In the three years that have passed since Resident Evil 7's release, Capcom has recreated its foundation both for its major franchises and for Resident Evil. On top of the successful releases of Mega Man 11 and Devil May Cry 5, they've also remade Resident Evil 2 with Resident Evil 3's remake on the way in April of this year. With that said, how did the renaissance of Resident Evil take place?
After the failure of Resident Evil 6, Capcom seemed lost at a direction. Gone were the tight corridors and surprise attacks from B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons). In its place, you played a 3rd-person shooter with action commands akin to Gears of War. While the gameplay mechanics worked well enough for Resident Evil 5, Capcom ultimately hit a snag with the 6th game. With its low ratings, the future was unsure for the series. As a result, Capcom did not release another mainline title in the series for half-a-decade.
After that drought, Capcom finally developed Resident Evil 7. Taking place in an old, backwoods house in Mississippi, your main character, Ethan, receives a message from his wife. Despite believing she died three years ago, her message invites him to come and find out the truth. Within the Baker House, you'll uncover stories of disappearances and see decrepit sights everywhere you go. What follows involves a frightening plot of people turning insane and attacking you. Plus, you'll watch videotapes and encounter the stories involving the victims of the Baker House.
As you begin fighting for your life, you're greeted to its silent walls and narrow corridors. Danger lurks around every corner as you try to rescue your wife and escape the residence. Why are the Bakers trying to kill you? The story will eventually uncover a conspiracy, a choice, and even an aftermath.
Resident Evil 7 takes place entirely in first-person. Just in case you thought you were safe, you may be attacked by a monster lurking around the corner. This game brings new dynamics to the series, such as Jack chasing you down and even turning you around before he hits you. Other enemies will surely jump out to attack you, so be sure to keep your guard up.
Keep in mind, however, that Resident Evil 7 doesn't rely on cheap jump-scares. In fact, this is the first title to journey into psychological horror territory. Unlike Silent Hill, however, it steers clear of the supernatural. But you will find decaying environments, grotesque body parts, undying enemies, and fearsome monsters called Molded. Also noteworthy, the lighting in this game captures a superb job of setting the tone in the game. In fact, the lighting effects in this game go unparalleled as it casts your shadow in front of you, perhaps even startling you when there's no enemy near.
When you're not exploring the house and solving puzzles, you're shooting down B.O.W.s in classic Resident Evil style. The smooth controls in this game will let you switch between weapons on the fly. You'll uncover a number of weapons, healing items, and even upgrades to assist you. Headshots deal the most damage while leg shots can temporarily cripple an enemy while you attempt to escape them.
Even the Molded, the main zombies of this game, are nothing short of ghastly. Fortunately, nothing will ever be as horrifying as the Regenerador from Resident Evil 4. But just like standard survival horror from older RE titles, you will have to procure ammo and use it wisely in order to survive. Spraying bullets into every enemy you encounter will surely leave you vulnerable to others.
The aesthetic of the game feels unmatched. For those missing the dimly-lit rooms and basements from past games, this feels like the homecoming you've been waiting for. You'll hear sounds, like knocking and creaking that come from anywhere around you. Plus you'll get to explore more than just the house. Resident Evil 7 includes several different areas each with their own dangers and layouts. I found the ship area to be particularly creepy due to the enemy encounters as well as your lack of defense. Also, if you enjoy puzzles, you will surely enjoy the testing area.
Many parts of the game will feature nothing but dead silence as you explore. But perhaps the standout music from this game comes from the main theme, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody." This song plays in the intro of the game and helps set the tone for what you'll encounter. To learn more about this song, you can find the full story of its inclusion here.
One of the most standout parts of Resident Evil 7 comes from the Extra Content. While you'll likely beat the title in 12-15 hours, you'll find yourself with no shortage of things to do. You can unlock a new difficulty, go after trophies, get the ending you missed the first time, and even play mini-games. These mini-games range from a survival mode to a sadistic twist on the card game, Blackjack. One of the games even features the prelude to the story, where you play as Zoe. Also, the Gold version includes the two DLC episodes that take place after the main game: Not a Hero and End of Zoe.
Overall, I'm beyond impressed by the game's overall quality. It feels like every aspect of this game was polished amazingly. It's not perfect, but feels well-done in most ways. One of the little flaws I have issue with involves the design of a particular character well-known in the series. For instance, the "Not a Hero" DLC stars Resident Evil veteran Chris Redfield. Using the new RE engine, the developers took on a new art style. While the main characters look wonderfully detailed, Chris looks nothing like Chris. For anyone who played Resident Evil 5 or 6, he has no semblance to his hair, physique, or face. Also note that Roger Craig Smith, voice of Chris since Resident Evil 5, did not return for the role. In other words, you're introduced to a character who you would need an introduction to even if you played as him in past games.
Another thing I noticed was the lack of real trauma. While Resident Evil 7 is full of tragic events, it doesn't convey a proper level of trauma that can resonate with the player. Whether you're killing someone or being dismembered, I feel the sequences went by too fast to truly appreciate how Ethan should feel after making crucial choices. While Resident Evil 7 writes a story better than any game in the series, I feel a sense of trauma would truly help the player appreciate the pain your protagonist goes through. Once again comparing to its fellow horror series, I feel Silent Hill's storyline did a better job of expressing trauma such as through repressed memories and mental illnesses.
With that said, however, I must tell how I felt before playing this game. Initially, I was afraid Resident Evil 7 was an attempt to reboot the series. Seeing what happened with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and DmC: Devil May Cry, the 2010s became a decade of reboots. I was afraid Resident Evil 7 would jump the line and wash everything away I knew and loved about the series.
By the time I started playing this game, however, I felt my mind completely changed. The ties to past games, the gameplay, and the element surrounding you feel just like the Resident Evil you knew and loved. This title tells an original story unconnected to the Umbrella saga, but does maintain ties to past games. As a result, you'll need not play the past titles to understand the story. All you need to do is hop right in and let the story tell its frightening tale.
Final Verdict: Recommend
Overall, I cannot recommend this game enough. Resident Evil 7 sets itself apart with its combination of BOW attacks and psychological horror. Great atmosphere, puzzle solving, boss battles, and a captivating story bring out the best the series has to offer. When it's all said and done, you'll surely grow to care for the characters involved in the bioterror incident. I can safely say that this one of the highlight titles of the current gaming generation as well as generations to come.
Finally, when you're done with the main story, you'll have much more to enjoy. Whether you're a veteran fan or a newcomer to the series, the adjustable difficulty settings will be great for any player interested in the series. I strongly recommend this title and hope you will enjoy it to its fullest!
Have you played other games in the series before 7? What was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!