The Father of Survival Horror Wants to Bring Scary Back
Shinji Mikami, the Japanese game designer heralded as The Father of Survival Horror since unleashing Resident Evil unto the world in 1996, says gamers are too inured against being scared these days.
"Not much has changed when it comes to instilling terror in the player," Mikami said, talking up Edge Online at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. “But people have got used to the tropes of horror and they know what’s coming next, so in that sense it is harder to make them afraid.”
Shinji and his newly constructed team at Tango Gameworks are sure as shit going to try to rattle your nerves, though. Their vessel is the promising, tensely atmospheric The Evil Within — a new survival horror game steeped in classic scares. According to Mikami, it’s not about reinventing the genre; it’s about digging up its roots and latching on to what worked in the first place.
Constant gunplay, sporadic Quick-Time-Events, mindless action — what’s become routine in modern horror games the likes of Dead Space and, sadly, current Resident Evil installments are being done away with in The Evil Within. Contrary to this generation’s teachings, survival relies on far more than a loaded gun.
"The scariest parts will be when you encounter enemies that cannot be killed with a gun," says Mikami. Instead, you’ll have to use your environment and quick thinking to trap chainsaw swinging freaks lest you’re looking to lose a few feet above your shoulders.
When Bethesda, Tango’s parent company, initially announced the horror title (under the name Zwei), Shinji stated it would be his last directorial effort. A year later and the designer, thankfully, has changed his tune.
“I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop doing creative work,” he said. “We’re a studio that makes things, and that means we need a leader who also makes things. So I don’t think I’ll be taking my hands off the wheel completely. I want to give younger staff the chance to make games – that’s something I’m very passionate about – but I’m not sick of making games or anything. I want to continue in a creative role. That will never change.”
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Resident Evil Remake’s Poor Sales Upped the Action in RE4
Survival horror just ain’t what it used to be. In Resident Evil's case — in which its modern titles each and all feature robust amounts of gunplay and even martial arts action (you'd slap me if I told you that during the PS1 era) — a marked shift away from its survival horror roots can be traced back to one pivotal turning point in the franchise's history.
Series mastermind Shinji Mikami recalls that it was the 2002 Resident Evil remake’s financial failure that goaded him to turn Resident Evil 4 into Die Hard with parasitic, pitchfork-wielding villagers. I understand; I was befuddled by this news, too. The game was lauded as a critical success, after all. But Capcom’s exclusivity deal that locked REmake onto the Gamecube (and, years later, the Wii) might go a long way in explaining the disparity.
"The Resident Evil remake is one of my favorites of the series too,” said Mikami in an interview with IGN initially about a totally different game (The Evil Within). “But it didn’t sell very well. Maybe there weren’t many people ready to accept that. Because of the reaction to the Resident Evil remake, I decided to work more action into Resident Evil 4.”
Had the remake sold well, RE4 would have been a scarier, more horror driven game says Mikami. “With Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and all the rest of the series beforeResident Evil 4, I was always saying to the staff, ‘Scaring the player is the number one thing.’ But for the first time, in Resident Evil 4, I told the team that fun gameplay is the most important thing… That all came out of the commercial failure of the Resident Evil remake.”
Even after all these years, Shinji is still burned about RE4's dominance overREmake. “And then of course Resident Evil 4 sold really well. I have kind of a lingering trauma there, because the Resident Evil remake didn’t sell — much more than people would think.”
My, my, our RE creators are having themselves a walk down memory lane as of late. Not too long ago, Hideki Kamiya was reflecting on how he very nearly ruined the hell out of Resident Evil 2 (the game was restarted from scratch at Mikami and team’s insistence even though the original build neared 60% completion). Can’t wait to hear in another decade just what the hell went awry with RE5 and 6. Keep an eye out for that article come 2023.
That’s the front of the RPD building.
No, you’re not hearing me. THAT’S THE FRONT OF THE RPD BUILDING.
Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights is bringing Resident Evil to life like the T-Virus reanimates a corpse. The attraction serves as an eerie snapshot of Raccoon City before a thermonuclear missile turned Umbrella’s favorite little sleepy town into a smoking crater back in ‘98. Much too much awesome. I can’t— I can’t see through this awesome.
Resident Evil Joins Universal’s 23rd Halloween Horror Nights
If you’re like me and a) Live in Orlando and b) Are goddamn nutso about Resident Evil, then the S.T.A.R.S. have truly aligned for you, friend (Christ, one more pun like that and my blogging privileges will be revoked for good; and I won’t even raise an argument).
Universal Orlando’s annual Halloween Horror Nights has chosen its final spook-house for this year’s event — Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon CIty. Rather than filling a space with Milla Jovovich imitators wrapped in spandex, this attraction is a full-on collaboration between Universal and Capcom, drawing direct inspiration from the long standing horror games.
