwei and now we at least have a title for it; The Evil Within. There is a lot of hype and talk surrounding the title, with many within the industry expecting Mikami to do something drastic to try to revive the struggling genre that is horror games right now, but it may be a bit more of a struggle for him and his team to bring horror games back to prominence than anyone expected.
There is a lot on the line for Shinji Mikami, who really made his name in the gaming world in the genre of horror, as he has stated that this will be his last time in the Director’s position for a game. This makes The Evil Within not only a return-to-form, but a farewell of sorts as well. The last game that Mikami directed was the well-reviewed but often-forgotten third person shooter, Vanquished, with the other game before that being the off-the-wall brawler, God Hand. It was 2005’s Resident Evil 4 when Mikami last ventured into the realm of horror and a lot has changed since then.
The reality of the genre is that developers and publishers have milked it for all that it is worth over the last few years. When someone would do something new and interesting in the horror genre, another developer would quickly hop onto that trend and exploit it, which has created a bloated market full of games that might sell well enough to turn a profit, but not well enough to really create too much of a sustained buzz. Let’s face it, there are so many games on the market or coming to market that involve zombies at this point that it has become a rather numbing experience for many.
So what exactly does he need to do to make horror games not only relevant again, but feel fun and fresh? Look to what being “scary” is really about.
He’ll need to focus more on the concept of fear and how the human mind interprets situations when in a heightened sense of fear and focus less on the “game” aspects like dispatching waves of enemies. We’ve seen enough hordes of zombies and monsters to last a lifetime at this point, and some of the tension that we saw in his earlier games needs to return without as many of the cheap scares that we see all-too-often. Letting the player’s imagination run away from them is what we’ve seen in some of the best horror games, but seen less and less of in the past few years. The story that has been outlined already shows that it could indeed place more focus on atmosphere and tension than simple cheap scares and giant battles.
For The Evil Within to really consider itself a success it will need to bring in those elements that made the original few Resident Evil games so special while weeding out the tedium and repetition that we’ve seen in the genre over the last few years. It will have to remind gamers of how special those first few games felt and how they legitimately provided scares on a deeper level than a monster jumping through a window.
The weight of the world of survival horror has to be on the shoulders of Shinji Mikami right now, but somehow I think that he’ll handle it just fine and look for a way to bring horror games back to their roots for the diehard fans. The Evil Within will continue to build up hype and we can only hope that it lives up to its potential.