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Has Mikami lost his passion?

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    The Evil Within

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Has Mikami lost his passion?

    Since my early days of gaming, I have had great respect for Shinji Mikami. I remember reading an interview with him in my copy of the official strategy guide for Dino Crisis, and reading his thoughts was extremely interesting. He’s one of the few real figureheads in gaming, people that can almost be considered "authors" in the craft. For the most part, I have absolutely adored his work, and I view him as a true pioneer within the industry and easily in the top ten most influential game developers of all time. However, since leaving Capcom, Mikami seems to have lost his passion…while it’s still a good game, compared to his earlier work, it’s hard not to be disappointed with The Evil Within.

    The Evil Within is more or less a redo of Resident Evil 4 in many respects. The game features a law enforcement protagonist named Sebastian as he deals with foreign locations and vicious locals, plus a variety of other horrific creatures. The camera is over-the-shoulder like Resident Evil. Tonally, it just feels a lot like Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 came out almost 10 years ago now. It’s time for the survival horror genre to move on and try something new. As a great innovator in the genre, I was hoping to see Mikami do something different, but unfortunately he felt reiterating his past masterpieces.

    Where The Evil Within stands apart from Resident Evil 4 is its difficulty level. The game offers an extreme challenge in many cases, which is welcome to me, as most horror games nowadays are far too easy. The boss fights are especially difficult, requiring smart strategy and figuring out secret ways of defeating the bosses. This makes them terrifying as they actually pose a threat, unlike most games, which have largely regulated boss fights to simple QTE segments.

    I enjoyed the increased difficulty provided by this game, but I have heard many people complain about it. The game definitely doesn’t hold your hand, greatly restricting ammo and featuring deadly enemies, traps that can kill you quickly, and plenty of ways that you can die instantly. I love the atmosphere this level of difficulty creates because it makes an already scary game even scarier.

    One way that The Evil Within is actually an improvement over Resident Evil 4 is the scare factor. The Evil Within is MUCH scarier than Resident Evil 4, thanks to its more grotesque imagery, improved sound design, and terrifying creature designs. The amount of gore that is shoved onto the screen is more or less unprecedented in the history of gaming, which makes the game disturbing to play…but in a good way.

    The actual graphical design is pretty weak, though, unfortunately. There is no way that this game belongs on Xbox One with graphics like this. Hell, it doesn’t even look that great for an Xbox 360 game, let alone an Xbox One game. The lighting is really good and you can turn the film grain effect off (thank god), but the character models and animations are very lacking and unimpressive. Textures range from amazing looking to laughable, and the enemy animations feel like they were ripped directly from the code of Resident Evil 4.

    In terms of gameplay, like I said, The Evil Within is more or less a mirror of RE4. It is a third-person survival horror game. It does have more moments that focus on stealth, though the stealth mechanics are pretty basic and not entirely fleshed out.

    The weak plot is also a major issue I have with the game. The game is filled with plain, uninspired characters and confusing, hard to follow plot twists that make getting invested in the story a real challenge. The supporting cast is especially weak to the point where I am honestly struggling to remember the names of anyone that I encountered in the game except for the name of the main character.

    Creating atmosphere is where the game excels, and it accomplishes this with the visual tone of the game as well as with the audio design, which is fantastic. The music in the game is haunting and perfectly creates a sense of dread. The sound effects will have you jumping out of your seat. I was extremely impressed with the sound design in The Evil Within.

    Besides getting achievements (which are also extremely challenging), and replaying the game for collectibles and upgrades, there’s really not much else to do. The scares will only get you once, so this game doesn’t have as much replayability. Another part of the problem is that this experience has already been done elsewhere in the form of RE4, so that also kills the replayability a bit.

    Shinji Mikami and his team have produced a decent game. The Evil Within will especially please fans of the horror genre, which has been neglected in the gaming industry in recent years. However, this game simply does not live up to the man’s legacy, and falls way short of some of the previous titles that he’s directed. Has Shinji Mikami lost his passion for making games? The Evil Within tells me that the answer to that question is a definite probably. Maybe his next game will blow me away, but as it stands, I enjoyed my time with The Evil Within, just not as much as I would have expected considering the game’s pedigree.

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