Gaming director/producer Shinji Mikami has an exemplary track-record in the interactive entertainment industry - responsible for titles including Resident Evil 0-4, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Devil May Cry, and Vanquish, among others. The game maker helped bring the survival horror genre to a much larger demographic of players with the success of Resident Evil (and its numerous sequels and spinoffs). Yet, recent entries in that franchise (without Mikami at the helm) now emphasize explosive action set pieces over immersive scares.
As a result, longtime survival horror enthusiasts have been anxiously awaiting Mikami's next game, The Evil Within from Bethesda Softworks - which many are hoping will be a return to the genre's terrifying roots. Details on the exact plot of the title are still scarce but the director has promised the game will present "the perfect blend of horror and action" - a clear response to criticism that the genre regularly skews toward over-the-top explosions (at the expense of anxiety and horror).
We had a chance to catch a real-time demo of The Evil Within at E3 2013 - one that detailed new gameplay features and offered insight into how Mikami intends to inject much-needed horror back into survival horror gameplay.
The Evil Within announcement trailer served as an intriguing (live-action) tease for the project but did little to set-up the storyline or provide context for the monsters and twisted human forms that were briefly on display. Select screenshots have allowed gamers a bit of insight into the design aesthetic of the title but today's closed-doors demo definitely allowed a clearer sense of what Mikami has planned as well as how he intends to evolve survival horror at the start of a next-generation console landscape.
The Evil Within will be available on both current-generation and next-generation consoles (not to mention PC). Nevertheless, the visuals are on-par with other third-person action-adventure experiences set for release on Xbox One and PS4 - including seamless transition between gameplay and CGI sequences, complicated lighting effects, rich textures, and smooth character animations. Still, as mentioned, The Evil Within will also release on current generation consoles as well - and should be one of the best looking titles available for Xbox 360 and PS3. The environments are rich, providing a range of visuals from stark and sterile hospital areas to dark and bloodstained subterranean locales.
The demo did not provide much context for the larger game story but established that main character, Detective Sebastian, and his team of detectives are sent to a psychiatric hospital - following a bloody altercation between police officers and the asylum's residents. After arriving on-site, Sebastian and his fellow investigators separate - whereupon Sebastian is captured and, stripped of his weapons, must use stealth and other in-game resources (think Metal Gear Solid) to avoid detection by an over-sized butcher (who keeps busy mutilating bodies of deceased asylum residents).
The demo segment highlighted the importance of patience and sneaking, which are both necessary when avoiding larger enemies that would otherwise kill Sebastian without hesitation. Injured in the process of escaping, Sebastian hobbles from one hiding spot to the next, in an effort to avoid detection, throwing glass bottles and other items found in the environment to confuse his pursuer.
Fast-forwarding to later in the game, the developers showed a section of combat - where Sebastian utilized proximity mines to booby-trap his location and fend off a hoard of zombie-like creatures that invade his safe house. In addition to the explosives, the creatures soaked up a lot of bullets too, so it's unclear, based on our demo, if this means success in The Evil Within will rely heavily on careful supply management (assuming enemies aren't easy to kill) or if our demo player was (frankly) a lousy shot. Since Mikami promises "survival" is a major element of this "horror," there's no doubt that scarcity will play a major role; however, we'll have to wait until Bethesda releases an official gameplay trailer to find out just how much damage individual enemies can take before they are finally incapacitated.
Check out a brief eight-minute sneak peek at some of the gameplay demoed at E3 2013 below (courtesy of Game Trailers):
Mikami also revealed that, at times, The Evil Within will toy with Sebastian's perception of the world around him. In one instance, a hallway door routinely extends out of the player's reach, and in another, a red tidal wave of bloody liquid cascades through a corridor, only to reveal an entirely new environment. Similarly, as Sebastian flees the asylum, he is shocked to see the wrecked remains of his city below - as if ravaged by an earthquake.
Whether the destruction is simply a hallucination in Sebastian's head or the actual fate of the city is hard to predict at this early stage, but one thing is certain: survival horror fans have reason to be optimistic that The Evil Within will return the fan-favorite genre to its heart-pounding roots - while also taking horror gaming to a whole new level through next-generation realism and storytelling.
Stay tuned to Game Rant as Mikami and Bethesda unveil further The Evil Within details.
The Evil Within is currently in development for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One - with an expected release in 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on The Evil Within as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.