The mastermind behind the Resident Evil series has made his return to the genre he helped create with The Evil Within.
Shinji Mikami’s name is synonymous with survival horror video games, in fact, it could be believed that the genre wouldn’t exist without him after directing and producing the first Resident Evil game, which is arguably considered the first of its kind. The Evil Within is Mikami’s first survival horror video game as director since Resident Evil 4 was released in early 2005.
Video game expert Steve Wright, the editor-in-chief of Stevivor, praised Mikami for his contribution to video games.
“Mikami is often called the grandfather of survival horror, and he’s earned that title in spades,” he told The Newsroom. “Resident Evil not only brought me back to video games with its original release on PlayStation, it did the same for me when RE4 came out on GameCube. I actually went out and bought a GameCube for the express purpose of playing the game.
“Without Mikami, we wouldn’t have an evolution of the Resident Evil series, nor would we have his work inspire other franchises like Silent Hill, Outlast and Dead Space. I’m so happy to see a resurgence of these types of games in recent years.”
If you’re looking for a game to scare you out of your pants, then The Evil Within is for you. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Staying true to his horror roots, Mikami has created a frightening and almost desperate atmosphere for the player as you struggle to even stay alive in the first minutes of the game. When I told a friend, “I’d only feel comfortable playing this game if it were daylight and I was surrounded by the Australian Army”, I wasn’t really kidding. The dark, unpredictability of the game combined with the lack of ammo and deadly zombie-like creatures scattered throughout, leave for a solid survival horror environment where strategy and stealth are key.
The world that he has created inside the game has to be applauded with realistic settings and sometimes frightening graphics. Concepts from some of his previous games were definitely visited in The Evil Within, leaving the player desperate to stay alive in a situation that seems impossible.
“It’s a return to form for not only Mikami himself, but for the survival horror genre itself. You can tell when Mikami left the Resident Evil franchise; protagonist Chris Redfield’s biceps grew larger than his head, and an emphasis on action was even more noticeable. It’s truly a shame, as that property holds a special place in my heart,” Mr Wright said about the game. “It’s great to see a game where stealth, item management and tension are the key facets and mechanics. It’s deliciously hard and old-school, while innovating with new stealth mechanics.”
However, Mikami did not completely capitalise with this game as he did the others.
For one, the main protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, has about as much personality as a white wall. It’s like you’re playing as a completely partial observer, because all he really contributes to the game is someone to control. I wouldn’t even blame you if you didn’t know his name, because you don’t learn it until you’re very well into the game.
The gameplay is also quite difficult, even when on easy mode. For starters, it took me about four tries to get past the tutorial. (Yes. The tutorial). You are barely aware of the dangers around you, until it’s too late. To add even more confusion, there is little to no guidance to get through the game and the instructions are pretty vague. I found myself aimlessly wandering around a forest because I didn’t know which way I was meant to go.
It was easy to see how this game related to other survival horror games Mikami directed – its eerie isolation and the ability to keep the player on their toes and off their chairs was apparent in Resident Evil 4.
“It’s closest to RE4, with fully-rendered 3D environments and a greater emphasis on action as compared to earlier games in the series,” said Mr Wright. “Unlike RE5 and RE6, tension, fear and isolation are key factors, so you can support modern game mechanics and still be true to the survival horror genre’s roots.”
If I were to use cricket terms in this, I would say that while Mikami didn’t knock a six, he definitely hit a four (at least!). As to whether or not Mikami still has it, Mr. Wright said he never lost it in the first place.
“I can’t wait to see what he does with The Evil Within‘s DLC and, hopefully, future instalments in the property,” he said.
Rating: A scary 7/10. – Noah La’ulu
Top photo from BagoGames’ Flickr photostream.