All this talk about the next generation of consoles has gotten be excited for the next generation of video games. Oh, the Xbox One lets us watch TV on our TV? That’s neat and all, but I’d much rather hear all about the amazing games I’ll be playing on it.
The Evil Within is one of the more exciting next-gen horror games we have on the way — of which there are many — as it’s being developed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s Tango Gameworks studio. It’s also being published by Bethesda, the house of Skyrim, who also happen to be involved in another mysterious next-gen horror game (potentially two) called Doom 4. So what would I like to see from the game that’s aiming to “bring horror back to its roots?” Let’s dig in.
Okay, yes, this is a no-brainer. Obviously, the goal of a horror game is to be scary. Mikami has said numerous times that The Evil Within is his attempt to bring the genre back to its roots. He’s “striving for pure survival horror.”
If that’s the case, then I want to feel alone, outnumbered, and woefully under-powered. Never should I feel like a badass. Resident Evil 4, Mikami’s most successful game to-date often overpowered the player. By the end of the game you’re wearing armor made from the bones of your slain enemies and dual-wielding infinite rocket launchers as you ride a tank led by a gaggle of saber toothed tigers made of lightning into battle. …Or something similar.
Survival horror is a genre that strives to evoke very specific emotions from the player. Fear, hopelessness, isolation… it also needs to make us think. This is a genre that enjoys throwing the player into desperate and horrifying situations, often alone, where we’re forced to think and adapt. Item conservation, puzzles, clever enemies, etc. Don’t rely on monster closets and jump scares — if we want those we can play Dead Space.
For me, it’s difficult to find a game scary if I don’t give a damn about the character I’m controlling. It’s not always the case — the original Dead Space scared the hell out of me even though Isaac Clarke was doing his best impersonation of the Master Chief the whole way through — but it’s something that can make or break a horror game.
Not only do the characters need to be someone I can empathize with; they also need to be realistic. Historically, video games aren’t known for their particularly well fleshed-out female characters. They’re either scantily clad femme fatales, busty beauties, or Ashley Graham. The Evil Within has a female character, her name’s Julie “Kid” Kidman and I’m sure she’s a wonderful person. I only hope we get to see that.
The same goes for the story. Silent Hill 2 is still one of my favorite games of all time, because it pushed the envelope. In 2001, SH2 touched on taboo topics that would’ve made most developers too uncomfortable to even mention. Rape, murder, suicide, molestation — it was a mature and profoundly disturbing story that stuck with me years after I played it. I’m hoping Mikami and friends — which better become the name of a Super Friends style Saturday morning cartoon — aren’t afraid to push similar boundaries.