The survival horror genre has changed a lot over the last decade — having adopted a faster, more action-oriented style compared to the creeping pace of its early days, it’s almost nothing like it used to be. These changes have been made in an attempt to take the genre in new directions, while simultaneously reaching a broader audience — namely, those gamers who don’t have the patience for the slow pace produced by elements like puzzle solving.
In separate interviews, Silent Hill: Downpour Producer Tomm Hulett and Resident Evil:Revelations Producer Masachika Kawata discuss the future of survival horror.
Producer of Silent Hill Tomm Hulett sat down with about these changes and the future of the genre.
Survival horror has branched into three distinct styles. There’s the action-horror style that wants players blowing up creepy things, shock-horror that wants players jumping at creepy things, and classic survival horror that wants players consistently dreading creepy things. Speaking with MCV, Hulett discusses how he wanted to incorporate these classic elements to keep players of Silent Hill: Downpour on edge.
“While many other games have gone the route of more action oriented game design, attempting to appeal to more mainstream audiences, we’ve taken a very careful approach to the pacing of Downpour to make sure it maintains that original ‘slow-burn’ and keeping the player off guard with less predictability.”
Hulett continued, pointing out the “clunkiness” with earlier games in the genre, and how fixing combat resulted in the more action oriented games we see today — though a great combat system with scary monsters doesn’t always result in a quality horror game.
“If horror games are going to be ‘scary’ in the future, it’s going to take careful game design to do it. If you have tense, frightening gameplay happening naturally, and then some carefully orchestrated designed-scares… you would have a very memorable horror game. Hopefully that’s the direction the genre is headed.”
Silent Hill: Downpour was met with mostly positive reviews, perhaps reflecting fan desires to return the genre to its roots. See what we thought in our Silent Hill: Downpour review.
Hulett wasn’t the only one who has met with recent success. Resident Evil:Revelations Producer Masachika Kawata also spoke on the genre’s evolution, and the game’s positive reception, in an interview with Gamasutra.
“Especially for the North American market, I think the series needs to head in that [action-oriented] direction. [Resident Evil's primary games] need to be an extension of the changes made in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. RE4 started in that direction, and RE5 kept going in that direction. And I think that especially for the North American market, we need to keep going in that direction, and take that a step further. And that’s exactly one of the reasons that Revelations is the way it is.”
Action has taken center stage in modern horror, signaling the possible death of classic survival horror and perhaps the term itself. There hasn’t been a lot of resistance to this shift, however, as horror games are still enormously popular, with titles such as BioShock, Alan Wake and Dead Space topping charts and adding variety to a genre originally dominated by undisputed champions Resident Evil and Silent Hill – both of which have evolved to meet this shift.
As Hulett points out, though, game design is crucial to a successful horror game and can’t be hidden behind a decent combat system. If Silent Hill: Downpour is any indication, survival horror still has plenty of nightmares to give its players.
Resident Evil: Revelations and Silent Hill: Downpour are available now.
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