Resident Evil 7
The end result is a bit more like old Resident Evil than people may have imagined, and in the best way possible. One could find a lot of cause to compare this sequel to the reboot of Doom. It captures the spirit of old Resident Evil games and brings it forward in a modern, fresh direction. For those who may have felt betrayed by Resident Evil 6’s heavy action leanings, Resident Evil 7 is for you.
You star as Ethan, a man on the hunt for his wife Mia. Thought to be dead, he receives an email from her three years later telling him to find her at Baker Plantation in Louisiana. Nothing strange about that, of course. Ethan heads off in order to find Mia. One has to wonder what first goes through Ethan’s head when he arrives, as he’s greeted by a set of burning corpses and bloody ritual symbols.
When it was first announced, I found difficult to know what to think about Resident Evil 7. The trailers portrayed something completely different from my previous experiences with the series. Not only was the game in first person, but it didn’t appear to take place with any of the characters we’ve come to know and love, and Umbrella wasn’t even in sight. Instead we were given something more akin to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a backwater family who had kidnapped a young man, and decided to play a twisted game with him.
It’s this opening hour that will seem very familiar to players of the demo that Capcom released late last year, and with good reason. It’s a perfect show piece for the game. It’s dark, grimy, and utterly creepy. As you walk around in first person (a first for the series), you explore the Baker house and all its filthy underpinnings. If you open a fridge, you’ll find the doors sticky with mucus. A pot near the stove will be filled with roaches and maggots. Whatever’s going on here, you want no part of it.
But you trudge on, as you must. As the game continues, you’ll find yourself stalked by the parents of the Baker family. Jack, the father, is the most dangerous, and winds up being a thorn in your side several times throughout the game. Many times, you’ll find that your weapons simply aren’t enough and these people are literally unstoppable. So, there’s nothing to be done except run and hide. The mansion is filled with safe rooms, places of respite where you can save your game and manage your inventory.
It’s a good thing the Baker parents are unstoppable because, for the most part, you’re never lacking ammo for you weapons. Throughout the game, you’ll find normal weapons like a knife, pistol, or shotgun. But as the game continues, you’ll find more classic RE weapons like a flamethrower, grenade launcher, and machine gun. Even against the other set of enemies you’ll encounter (called “the molded” in game), I never felt outgunned.
The only area the game makes up for that fact is with the boss battles. You’ll have five over the course of the game, and each one (except the very last) is designed to run you out of bullets. Between that and the general lack of precision in the combat, these forced encounters are more frustrating than they need to be. One or two approach being interesting set pieces, but more often than not they distract from the main purpose of the game.
Better off than the parents is the son, Lucas. Instead of stalking you through the house like the others, Lucas prefers to play a game with you in a very Saw-like style. It’s a genius approach that results in the game’s most interesting puzzle, as you must bring a lit candle to a birthday cake. It’s unfortunate that this inspired design was not utilized in some of the more troublesome boss fights.
Combat in the game is a bit of a nuisance. The recoil on most of the guns is huge, meaning you have to make each shot count. This would be fine if the enemies didn’t jerk to the side randomly. Results don’t seem very consistent, either. Some enemies will take a few shots to kill, others of the same type will take many more. It isn’t a big deal, since you have so much ammo for most of the game, but it can be a pain.
Complaints about the combat aside, the game is terrifying. The first person point of view limits how much you can see at any given moment. You’re always on edge that when you turn around or go through a door, as something unpleasant will be waiting for you on the other end. The atmosphere is delightfully frightening in a way that Resident Evil hasn’t been since the first few games.
But that kind of terror only lasts for about half the game. The game’s tone takes a turn right around when you meet Lucas for real. It’s about then that the game starts to weave in more of its B-grade horror tropes. You leave the Baker house for other environments and none of them live up to the fear that the house sets in. If anything this is because the claustrophobia of the house is removed, not because the additional environments lack in any way.
That doesn’t mean the game still isn’t fun or scary. The scares don’t reach the same heights, but they’re still present. Even more fun, though, is the lore that gets introduced. Like all Resident Evil games, there are tons of photos, files, and journal entries for you to find throughout the game that help explain what’s going on. It gets a tad heavy handed towards the end, when for whatever reason there’s a scene where you commune with the dead to literally be told what’s going on. I assume this scene was included in case players completely ignored the files and notes around the game. It isn’t bad by any means (it’s actually pretty fun and interesting) but could have been told a bit more gracefully.
But for those who enjoy the B-horror of Resident Evil, the experiments, the bioweapons, and so on, that’s present as well. This is still Resident Evil after all, and Capcom has not forgotten that. While I won’t spoil any of the references or tie-ins, I’ll say that the game gives ties into the rest of the series about as much as Resident Evil 4 does. It is very much its own thing, but there’s enough to know that what happens in RE 7 will carry forward.
Resident Evil 7 is a return to form in ways that no one could have expected.