Shinji Mikami’s Return to Survival Horror: The Evil Within
Shinji Mikami’s game designing career can easily be called eclectic, but most hold him responsible for inflicting the interactive nightmare that is Resident Evil upon us. Now, he’s back with his own studio, Tango Gameworks, to scare the living shit out of us again.
Billed as a “supernova of horror,” The Evil Within centers on a Detective Sebastian’s struggle against grotesque monsters (like the multi-armed freaky-deaky above) as the world twists, morphs, and falls apart around him. Those long missed totems of survival horror — limited supplies, deadly traps, heavy puzzle solving, oppressive darkness — are all at play and in full force here.
You’ll be able to do better than just cry at your pursuers, though, as it’s promised the game will be an equal infusion of action and terror. Besides blasting enemies into the ether (when you can find bullets), you can use their lethal traps right back at them. How can you not love that?
The Evil Within is locked in for a 2014 release on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 as well as “next generation consoles.” Looks like survival horror ain’t dead after all…But how could it ever die?
Dead Space Ain’t Dead
We’re prone to our fair share of rumor mongering here on the Herb — ahem, I mean journalism — but today I’m doing my part to squash one like a writhing necromorph gnawing on your rig…for now, anyway.
The rumor in contention being one nasty bit of bad business involving the premature cancellation of Dead Space 4. An anonymous source claiming to be close to the project tugged on VideoGamer.com’s ear a few days back, purporting the horror sequel was already in pre-production at Visceral with their Montreal branch assigned to prototyping the game as well as bouncing narrative ideas HQ’s way.
However, the source alleges the corporate axe came down after the recently released Dead Space 3 failed to meet sales expectations [As of this writing, exact figures have not been released by EA]. Dead Space 4 was cancelled and EA’s company-wide restructuring forced Visceral Montreal’s doors closed. Indirectly, the cancellation would mean the entire franchise is put on hold.
That’s all pretty goddamn plausible. A while back, EA honcho Frank Gibeau did spout some business jargon about Dead Space needing to push around five million units to stay afloat as a franchise. Plus, the closure of Visceral’s Montreal studio left quite a few unhappy campers jobless, so it’s not unlikely we’d hear a few jilted tipsters tossing company secrets around to any news junket that likes its shit stirred.
Something suspect is happening behind the scenes, for sure, but I’ll leave you with the official, more hopeful, byline sent Kotaku’s way: According to a spokesperson, the company is proud of Dead Space 3 and the series “remains an important IP for EA,” going the extra mile to call the rumor “patently false.”
Though EA’s corporate meddling has defaced Dead Space into a more widely palatable, money-making machine (microtransactions are evil; but this is fucking vile), Visceral’s trilogy still owns the distinction of being the most prevalent and critically successful survival horror series this generation. It’d be a gaming crime if Visceral couldn’t compete for that mantel in the next-gen.
In 1996, one month after the release of the surprise hit Resident Evil, Capcom initiated development on a sequel, headed by creator Shinji Mikami. While several key elements will sound familiar to fans today — including a zombie outbreak plaguing the sleepy mountain town of Raccoon City and rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy’s desperate fight through an overrun police station — this original build of Resident Evil 2 would never see release.
Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent complete, Mikami scrapped the entire game, criticizing the gameplay and locations as “dull and boring.” Now commonly referred to as Resident Evil 1.5, the initial build’s stark differences from the final game’s design seem anything but boring to fans who would go on to pour over short, blurry YouTube videos showcasing the cancelled title.
Resident Evil Rebooted?
Series producer and consistent Capcom cohort, Masachika Kawata, believes it time to reevaluate the Resident Evil franchise as a whole, and some of his musings include restarting the seventeen-year-old series from scratch, effectively rebooting it.
“It would still be Resident Evil,” says Kawata, and though he admits fans’ connections to veteran characters like Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are what makes the games work for some on a personal level, “We wouldn’t lose the essential nature of what makes it a good game just by changing the characters.”
You catch that, too? I believe Mr. Kawata just subtlety hinted some fan favorite characters wouldn’t make the cut in this proposed reboot. Before your blood rises to a boil, though, the elements Masachika says would be included just may be the fear-soaked booster shot of grueling terror missing from the games since Resi 4 traded in its scares for bullets back in 2005, kickstarting a much maligned industry trend in which survival horror titles would reconfigure their formulas to fit into the action-shooter genre.
