Resident Evil 7 [Review]
Are you ready to face true horror again?
To really understand why Resident Evil 7 is such a great game, you need to understand why it was needed. Here is some back story into the main franchise as a whole.
Back in 1996 Capcom released a game on to the Playstation that, unbeknownst to them, would go on to be named as the pioneer of the "Survival Horror" genre. This game was Resident Evil. When the game came out, it was met with critical acclaim and though the cutscenes were seen as a little bit B movie and funny but the core of the game itself was a dark, creepy and lonely experience that saw you take one of two characters through a mansion filled with monsters that were all hell bent on destroying you and adding you to their ranks. The story unfolded as you enter a mansion in the Arklay Mountains, looking for members of your team who went missing. After an encounter with wild dogs, you are left to go about solving the convoluted puzzles that lay before you. Members of your team, the Special Tactics And Rescue Service A.K.A. STARS, would occasionally show up to offer help but ultimately you would be left alone again. As the years went on, more games in the series were released and with Resident Evil 2 (1998) and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) a similar formula, a single player left alone in a place that they would rather not be, filled with flesh eating zombies and more horrible creatures. The plot of the games followed the evil Umbrella Corporation and how the T-Virus they created ran amok and created the hell that now befalls Raccoon City and the Arklay Mountains. Critics praised the puzzle solving aspects of the games, along with the dark and creepy atmosphere created by being trapped alone with nothing but your wits to save you. The further you got into each game, the more secrets were revealed and the connections between each character were deepened.
A series of spinoff games and remakes followed until 2005 when the groundbreaking Resident Evil 4 came out. Changed from the fixed camera of the earlier games in the main series, this time we were treated to a third person adventure in rural Spain. Taking on the role of Leon Kennedy, a protagonist from Resident Evil 2, players were tasked with finding the President's daughter, Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by an evil cult known as Los Illuminados (The Enlightened Ones). Since the events of Resident Evil 2, Leon has gone from being a simple policeman to an agent of the United States Government and his skills prove more than useful for the task at hand. Unlike earlier games in the series, the "infection" this time around does not create flesh eating zombies but instead, it is "Las Plagas" (The Plague), a parasite that takes over its host and leaves it at the whim of the cult leader, Osmund Saddler. Leon must fight through the "Los Ganados" (The Cattle), people who used to be just simple farmers and wives, transformed into mindless workers for Saddler who are all too eager to kill Leon with pitchforks, axes, chainsaws and more. as the game progresses you meet old faces and come head to head with some truly grotesque creatures, all evolved from the terrifying plague that has befallen the population of this small town. The game was hailed as one of the best in the series, the pace of the game switches from a slow, scary crawling through buildings to fast pace fights against multiple enemies all set of removing vital organs from your body. The game, like the prequels before it, featured unlockable outfits after beating the game but Resident Evil 4 also had unlockable game modes and even expanded on its own story by letting you play as Ada Wong in a side-by-side- story to the main game. The game was given great review scores and it seemed that the Resident Evil franchise could only do better each time.
Then, in 2007, Capcom released Resident Evil 5. Following Chris Redfield who is now a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), long after the events of the first game, you are dropped into Kijuju which is a fictional area of Africa and sent to apprehend a seller of Bio-Organic Weapons but you soon find out that the man behind it is none other than Albert Wesker, your old STARS team leader who betrayed you for his own gain, believed to be dead. The infection from Resident Evil 4 is still present but the "Ganados" have been replaced with "Majini". A similar formula to Resident Evil 4 followed where you must fight through hordes of infected humans and creatures but this time you have an AI partner with you to help. Though the game saw positive reviews, the game felt like something was missing, something that was crucial to the original games in the series. The horror aspect of the game was lost, replaced by action and an overly-muscled protagonist who seemed to be merely repulsed by what he saw, rather than frightened. The puzzle solving aspect was also toned down a little in comparison to the older games and there was a lot of wide open space, taking away the claustrophobic nature of the older games. The next game in the main series, Resident Evil 6 (2013), was an even further step back from the main formula and despite positive critical reviews, fans were not happy with how the games had panned out. The story was long and convoluted. There are three separate campaigns that only really come together right at the very end and the gameplay was too much like an action game.
Fast forward a couple more years, Capcom release a trailer. It starts with a badge showing 20 years since the original games releases. The trailer was a masterpiece in suspense and hype. Showing nothing that would give away anything but made you want to know more. They revealed a new direction once again, first person, something unseen in the main series. The trailer shows an unknown character walking through a disheveled, messy and horrifying house filled with decay. The trailer cuts to videotape footage which would later be revealed to be the Beginning Hour demo, following a camera crew making the mistake of entering the property. As the trailer continues on you see some of the characters you'll be facing off against as well as some of the set pieces you'll be exploring. The trailer gives nothing away that it's a part of the Resident Evil franchise except right as the music hits it peak and stops and on the screen you see VII. For a split second, it hits you that it's really happening. the "VII" ends up forming the last three letters of "RESIDENT EVIL".
