The Resident Evil series is one of the most popular franchises in the history of video games. It is, in fact, this humble writer’s favourite (and the subject of my first set of articles here at Gaming Respawn, links will be at the bottom). The series had lost its way in recent years and switched to a more action-oriented mindset, though these games were not bad. Well, 6 was rather poor. Either way, Resident Evil had forgotten its roots. Capcom had abandoned what truly made the series magnificent, horror. But thankfully, they returned to what the series does best, scaring people. We gave a glowing review of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard with Ian summarizing:
Resident Evil goes back to its survival horror roots in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, delivering a stellar horror experience that will keep your heart rate high from start to finish.
I completely agree with this; however, as a self-confessed obsessed Resident Evil enthusiast, I thought it might be fun to break down what I loved and what I didn’t during my playthrough. Now, ladies and gentlemen, this article will contain a plethora of spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the game, then please, just save this for when you have.
What I loved
Perhaps one of the most important elements in a survival horror game; if you can’t get the visuals right, then the game will just not be scary, and this is perhaps my favourite aspect of Resident Evil 7. Everywhere you explore in the game world, from the Spencer Mansion-inspired Baker estate to the dark tunnels of the salt mine, Resident Evil 7 will make you feel extremely uncomfortable as you progress. The lighting is fantastic and will create shapes and shadows which will make you stop dead in your tracks while quickly raising whichever weapon you have ammo for. It seems to be a modern trait for survival horror games, especially first-person ones to have the game set in the pitch black dark. This is an effective way to create some tension, but if it is used too much, then it becomes predictable.
Capcom created a perfect balance between well-lit and dark in the environments you progress through, and when it comes time to explore the darkness, it is a truly terrifying moment. The characters all look great, especially the new ‘zombie-esque’ enemies, the Molded, which look like a cross between Venom from the Spider-Man universe and the Dark Dweller from The Pirates of Dark Water (if you have no idea what that show is, then you need to watch it, now!). No matter how many times I come face to face with them, they still creep me the hell out. My favourite area of them all, though, has got to be the abandoned boat. It was claustrophobic, dark, eery and the corridors seemed endless. Add all that together with a multitude of the Molded and the young girl version of Eveline, and you’ve got the perfect horror setting.
Much like visuals, if you don’t get the sound right, then good luck trying to scare anyone. Resident Evil 7′s sound is nothing short of remarkable. From the noises made by those damn, pesky Molded to the soundtrack which pipes up at random moments, with a particular highlight being the score as you get set to leave the abandoned boat, it is truly hauntingly beautiful. When you hear something horrible waiting for you, that will truly get the old heart rate racing. And again, Resident Evil 7 perfected the mixture of enemies jumping out at you and you hearing them from a distance. What’s worse? Well, for me, it’s when you hear them. Jump scares are horror 101 and a guaranteed way to scare the audience, but if you want to truly scare the audience, then a slow, uncomfortable build up is the way, and Resident Evil 7 mastered this. However, it is your beloved wife, Mia, that takes the prize as the most terrifying encounter. Early in Resident Evil 7 when she is walking up the stairs from the basement, that scared the living shit out of me!! I actually threw my controller at my face when I jumped, honestly. This was the combination of perfectly executed tension building sound and ominous dark visuals. From then on, I knew I was in for a truly terrifying and enjoyable ordeal.
You’ll reluctantly open every door expecting something waiting for you on the other side.
Ian, again, getting it spot on in his review. It has always been a nerve-wracking experience opening a door in a Resident Evil game. Now though, as Resident Evil 7 has switched to a first-person perspective, it is more unnerving than ever. This is especially true in the first half of the game where those damn Bakers could be lurking in any room just waiting for you to pop your head in. The doors in Resident Evil 7 are also a great way to conserve your limited ammunition because the Molded are incapable of opening them. If you shoot everything that moves in Resident Evil 7, well, actually you couldn’t because there isn’t enough ammo, but if you tried, then you would run out way before the end of the game. Running past enemies has always been a fundamental part of the gameplay, but now you can take enemies out of the occasion completely. Just make sure it isn’t a room you need to revisit later on because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget the rooms where you trapped the Molded, and you will be in for a frightening shock.