As such, visitors will be attacked (and killed) by an assortment of flesh-motivated zombies, undead canines (or Cereberus’ if you want a high-five from me), and razor-tongued lickers. Fight through Raccoon City long enough without soiling your skinnies like a Chickenheart and even the Nemesis will rip his way out of your nightmares for a guest cameo.
Michael Aiello, the creative director who’s orchestrated this year’s shrieking madness, says Resident Evil fits the festivities like a square crank in a square hole. “We were able to create incredibly elaborate sets that plant you right in the midst of Raccoon City’s apocalyptic nightmare, along with terrifying adversaries that will send them running.”
Capcom’s isn’t the only zombie teeming universe represented this year, either. Look (out) for scare-shacks based on AMC’s The Walking Dead (which takes you from Woodbury to the fabled prison), Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods (ghoulies galore here including, hopefully, the zombie redneck torture family), and the freshly cut Evil Dead (hail to the rebooted king, baby).
Halloween Horror Nights 23, held at the Universal Orlando Resort, kicks off September 20th and runs all the way until November 2nd (on select nights, of course). Get you some tickets hereabouts.
Dealing with zombies the Chris Redfield way.
From the Japanese Resident Evil manual.
I understand that the Japanese read from right to left, but if you reverse that, it appears Mr. Redfield is putting on one of the best fucking “Come at me, bro“‘s I have ever laid eyes on.
The Next Resident Evil Will Be Full-On Survival Horror
I feel like we were just talking about Resident Evil (and how it shaped me into the well rounded human being I am today, of course). Well, let’s go at it again. Capcom will bump this blog’s status up to The Green Herb if I give the series enough shout outs (I’m coming at you, man).
Resident Evil 6. Reading that title either forced a complacent shrug from your shoulders — likely coupled with an “Ehh” — or made you roll your eyes so far back into your head that your roommates are frantically calling 911 and/or a fucking exorcist. Well, therein lies the problem.
As easy as it may be to paint Capcom as a faceless, uncaring entity that churns out product regardless of vehement fan input, you need to remember that your dollar bends wills, and after RE6 missed its projected seven million unit sales goal by a margin of two mil, you best believe the Japanese publisher is listening intently to what you want.
Take it from Mr. Michael Pattison, Capcom’s former European Marketing Director, as he told it to MCV: “We have obviously seen the consumer response and the PR response.”
Now presiding as VP of third-party relations at Sony’s European offices, Pattison easily offered up his opinion on RE6, weighing in that the mixed critical and fan reaction to the game cannot go ignored, especially going into Resident Evil 7.
"With Resident Evil 6 specifically, we probably put too much content in there. There were comments from consumers that said it felt bloated,” said Pattison. “The Leon missions went down very well, and because we did Resident Evil: Revelations on 3DS, there was a cry out for us to focus our attention on survival horror, rather than be too many things to all people. You’ll find where we go next will likely be more targeted at our core fanbase.”
Commenting on the general consensus that zombie-oriented, post-apocalyptic media has been flogged like an undead horse, Pattison still believes there’s a deep seeded hunger for quality survival horror games, pointing to a recent A-list hit as a potential guiding factor for RE7's development team.
“The Last of Us shows a good direction of what the consumers want,” Pattison said. “Tomb Raider  as well; we spoke to R&D and they looked at that and they enjoyed that experience. I think that proves there is still a strong market for that sort of content.”
Far be it for me to mislead or misinform you folks, but I have been hearing more or less the same thing, though in tiny whispers, that Capcom is working on RE7 and that the aforementioned titles are hugely influencing the game’s attempt to regain its former horror glory. Next-gen Resident Evil firmly re-planted in the survival horror genre? Let’s keep calm, keep cool, and try not to rupture something from all the internal screaming like the kind I’m doing right now.
Resident Evil 2 Director Admits He “Messed Up in a Big Way”
Hideki Kamiya is a man with a storied career in video games. Straight from his own studio, Platinum Games, his directorial credit lies on The Wonderful 101 and, more famously, the tightly wound ball of hack n’ slash insanity, Bayonetta.
But a sizable chunk of Hideki’s resume comes from his time working at Capcom. During his tenure at the Osaka, Japan centered company, he coordinated critical and cult hits such as Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and the original Devil May Cry. Once upon a time ago, Hideki even worked under Shinji Mikami as a system planner for the very first Resident Evil.
That fabled gig led to a project I could honestly give Hideki an open-mouthed smooch over if the timing were right and he was open to it. Yes, I could only be talking about my most personally affecting, favorite fucking game of all time: Resident Evil 2.
As perfect as I’ll loudly and embarrassingly try to convince you the game is, Kamiya admits that, behind-the-scenes, RE2 was a veritable shit circus.