Now, the review of the game. As an avid fan of the Resident Evil franchise from start to finish, I was one of the extremely hyped people who saw the trailer and immediately began trying to put together what I could from the 3:14 long trailer. As the games releases loomed near, the Beginning Hour demo came out and I played it. I haven't felt real fear while playing a game since playing Resident Evil 3 back when I was 6 years old. The demo installed a very real fear in me. The first person view, the darkness, the tension, the lack of a soundtrack at all, the adaptive lighting that made walking into a room terrifying, the lack of any real enemies but the knowledge that you definitely aren't alone... It all comes together to give one of the most visceral and scary experiences I've ever had in a demo. You have to walk through the house, trying to find something. You are met with a house that is in complete disarray, moldy, bug infested and unclean. There are no lights on barring the TV in the sitting room. Upon further investigation you find a videotape to put in the video player. The video reveals a little more about the house itself as you take on the role of Clancy Javis, a cameraman for the TV show "Sewer Gators" which goes around presumably haunted or scary buildings in a similar vein to "Most Haunted" or "Ghost Adventures". Upon entering the house with two companions, you act like a normal cameraman, keeping the presenter in view etc, but one of your team vanishes and you are left to attempt to find him. You enter the sitting room and the presenter finds a secret pulley in the fireplace which opens a secret door. As the demo goes on you uncover more about the house and its inhabitants. The demo ends with an abrupt turn and a large, older man greeting you with "Welcome to the family, son" before knocking you out.
The main game of Resident Evil 7 sees you playing as Ethan Winters, a man who received an email from his girlfriend, Mia, who has been missing for three years. despite her warning to stay away, Ethan travels to Louisiana in search of her. He arrives at an all-too-familiar familiar house and after heading around the back and under a menacing set of animal legs strung up, he enters. You are now in the house from the demo and the trailer. The door shuts behind you and you're locked in darkness. You put on your flashlight and it's time to begin. You're given nothing to go on other than finding Mia. You have no weapons, no items and no clue what's waiting but after solving the puzzles from the demo you come across Mia. time to celebrate is short though as she warns you that "daddy is coming" and given what you know from the trailer and the demo, you don't want to meet him. Eventually, you are faced with the true terror of the game, being left alone in this house with infected people determined to stop Ethan from taking Mia away. Unlike earlier games, there are no zombies, Ganados or Majini. There is the Baker family and they have something secret up their sleeves. You witness one of them having his hand cut off by the father and he all he says is "oh no, not again!" which is entirely unsettling.
The core gameplay is a massive change from the older games, harkening back to Resident Evil, you are alone in a dark and foreboding environment. There is no soundtrack, just the sounds of floorboards creaking, the family talking to themselves or you and the wind outside. There isn't much in the way of light, for the most part, darkness and adaptive lighting as you enter rooms add to the fear and tension. You can't really stand and fight against the family, you have to act smart and hide from view in order to get around. even when you get a weapon it's not advised to engage the family. Puzzles are back in a big way and a lot of them seem similar in essence to the first game; specific keys for certain doors, finding certain items to put in specific places to open doors and a lot of backtracking whilst dodging the patrolling Bakers. There are also shadow puzzles, where you must find an item and place it on a plinth, rotating it so that the shadow matches the painting in the background. There are other enemies introduced but there aren't many, they aren't easy to kill and they shouldn't be taken lightly. The game takes place in various areas of the Baker estate but all of them feature the same claustrophobic feeling and each Baker makes the areas there own. The game plays on aspects that people find truly scary. Loneliness, tension, tight spaces, knowing that something is waiting, darkness, bugs, looming death, gore and a never ending chase from the family that has taken your girlfriend. The game rewards your exploration with various items, including the classic herb and fluids which can be used with herb to make first aid meds, or with gunpowder to make handgun ammo. The further into the game you go you can increase your inventory space and make more powerful healing items or ammo. Boss battles are still present but this time around they're a lot more unsettling, from Jack who just won't die to Marguerite who makes your skin crawl as she comes after you. The rest of the Baker family are just as creepy. As you get further into the game you'll uncover more about why the Baker family is the way they are and how they came to be like this. All with the aim of rescuing Mia from their grasp.
Comparing this game to the others in the franchise, this one is possibly the most deserving of the name "Survival Horror." Every aspect of the game is dripping with terror and menace. With full PSVR support, you can be closer to the horror than ever before. The first person perspective makes you constantly aware that your back in a weak spot and simply turning around in the game is enough to intimidate you. Played in the dark with headphones in, you can lose yourself in the immersion of the game and be lost to the surreal, visceral terror within. Do you have the mettle to take on the Bakers and uncover the truth behind what is happening in this rural house? Can you face the darkness within and come out the other side? Do you think you can face a fear unlike anything else? Then step into the Baker family home, take a seat and begin your journey. We'll see you in the morning.