The Evil Within Is Great For The Gaming Industry
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It’s no great secret that horror, the entire genre and all it stands for, is all but dead in mainstream gaming, and it has only been the efforts of the indie scene that has kept the genre alive. That is, ever since notable titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the original Slender broke out onto the scene and completely revived the genre. I am a huge fan of horror, true horror, and not the kind of rubbish we see today in mainstream. There is literally nothing in mainstream that can call itself horror with a straight face. The last titles I played that at least had some good little horror elements was Silent Hill: Downpour, a flawed but decent enough attempt, and the original Dead Space, which was fresh and compelling. However, its sequels are some of the worst examples of horror I can think of.
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But why is it that the horror genre is so dead in mainstream? Well, I can think of two reasons. The first is that it has to do almost entirely with the market and the audience for it. Today, with the industry’s obsessive need to “appeal to everyone”, there’s no way you can do that with horror unless you’re pulling a Dead Space 3, which is a game that was nothing more than a glorified action game that attempted to shovel in some of the horror crowd by daring to call itself “survival horror”.
The second reason is not quite as large as the first, but it’s important nonetheless. And that’s the single fact that it’s pretty damn difficult to create a genuinely good horror game. It takes creativity, ingenuity, risk and a bold mind at the helm of development, but sadly not many studios will have the drive or balls to attempt something like that when the potential return is low, and the probability of success isn’t very high. Horror is a difficult genre. So easily screwed up, so easily turned laughable, and so easily turned into something it’s not supposed to be, because it’s too difficult to keep it up.
That brings me to The Evil Within, and why I was over the moon and jumping with delight when it was announced by Bethesda very recently. Before I go into why, let me quickly get you up to speed on what this game is about. The Evil Within is a survival horror game developed by Tango Gameworks, published by Bethesda Softworks, and headed by the legendary game director Shinji Mikami, who fathered the survival horror genre and is most known for creating the Resident Evil series. The game is set for release in 2014 for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and next generation consoles.
Now, alarm bells went ringing in my head when I heard that the game would be a perfect blend between horror and action, because Dead Space serves as a constant reminder as to how that can go so terribly wrong. But a recent interview that IGN did with Mikami has reminded me that this is someone who understands the survival horror genre, perhaps better than most in the industry.
To quote some of his words, he said that he came back to survival horror because the genre is all action now, and there aren’t any real survival horror games left in the world. That became his biggest motivation. His objective is balance between action and horror. Mikami’s view is that if something is too scary, it runs the risk of causing a gamer to put down the controller and stop playing, but if something is too action-orientated, it loses its scare factor. And that’s why a balance needs to be obtained. While I think the man is 100% spot on, the thing that made me happy was when he said that what will make him happiest is if players say they haven’t played a game as scary as The Evil Within in a long time.
His words resonated something in me that was the most important thing about The Evil Within, and why, I feel, it’s so relevant and potentially great for our gaming industry as a whole.
And that’s the fact that survival horror is returning to mainstream.
The Evil Within isn’t some small independent project. It’s not a game created by unknowns. It’s a full-on, current and next generation survival horror game unlike any title we’ve seen in years. Silent Hill: Downpour was made by Vatra Games, relatively low-key developers, and it wasn’t exactly a high profile game. Dead Space is overseen by EA, and is a game that has money as its primary objective rather than the creation of anything remotely good for the horror genre. But this. The Evil Within, is a revival for horror in mainstream. It’s something that has been missing for so long, we’ve forgotten how damn good the genre can truly be if pulled off correctly.
True horror, is all about pure atmosphere and incredible immersion. I always say that atmosphere is the heart of horror, and few genres out there can create such engaging, compelling and ultimately nerve-wrecking atmospheres than the survival horror genre. The real feeling that you’re under threat, that your life is hanging by a thread, that the unknown is your enemy, that you’re not safe for a moment. It takes a meticulous mind to craft the atmosphere of a horror game, because you truly need all your elements. From audio to visuals to level design to pacing, horror becomes something powerful when all are in collaboration, but crumbles like a house of cards if one falters. But if everything works in perfect flow, then you don’t play a horror game. You experience it. There is no other genre that I would play by turning off all the lights, setting my headphones to max volume, and losing myself in what I’m about to witness. It takes an inventive, bold mind to make something like that work.
It takes a mind like Mikami.
And the result can be potentially magical. I’m seriously in awe of what this game can be, what it can mean for horror in mainstream. Indeed, The Evil Within is a great thing for the gaming industry, because it can lead to the revival of an entire genre. You say that you want something creative, something new? You want something to challenge you and give you an experience different to the norm? You want something that blows you away and stays with you long after you’ve played it? Well, I hope you’ve played BioShock Infinite! Jokes aside. Seriously, The Evil Within may just be the answer to that. It may just be exactly what the gaming industry needs.
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