Some Concerns Over The Evil Within And The Mainstream Horror Genre

TEWCover

The Evil Within looks stellar. It’s being called a Resident Evil and Silent Hill hybrid. A game that could give mainstream horror its balls back. With Shinji Mikami behind it, as well as members of the team responsible for what is, in my opinion the best Resident Evil game, the remake of the original, it sounds like a perfect recipe for exactly what the AAA horror scene needs: a damn decent horror game. However (there’s always a catch), some recent footage of TEW from E3 has sparked a concern in my mind and I feel I need to voice it. It’s not just with TEW, but I’ll get to that later. Before we go any further, let me state that I think this game looks awesome. I want it to succeed, hard.

Getting down to business, there is a small clip in some E3 game-play that shows us Sebastian, TEW’s protagonist, in some kind of medical chair. When he sits in it, a menu pops up that allows the player to expend currency to upgrade him. Everybody loves them some good upgrading in video games, but when it comes to horror games, this concerns me. The very essence of ‘upgrading’ your character means empowerment, having the abilities to kick-ass and not be afraid. TEW though is a horror game, which means it’s supposed to scare and disempower us. I’m not saying that a horror game shouldn’t allow you to get stronger, I’m all for upgrades, but if the opportunity to become Rambo exists, the game ceases to be what it set out to become.

TEW1

Looking at the menu, the player has options to upgrade maximum health, sprinting time, melee damage and syringe recovery (which I think is safe to assume that means your restorative items work faster). There’s also a sub-menu to upgrade weapons, stock, and agony bolts. Basically, it sounds like you can turn Sebastian into a killing machine by doubling the effectiveness of all of his stats. It’s completely possible that having your melee damage at 200% over 100% still won’t be enough to one-hit enemies and such, but we can’t confirm that until the game comes out. Perhaps the upgrading is slight, at best. This entire thing could have me worried for no reason at all, and that would be great!

There are a few other things about TEW that scare me (for the wrong reasons). Other than the upgrading, I think we’ve seen too much of the game already. We know what a lot of strong monsters look like, such as Box-Head, the chainsaw maniac, spider woman, and the Nemesis-like ghost, Ruvik. There is backtracking, but it sounds like it’s limited to multiple hubs throughout the game, which could mean the backtracking/exploration will be only a few rooms or halls. The over-all design of the game seems very in-your-face and derivative of other work (which is odd for a game claiming to be original and bringing survival horror back); there are a lot of loud monsters (Silent Hill 3), ones large enough to pick Sebastian up with one hand (Resident Evil 4), massive, desensitizing amounts of blood (Dead Space), and an insane asylum level and Resident Evil 4-ish villages. It’s completely debatable if the game has revealed too much of itself, but again, this is only my opinion.

Fellow RoH writer Zack played TEW at E3 this year and you can read his impressions on the game. The demo he played alleviated his concerns and left him with high hopes, but from what I re-call, the upgrade system wasn’t useable, yet.

TEW3

Normally, these aspects would not worry me about a horror game, especially one from Shinji and his team. The reason that they do, though, is that we’ve all seen this before. Dead Space and its sequel are some of my favorite action-horror games out there. Keyword, action. They built a large universe with a ton of opportunities for expansion and enrichment. But Dead Space 3 had to go and fuck that all up because it was no longer in the action-horror genre – the horror completely dissipated.

To stop myself from going on this tangent again, I’ll skip why I hate DS3 and get to the point. It killed item management and made all ammo universal. But its biggest killer was the upgrade system. You could create your own weapons, which was really cool, but it turned into a co-op shooter where two dudes blasted away everything in sight with machine guns, explosives, electricity, and other death dealing mechanics. This would have been great in chunks, with pacing. But after a certain point, the game was no longer challenging, and it was never scary because it empowered the hell out of players. Nothing presented a threat, therefore there was nothing to fear; that’s when the horror poofed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun game for co-op and killing things, but in terms of story and horror, which were some of Dead Space’s best aspects, it fails.

What other series also left behind horror in favor of empowerment?

CHRISRAGE

It’s rumored Chris once punched a boulder just as hard.

For those unfamiliar, that’s Chris Redfield from the Resident Evil series, performing an over-exaggerated punch, which has become a running gag ever since the 5th game in the main series. Dead Space became an action game, Resident Evil became an action game, and even one of the Silent Hill games, Homecoming, attempted a focus on combat, and it’s widely considered the worst game in the series. It’s possible the recent releases of some of my favorite game franchises simply has me paranoid.