“Moving forward,” said Kawata, “I can see us focusing even more on the horror aspect and fear in the series, and see us making something scarier than we have already.”
Kawata is adamant this reboot notion of his isn’t a direct response to the poor critical reception Resident Evil 6 garnered from media and the gaming public alike. RE6 — for as much as I’m willing to forgive it (which is a lot) — at its barest boils down to a shooter playing dress-up as a horror game. While reactions to the sixth installment is mixed (“mixed” being the kind term; “polarizing” hitting it closer to home), the general consensus is that it simply didn’t deliver on the trademark scares which cemented the classic Resident Evil entries into gamers’ minds so many years ago.
Whatever served as the catalyst (we’ll just call it “RE6’s Sales” for posterity’s sake), it would seem old school fans have the most to gain from Capcom’s scrutinizing of one of their most beloved — and most profitable — franchises. Do you find yourself craving for a return to the days when opening an unlocked door sent a disquieting pang of anxiety through your gut? Do miss it when combat was an exercise in controling the waves of panic surging through you because a wasted bullet was one bullet not staving off the dreaded, mocking “YOU DIED” screen? Well, then, I’ll leave you with a ray of hope:
“It’s undeniable to say the series returning to its roots is important,” said Kawata, “And those roots are horror.”
Resident Evil Revelations Ports Its Scares to Consoles This May
Let’s bump this one up from whispered rumors to official announcement: the once 3DS bound spin-off, Resident Evil Revelations, is porting to consoles in the U.S. on May 21st (24th across the pond).
Polished and updated in HD, Revelations is making it to a whole host of systems with a $49.99 retail disc slated for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U — no word on how different the latter version will be given the Gamepad’s unique capabilities. A digital copy of the title can also be found on the PC and PS3, though no price point was specified.
Aside from an upped visual presentation, console fans can expect some exclusive content by way of the co-op online Raid Mode which now includes added weapons and custom parts, and the playable return of everybody’s favorite Umbrella merc, Hunk. The re-release also throws in a harder difficulty level and a ferocious new B.O.W. happy to slash your jugular for you.
I’m glad this spectacularly crafted, solidly tense entry has found new life outside of the handheld domain — though a $50 dollar price tag for a port is admittedly suspect, especially for avid RE fans like myself hopelessly obligated to re-buy this title for the inch and a half of extra features (and the justice of moving this bite-sized addition to a bigger screen).
With legitimate scares, a fun spin on the Mercenaries mode, and an interesting, character hopping narrative, it’s lucky Revelations is worth a re-purchase — and a no-brainer for fans that missed it the first time around.
Dead Space 3 Demo Hitting Consoles Next Month
Taking into consideration most people are lounging around their homes amongst confidants and family alike, bellies stretched by a lethal combination of rum doused eggnog and honey glazed ham (because fuck you if it’s not honey glazed), video game news is on the thin this week.
But, alas, a blip on the radar comes courtesy of Visceral Games’ third bout of sci-fi horror in Dead Space 3, which will be seeing a playable public demo next month, available for download from both PSN and XBLA on January 22nd. Dead Space 3 will be the first installment in the franchise to feature multiplayer within its story campaign, a choice that has sparked derision and vitriol among ardent survival horror fans that believe the best gaming scares are had alone in the dark. It hasn’t been confirmed if co-op will be an option offered in the demo, but rest assured, it’d be stupid as hell if it wasn’t [Ayuh, the demo allows you to play as Mr. Clarke in single-player or his necromorph-stomping bro, John Carver, in co-op. - Ed).
If you’re anxious to throw engineer-turned-male-Ripley-surrogate Isaac Clarke into harm’s way a little earlier than most, EA is doling out a limited amount of codes which will allow Xbox 360 users to download the demo as soon as January 15th (with the offer set to expire the day prior). Check back here for rum doused, honey glazed impressions once the demo drops.
Resident Evil Revelations Console Bound?