You have never felt more personally involved in a Resident Evil game as you do with Resident Evil 7, and it is thanks to Capcom’s genius idea to switch the main series to a first-person perspective. First-person survival horror games are becoming increasingly popular thanks to games such as Amnesia and Outlast, and first-person horror shooters have been around for decades, with a handful of Resident Evil rail shooters. Combat is obviously unavoidable, but this isn’t a shooter, this is true horror through your (sort of) very own eyes. The Capcom execs must have seen all of the recent first-person survival horror games released over the last few years and thought, “Man, we can beat any of this,” and they did. When you have a creature running at you in a third-person game, yes, it is still frightening, but nowhere near as frightening when a creature of death is sprinting straight at you. Combat also becomes more frantic with the switch. You would think it would be easier, but you would be wrong. Generally, in a third-person title, there is a minimal amount of recoil once you fire a weapon. We’re not so lucky in Resident Evil 7, especially when it comes to the bigger guns. Lining up your shot is, of course, easier in first-person; however, when you do line up that perfect headshot, and the damn bastard moves to the side so you miss, and then you have to deal with the recoil and possibly reloading the weapon, it is tense, extremely tense.
This is now full into spoiler territory, people, so this is your last and final warning. Throughout your bloodcurdling journey in Resident Evil 7, you will keep finding the Grandma of the Baker family. She will not, however, try and kill you or even follow you. She just spontaneously appears throughout the game and will disappear shortly after. During my playthrough, I was struggling to find where this Grandma fit in the puzzle that is the Baker Family. This was my mistake because I was never told she was the Grandma in the family, with no member of the Baker clan even acknowledging her as such. This was an extremely clever ploy by Capcom, and when I discovered the truth that this frail, harmless-looking old lady is actually the evil bio-weapon Eveline in her true form, well, I loved the twist. Hiding in plain sight, and you’re even told right at the beginning who she is when you can pick up a photograph of old Eveline, and written on the back is her code name E-001. I honestly did not see it coming, and the revelation of who Grandma is could possibly be my favourite part of Resident Evil 7.
I think it is safe to say, I love Resident Evil 7. After finishing it I just couldn’t wait and started another game. I also bought the Banned Vol.1 DLC. However, even though I loved the game, there were two aspects that I didn’t like:
What I didn’t love
Ethan is different from your usual Resident Evil protagonist…
He’s not as cunning as Leon Kennedy or as battle-hardened as Chris Redfield, he’s a simple civilian, just like you and me.
Generally, I liked Ethan as a character, but there was one aspect which really got on my nerves: his general acceptance of what was happening. From what we can guess, he is just a normal guy not used to such things as bioengineered weapons and monsters. Ethan will occasionally utter the odd ‘what the f***’ but nowhere near as much as he should. An interesting mechanic Capcom could have included was a sanity meter, like the one found in Eternal Darkness. Maybe Ethan is just braver than I am because, let’s be honest, hiding under a table crying for 9 hours wouldn’t make for an exciting video game.
Mutant Jack and Final Eveline Boss Fights
The first boss fight with Mia is a horrifying experience (as is the second if you choose to save Zoe instead), the first two with Jack are panic-filled, heart racing, epic duels, and the fight with Marguerite in the greenhouse is a creepy and uncomfortable affair. The other two boss fights, on the other hand, are none of these things and are just dumb. Mutated Jack and Eveline are far removed from the sheer panic and tension created by Resident Evil 7′s other duels. To be honest, Eveline isn’t really a boss fight, more of a shooting target until the final cutscene. I went into the final showdown with E-001 fully expecting her to be pulling all sorts of mind tricks to try and stop me, but instead, you just block against her screaming attacks and then inject her, then just keep shooting until the cutscenes trigger. Mutated Jack was a bit more of a challenge but nowhere near as tense as the previous two encounters with him, solely because he just looked comical.
Apart from these two discrepancies, Resident Evil 7 is a true return to form for the master of survival horror, and I am already counting down the days until Resident Evil 8.
For more Resident Evil check out:
Our Resident Evil 7: Biohazard review
Also the three-part series of “The Good and the Bad… Resident Evil”: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3