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Given the rate at which tech­nol­ogy im­proves, a lay­man might ex­pect that videogames would only ever get big­ger and busier. You’ve got all this new pro­cess­ing power – surely that just means you can stuff more things into the mix than you would have oth­er­wise? “Well, yes… per­haps,” you’d say, your eyes scan­ning the room in search of some­one – any­one – else to talk to. The re­al­ity is that, yes, tech­nol­ogy im­proves as time passes, and to cre­ators that ex­tra pro­cess­ing head­room is ex­tremely handy. But as videogames ma­ture, so too does their cre­ators’ un­der­stand­ing of ef­fec­tive de­sign – and in games, as else­where, less can def­i­nitely be more.

It’s a com­mon re­frain among this month’s Hype crop. Strik­ing in­die ad­ven­ture Lost Em­ber (p38) had en­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zles and a com­bat sys­tem at one point in its de­vel­op­ment, un­til its mak­ers re­alised that a lit­tle re­straint can go a long way – even af­ter the Kick­starter money came flow­ing in – and be­gan to pare the game back to its bare es­sen­tials. Bat­t­lerite (p50) blends core ele­ments of MOBAs and fight­ing games, but thumbs its nose at the ex­pec­ta­tion that games in ei­ther of those gen­res should have dozensstrong char­ac­ter ros­ters, and is all the bet­ter for its aus­ter­ity. Nioh (p46) was once a JRPG, un­til one day Koei Tecmo re­alised that the best thing to do in a game about sa­mu­rai is chop up bad guys with some re­ally nice swords. It is now the spir­i­tual Ninja Gaiden suc­ces­sor we’ve wanted Team Ninja to make for years.

Some­times, then, you just have to fo­cus on what you do best. Which is why, seven games and count­less spinoffs and re­mas­ters later, Res­i­dent Evil 7 (p34) is go­ing back to its roots, feel­ing in tone, con­tent and spirit like a re­turn to the val­ues of the genre-defin­ing 1996 orig­i­nal. Our lay­man friend might well see that as a ret­ro­grade step, de­spite the use of modern con­sole power and in­clu­sion of game-wide PSVR sup­port. Clearly, he never played Res­i­dent Evil 6.

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