In order to retain the blog’s name, my lawyers inform me I’m legally contracted to write about Resident Evil whenever it makes a blip in the news. As my legal representation figures it, I have 1,468 articles left to write pertaining to RE before Capcom allows me ownership over The Red Herb with impunity (make that 1,467 as of now!). All righty, let’s give her the old college try for the umpteenth time:
According to a listing recently made by the Korean Ratings Board, Resident Evil Revelations — one of the better reasons to spring for a 3DS and possibly the scariest entry in Capcom’s modern Resi lineup — has been rated for both the PS3 and Xbox 360, hinting at a console release for the once handheld exclusive. The listing holds the potential of being a mistake, but the NeoGaf forum user that brought light on this news mentions that in addition to already having an existing rating for Revelations on the 3DS, the Korean Ratings Board has definitely leaked games before (such as the DMC HD Collection and Dragonball Z for Kinect), effectively beating publishers to the announcement punch.
Naturally, this is completely unconfirmed, but “Capcom” and “re-release” tends to reserve the same spot in gamers’ minds all the same. I doubt we’ll see a full-on retail disc (both Resident Evil 4 HD and Code: Veronica X HD skipped out on stores and went straight to digital), but at the right price and with some hi-definition upscaling, Revelations would be perfect for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. Feeling burned by the series’ focus on bullets over scares? Resident Evil Revelations comes at a high recommendation for survival horror fanatics that preferred running from boulders in days of yore instead of punching the shit out of them (ten more boulder-punching references and the company sends me a mug).
Twist Capcom’s Arm Hard Enough and We Might See Resident Evil 2 Remade
Arguably the most coveted title in the series next to the genre shifting Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 2 is still on fans’ minds fourteen years after it took a ragged bite out of the gaming scene.
In a recent Q&A with RE6’s Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, the producer admitted that no remake was currently in gestation (“Just to lay all the cards on the table, that way there’s no rumor-mongering or things like that.”), but he was quick to note that enough interest in such a project would probably be taken very seriously by his bosses at Capcom.
“If the fans really clamor for it; if there’s a groundswell of support for remaking that game, then I think that’s something Capcom would take under consideration,” says Hirabayashi, who’s no stranger to retooling horror classics, having overseen motion capture work for 2002’s critically acclaimed Gamecube remake of the original Resident Evil.
You Should Feel Like You’re Playing a Resident Evil Game
“You’ll still have Resident Evil-style situations where you have a shotgun with only two shells in it and you have to make sure you make it count. Those elements will come into play in the real flow of the game when you get to this point, and we think that’s what survival horror is all about. ‘Can I live through this situation with the resources I have at hand?’ You should feel like that, like you’re playing a Resident Evil game.”
Resident Evil 6’s producer, Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, in an interview with PlayStation.Blog
I like the way you move, Yoshi. I’m also quite in love with the notion that the game’s crossover system — which features multiple perspectives across multiple scenarios — finds its roots in the A and B scenarios that make Resident Evil 2 such an absolute standout in the series to this day. Capcom keeps feeding me delicious, fan-serving words yet all the footage I’ve seen is of characters rolling around on the ground discharging rounds or unleashing a barrage of melee on enemies.
RE6 will remain enigmatic at least until next month’s Xbox 360 demo (I wouldn’t ask of you to buy Dragon’s Dogma if you didn’t want it, but if you do, I’ll totally lend you out my pawn. Ellie has a 4 out of 5 attractiveness rating. Not bragging, just sayin’.) Expect impressions to follow.
Check Out Our First Dead Space 3 Trailer
Oh, Dead Space, I’m so goddamn glad you’re back. And you came back with that co-op I asked for! Okay, yes, I agree having another breathing, thinking player huffing into a headset as your partner musses the horror atmosphere in games like RE5. But there’s compromises that can made. Visceral tried its damnedest to counter your Rambo-like arsenal of firepower and the upped ratio of action over scares in Dead Space 2 by overwhelming you with the amount of rotting freaks you had to dispatch (the results were mixed, but fear factor aside, the game was sensational).
I don’t think they should simply multiply the amount of things to shoot at in DS3, though. The trick to maintaining tension is finding weaknesses in players’ safety nets, even while in co-op. If Visceral can somehow find a method of making two quick-to-react, intelligent human partners still feel vulnerable mere virtual feet away from each other, it doesn’t matter if the game takes place entirely in broad daylight — it’ll be scary.
Expect Dead Space 3 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in February alongside the mad rush of games suddenly releasing in early 2013.