The initial gameplay footage we saw of TEW had Sebastian running in terror with a leg wound from the chainsaw-maniac and taking careful pot-shots to down zombie-like enemies with as few bullets as possible. Even after some were on the ground, he still had to burn them to make sure they stayed dead (a feature from the remake of Resident Evil that I’m glad to see make a return). The environments, while familiar, are beautiful – and hallucinations seem to keep players on their toes. I am excited for TEW, but that one screen of upgrade opportunities gave me a bad feeling.

I hope I’ve expressed how badly and necessary it is that TEW succeeds as a horror game and keeps the empowering moments down to a minimum, a very bare minimum.

What do you think? Is TEW one of the more original horror titles you’ve seen in a long time or does it seem to resemble too much of the past? Are you worried about it or feel no concern at all? Let’s talk in the comments below!

               
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COMMENTS

  • Evan Prince

    When I saw the upgrade system, I felt like I had been stabbed in the stomach.
    I favor the horror genre most because it’s stories in games tend to interest me. They are not afraid of saying what needs to be said, and they pull no punches. ANYTIME I have an upgrade system, I feel like I’m being violently ripped out of the immersion of the game. I am not happy about the idea at all.

    • Taylor Dean

      Here’s hoping the highest difficulty settings removes it or makes the upgrades barely worth it.

      • Evan Prince

        Seriously, I would hope it can just be removed.

  • franky mcdonald

    Resident Evil save rooms break up the pace. RE didn’t make you play the game with just the knife.(i felt pretty empowered with a grenade launcher) I think the guy knows how to do things right. upgrade room/save room(trunk) pretty interchangeable. My fear is the game gets L.O.S.2ed(some investor/suit demands some mainstream fad be put in the game) I hope this game succeeds. and now that I’ve read this, i’m freaked out about everything. but i’ll live.

    • Taylor Dean

      You means Lords of Shadow 2? Was the fad in that game the stealth segments?

      My apologies if I freaked you out, I just want people to be aware.

      • franky mcdonald

        Q1. Yeah. Q2. Yes, among other things.
        you know this article is the equivalent of shouting “Shots Fired” over the radio. be careful. you could be the one that releases the internet bitch machine, and kill its momentum. good luck. and defend the faith.

        • Taylor Dean

          Hahaha, thank you, sir. When the game is out, it will confirm or kill my suspicions. Hopefully kill, with fire and holy water, and then some. I’m freaking out because horror needs this so badly.

  • Tango Fan

    Actually, it seems like the character starts off almost crippled in terms of stats and powers… Look at the maximum sprint time in the picture you posted. He can only sprint for 2.5 seconds. And the Maximum ammo stock in some recent footage was also comically low. (Like, you can only carry 5 shotguns shells at a time)

    So I think upgrades don’t actually make you empowered, it just makes Sebastian suck less. I guess will see for sure when the game comes out.

    • DarkDreamT2

      Ideal situation is that at max level you’re as good as Leon at the beginning of professional in re4, and towards the latter of the game your max stats just make it so you can actually kill one enemy, who at that point would expend a levels worth of resources just to get them to stop.

      Alternative ideal scenario, higher difficulties limit overall upgrades, forcing you to choose, with the easiest setting being the only one that lets you use max stats barring a new game plus feature.

      • Tango Fan

        I don’t think you need to be worried about challenge in higher difficulties. Only one developer at Tango was able to clear the highest difficulty level in the game. (Called “Akumu” mode)…. It’s THAT hard. Normal is supposed to be very hard as well.

        • DarkDreamT2

          Excellent

        • Normal was VERY tough when I played it at E3. It even had an assortment of weapons and I was getting destroyed. It plays like RE4, but it’s as difficult as REmake, it seems.

  • Andy

    I hope this game is good. I have high hopes for it. I mean it’s Shinji Mikami.

  • Ahmad Al-Hamily

    I could only see upgrades as a mechanism to help the players to improve their skills, If the game is too darn hard to play that is.

    But considering the facts, a game like the Last of Us had upgrades and other stuff; however, I think our worries should be focused on story telling rather than game play mechanism.

    • Luis

      Of course gameplay is the main thing to worry about. I hope our worries don’t turn out to become reality though.

