Tried and tested
Resident Evil 4 was born in an explosion of innovation that redefined thirdperson shooters and survival horror, but almost a decade later those innovations have become a template even by its own creator can’t escape. Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within (p34) is a slave to his own influence, but finds room for new ideas by blending Resident Evil’s familiar combat with a focus on stealth and evasion that refreshes a reliable but stale genre.
When game budgets are in the tens – if not hundreds – of millions of dollars, it’s good to have a safety net, and nothing is safer than familiarity.
EVE Valkyrie (p38) is a grand virtual reality experiment anchored by a trusty old space shooter, and while the genre has been out of favour since the late ’90s, it’s well chosen. The early-adopter enthusiasts likely to buy a Rift headset are the same players who spent their teenage years playing Wing
Commander and their 20s lobbying LucasArts for more X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter. If only a handful of players will own the hardware to play Valkyrie, CCP can at least rest assured that those who do will want its game. Even the most obtuse innovation can be appealing when attached to something players understand. Double Fine’s Hack ’N’
Slash (p46) makes a game about programming palatable by wrapping it in Nintendo’s bulletproof Zelda framework. Within the confines of the familiar, the game’s conventionally repellant innovation becomes your boomerang or your bow – just another weapon in the adventurer’s arsenal as you use real coding skills to reshape the world around you.
Being radical is brave, but the road to success is paved by the bodies of innovators, and trodden upon by developers savvy enough to weave their innovations into something comfortable. Resident Evil 4 kickstarted a new generation of action-horror games, but it could never have subverted the genre without a decade of tried-andtested successes in survival horror at its back.