Now I’ll admit, the last few Resident Evil games have done very little in terms of wetting my appetite. In fact, every time I’ve caught wind of a new Resident Evil game I felt obliged to shrug my shoulders and say “do we really still care about Resi?”. In my opinion the delayed advancement of being able to walk and shoot simultaneously in Resident Evil 5 was the start of this downward spiral for me. Then Resident Evil 6, plagued with it’s quick time events and over-the-top Die Hard theme officially killed the series for me, so you’d excuse me for sounding quite pessimistic when I caught wind of the series’ seventh instalment. How wrong I was…
Before I go off the beaten path and begin sucking Capcom’s dick, let me start by saying that Resident Evil VII is the furthest thing from a traditional Resident Evil game, period. The First-person view, the gameplay, the style, the enemies, the narrative all have very little to do with what you were familiar with in past games which begs the question, is this even a Resident Evil game anymore? The short answer is Yes…just about. There is a “virus” and an antidote present – 2 of Resi’s core centrepieces. You still have a limited number of inventory slots to carry items and weapons in. You save your progress in a “Safe Room” with an old tape recorder and of course you can heal yourself with Green Herbs. Otherwise, everything else is completely different.
Gone are the obscure camera angles, rendered surroundings and 3rd Person controls. Now, our efforts are projected through the eyes of Ethan who is on the hunt for his wife Mia that went missing while on a babysitting job in the Louisiana Bayou – not the worst story I’ve ever heard (personally I think it would’ve been cooler if she’d run off with another guy), but never-the-less a good segway into meeting; The Bakers – who are simply a bunch of mean fuckers! Your hostile encounter with Jack, Marguerite , Lucas and Grandma Baker all happen in individual spurts where you’re faced one-on-one with them. It’s only then you realise these bastards aren’t human when bullets to the face are just laughed off, and as the game progresses these encounters become more spine chilling and in some cases more ludicrous.
Upon booting this game up, my immediate thoughts were ‘Alien: Isolation’ (which is still one of my all-time favourites ’till this day). The game is nothing short of spectacular upon first play whether you’re a horror buff or not. It has a way of sucking you in and pulling you along with that feeling of “let me just see what’s around this corner and then i’ll stop”. After 5 minutes of staring your quest you’re already trapped in the house. The door slams shut behind you and out comes the flashlight as you begin to hunt down supplies and a way out. You know some bad shit is about to go down just from the clues left around the house, starting off with the kitchen, where a previously prepared pot of cockroach-infested stew is left to “age”. Fear begins to set in fast as bangs and creeks are heard throughout your exploration and the sound of your own footsteps on the wooden floor don’t help either. In fact, unless you’re among the 95% that aren’t playing this in VR, you will still experience “soiled” underwear just from playing this in a dark room and if you’re brave enough to strap on a pair of headphones, you’ll easily get through a 3-pack of CK’s… and that’s no joke. Quite simply, Resident Evil VII is the scariest fucking game I have ever played, and i’ve played just about all of them.
Historically one of RE’s most identifiable elements, are it’s puzzles. You’ll start by finding a door that requires a key, then that key turns into a gem of some sort so off you go to hunt that down and so on.. However RE7’s puzzles feel a little thin with it’s concentration being primarily focused on it’s scare tactic and much less on making you think. There are no statues that you need to push to reveal buttons on the floor, no mixing of chemicals to get the right balance of whatever it is you’re trying to make and only 1 weighted platform in the entire game where you can grab a shotgun providing you replace it with an object of an equal weight (and even that’s optional). This is probably the area I think RE7 lacks the most. It for sure doesn’t give you that frustration like previous games, but still something that you may not even realise until at least your second play through. On the other hand you are introduced to video tapes. You’ll find a handful scattered throughout the game and when used with a VCR player you’ll experience a piece of the past. For example, you’ve explored a section of the house and are not quite sure where to go next. Pop the tape in the player and you’ll play a different person for a few minutes who just so happened to also be stuck in the same room and film his experience. The tapes reveal things that others have discovered such as a secret button or door, so that when returned to your reality, will help you progress. A nice idea, and the way they’re used to not only provide backstory but simultaneously aid with problem solving, it’s fantastic.
Unlike other Resident Evil titles which feel significantly longer, this seventh instalment will take anywhere from 8 – 12 hours to complete. However there is an Achievement / Trophy for completing the game in less than 4 hours, and another for healing 3 times or less and yet another for using the item box 3 times or less also. So this should provide indication that if you were to eliminate the exploration and decided to do a speed-run, the game can be completed in less than 4 hours. On my second play-through, I managed to complete it in just under 3 hours, using only 1 first aid kit and using the item box exactly 3 times. It was on my second play-through that I realised a few things – Unfortunately the fear element can’t be re-experienced after knowing where the jump scares are. Playing RE7 a second time is in fact an entirely different experience. One that is no longer scary, and in some regards quite transparent. You really start to see how shallow the game actually is minus the horror element. But this isn’t at all bad because that first play-through is just that damn good! However it isn’t without it’s flaws. The story towards the end of the game starts to fall short and feels quite shallow with a fundamental question remaining unanswered, as well as an entirely new setting outside of the house which just wasn’t as interesting or scary as the house itself which keeps you occupied for 2/3’s of the game. The endings (yes plural as there are two) also feel a little flat and unsatisfying. Each can be triggered depending on a vital decision you make towards the end of the game, however one thing is made clear in the ending by the appearance of a familiar face which almost solidifies the fact that RE7 wont be series’ the last instalment (or at least I hope not).
Capcom have confirmed that several pieces of DLC are coming via the purchase of the Season Pass and even after the end game credits which pleases me as the amazing experience was quite short-lived, not to the game’s detriment but simply because I hammered through it due to being so engrossed ever since playing the demo.
It’s been quite a while since I felt so excited about a game and was left wanting more after completing it…twice. Even with it’s flaws, Resident Evil VII is a must play for everybody. It’s a staple point in the game’s legacy and I truly hope that Capcom continue down this re-imagining of what a Resident Evil game is.