“Since Resident Evil 4,” Shinji Mikami says through a translator, “Survival horror has been filled with dumb, boring QTEs.” Controversial words from the man who created the Resident Evil series and watched as his changes in RE4 had a profound impact on the entire genre, prioritizing the action over the horror.
At this year’s E3, he returned to his horror roots, this time with a new studio, Tango Gameworks, under the American publisher, Bethesda. After explaining his wishes to return to a more horror-centric style of survival horror, one with limited ammunition and powerful enemies, Mikami turned the stage over to one of the developers for an extensive, hands off demo of his latest game, The Evil Within.Quotes Castellanos is definitely an underpowered hero compared to today’s health regenerating, gun toting supermen.
In typical RE fashion, the game starts off with a mystery and a hero, police detective Sebastian Castellanos, sent to investigate an entire police team gone missing at a local asylum. Castellanos goes in with one partner, advising his female accomplice to stay behind and hold the fort. When they go in the first thing that greets them in the lobby is a pile of slaughtered police. A quick scan of the surveillance cameras at the reception desk shows more police in hallways being slaughtered by a ghostly shadow creature. However, before Castellanos can react further, he’s knocked out, only to wake up hanging upside down with other people who are being eviscerated by a tall, muscular mutated looking homicidal maniac.
The game proper gets underway at this point, with Castellanos first freeing himself, then, because he’s injured and unarmed, playing a frantic game of cat and mouse with the now angry maniac. This involves a lot of sneaking, leading to tense moments such as a duck walk crouch into the same room as the maniac to steal keys to a locked door. In a nod to Capcom’s previous titles like Haunting Ground and Clock Tower 3, Castellanos can also hide from pursuers, a tactic which, in this case, leads to the maniac getting so angry he busts down a previously locked door, allowing Castellanos to continue ahead. This first portion of the demo ended with Castellanos tripping an alarm on his way out, and having to limp his way to an elevator and narrowly avoided getting nabbed by his pursuer.
The second portion of the demo started in very familiar, RE4 territory, with Castellanos trapped in a house while possessed humans attempted to get in. Here, Castellanos was fighting against zombie-type enemies that had been mutilated with rebar and other construction materials piercing their body in various places. Castellanos showed a bit more tactical thinking than Chris Redfield ever did, however, taking mines found in the house and setting them up at windows in the time it took the enemies to slowly shamble towards the house. As with the contemporary RE series, Castellanos now has the ability to shoot and slowly move at the same time, but shooting an enemy down doesn’t necessarily kill it; sometimes they’ll still be alive although they can be permanently shut down with fire. The demo also hints that something very psychotic or mystical is happening to Castellanos’ perception as he shifts in and out from one environment to another. As Castellanos moves through a setting reminiscent of Silent Hill’s “industrial hell” aesthetic, he comes across a pile of bodies that flies apart, revealing a disfigured, spider woman/demon creature underneath that charges towards him. The demo ends on that boss tease.
What’s on show so far seems like Mikami’s attempt to marry the controls and combat of RE4 to the atmosphere and design philosophy of RE1. Castellanos is definitely an underpowered hero compared to today’s health regenerating, gun toting supermen. Ammo is scarce and so are healing items, so this is a game that challenges players to overcome the odds, rather than stack them in their favor. There’s also a decidedly more supernatural bent to The Evil Within than Resident Evil’s genetically mutated horrors. The Evil Within is set to release on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 in 2014.