      • Ahmad Al-Hamily

        I just had the Last of Us and also Corpse Party and Lone Survivor on my mind when I wrote the comment. The stories in these games were good and gameplay was really rudimentary nothing much going on there.

        We all know how clunky horror games were but we still played them because of the stories that needed to be. unveiled.

        Our current standards may come in the way of us enjoying games and if we only focused our worries on gameplay mechanisms, then maybe sports games might suit us more.

        However, I agree with the importance of balance between gameplay and story. They should compliment each other rather than just focusing on one aspect.

        • Taylor Dean

          I am beyond happy to see someone else say that game-play and story should compliment each other.

  • 0ui

    I’m not worried. If anyone is concerned that the game makes itself easier and less scary from upgrading your character, than don’t do it.
    I went through RE4 with just a handgun until that annoying midget-boss guy (Salamon? Salhamid? Salmonhead?) kept killing me. Than I caved and bought a rocket launcher. I might not use the upgrade system in The Evil Within until I try and see how far I can get without utilizing it.

  • Carlos Roberto

    Sorry but ‘The Evil Within’ is being made by Shinji Mikami, the guy who turned Resident Evil into a third-person shooter. What did you expected from the game?

    You seem to have confused expectations and no real criteria for the ‘survival horror’ term. Like when you talked about Dead Space:

    “They built a large universe with a ton of opportunities for expansion and enrichment. But Dead Space 3 had to go and fuck that all up because it was no longer in the action-horror genre – the horror completely dissipated”

    No, it didn’t dissipated. Dead Space 3 is just like 1 and 2: a third-person shooter with generic horror tropes that you already have seen million of times before. Dark rooms? Check. Loud and urgent soundtrack? Check. Blood everywhere? Aliens and mutated humans? Check. The only new horror gimmick is the snow.

    “”It killed item management and made all ammo universal”

    Item management is still there and universal ammo means that every time you shoot, every gun’s ammo is also affected.

    “You could create your own weapons, which was really cool, but it turned into a co-op shooter where two dudes blasted away everything in sight with machine guns, explosives, electricity, and other death dealing mechanics. ”

    So? DS1 and 2 were about a single dude blasting away everything in sight with machine guns, explosives, eletricity and other death dealing mechanics. DS3 is like this too, if you play its single-player.

    “But after a certain point, the game was no longer challenging, and it was never scary because it empowered the hell out of players”

    To be fair DS1 and 2 weren’t scary either, until you consider stock dark-rooms-filled-with-blood and a loud soundtrack scary. Neither were they challenging, if you play these games in the Normal mode. There are higher difficulty modes if you want challenge, anyway.

    “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun game for co-op and killing things, but in terms of story and horror, which were some of Dead Space’s best aspects, it fails.”

    Sorry, but what? The best part about Dead Space is the gory, satisfying combat. The “story” and “horror” aspects of the franchise are mostly forgettable.

    Also:

    “Homecoming, attempted a focus on combat, and it’s widely considered the worst game in the series”

    Silent Hill 3 already had a big focus on combat (look at all these bosses) and nothing is worse than the downright awful Silent Hill 4.

    • Tango Fan

      “Sorry but ‘The Evil Within’ is being made by Shinji Mikami, the guy who turned Resident Evil into a third-person shooter. What did you expected from the game?”

      He also made RE(Make) and Dino Crisis, two games which truly embodies the meaning of Survival Horror. Just because RE4 was turned into an Action Horror game (Something Mikami acknowledges) doesn’t mean The Evil Within will be the same.

      Everything we’ve seen so far points that it’s a Survival Horror game. Resilient enemies, scarce resources, exploration and puzzles.

  • Spyder

    I thought the same thing about this upgrade system. However, there is a similar upgrade system in the Fatal Frame/Project Zero games, & it doesn’t really interfere with the horror in my opinion. I think that in horror games, the only type of upgrade system there should be is the type that is just tapping a knife to a pipe, or long stick to have a greater reach. Also, great article CJ, was a fun read.

  • ariessiren

    I love horror games as much as the next gamer, but personally i see nothing wrong with this. Because i would rather have this from shinji than the god awful, completely disempowered bs like outlast. Did the guy not have arms to fight back or push? am i supposed to feel empathy for a guy who is a complete weakling? Yet you praised that game. It took disempowered to the Max and just became hide and seek. There’s a reason shinji delayed the game. Feedback. I can get behind this. Id rather have this than what we have been getting lately in horror.

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