"First Of All, It Has To Be Scary"
Shinji Mikami, the director behind Resident Evil and recently-unveiled horror title The Evil Within, suggests that survival horror has lost its way, and needs to prioritise terror over explosions and machine guns. However, he also feels that combat helps to give players a "rush" when they finally get to defeat a particularly harrowing monster.
"My definition of survival horror is that first of all it has to be scary," Mikami told IGN. "And then you get a scary creature, and you get a rush from blowing it away. A good balance of these two things is what makes survival horror."
“For combat, of course, you’re shooting guns and using knives and axes and orthodox weapons like that, but you can also place traps to ambush enemies. We don’t intend to give the player and super extraordinary powers. However, if there’s no way to fight back, no way to attack that gives that little thrill, then it wouldn’t be survival horror. So we’ll give the player the weapons they need, but we’re not considering any heavy weapons like machine guns.”
The Evil Within will severely limit the amount of ammunition players can carry, and offer only a fairly weak arsenal of pistols, forcing us to conserve and improvise whenever possible. That said, Mikami is still convinced that combat is a key way of raising tension in survival horror titles.
"Sometimes you have to run away because your ammo is low, and you’re like, ‘die already’ – and you pull off a headshot," Mikami gushed later in the interview. "The monster is bearing down on you and bam! You hit it with your last shot. You feel relief and a sense of exhilaration like ‘yes!’ I think that really is the easiest way to describe what’s best about survival horror.”
Though we personally feel that many horror games are incredibly effective because they don't give players a means to fight back - Amnesia: The Dark Descent being a superb case in point - we're looking forward to seeing what Mikami's Bethesda collaboration entails, and whether it heralds a AAA return to form for the genre. We'll find out in 2014.