Shinji Mikami is so closely associated with his creation Resident Evil that he is also considered the very face of video game horror. More appropriately, to borrow that seminal game’s language, Mikami is the face of “survival horror,” games that milk their thrills from placing the player in dire circumstances with limited resources. It’s been a long ten years since Mikami directed a true survival horror game though, the last one being a remake of his first, 2002’s Gamecube Resident Evil. According to Mikami though, his debut directorial work for Tango Gameworks, Zwei, will be “pure survival horror.”
Announced via Tango Gameworks‘ website on Wednesday, details are scarce on just what Zwei will be. Mikami states on the site, “I’ve found my focus and once again I’m striving for pure survival horror. I am being very hands-on to see that the quality is there. Rest assured.”
The above jumble of art—depicting grimy, dim landscapes on land and sea—is made up of environments designed for Zwei intended to “give a feel for the tone and direction the production is taking.” The announcement goes on to say that neither the code name Zwei nor the art is intended to give an exact picture of what the game will be.
Mikami has spent most of the past decade directing games that focus on intense, rhythmic action. He has only directed three originals since the Resident Evil remake, and they were each misunderstood when released. 2003’s P.N. 03 for Gamecube was a bizarre, sterile shooter that required careful timing to play. It was released during the peak of Halo’s popularity, when console shooter controls calcified around a twin-stick arrangement, so its campy vibe and cold atmosphere were ignored when coupled with its taxing, trigger-based controls.
Rather than return to a more serious tone, Mikami doubled down on humor with his next game, God Hand. Developed alongside Capcom’s defunct auteur studio Clover, God Hand was a difficult and funny three-dimensional brawler. His most recent game, the third-person shooter Vanquish, dropped humor in favor of blistering speed and while that game was a critical success, it failed to connect with a wide audience.
Of course in the middle of this period, Mikami also directed his most famous sequel, Resident Evil 4 a game that transformed the series from survival horror to an all-out action thriller. It’s telling that Mikami is returning to horror even as Resident Evil becomes a more action-centric series. Nintendo 3DS title Resident Evil: Revelations’ producer Masachika Kawata told Gamasutra is a recent interview that he believes that the market can’t support a major survival horror release any longer. “Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games] … the market is small, compared to the number of units Call of Duty and all those action games sell. A ‘survival horror’ Resident Evil doesn’t seem like it’d be able to sell those kind of numbers.”
Here’s hoping Shinji Mikami proves Kawata wrong with Zwei.