Resident Evil 7 is a big departure from the series past, does it live up to its roots?
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
When it comes to beloved franchises, even when you take into account they have had a greater past than their most recent instalments, if that franchise does something drastically new people are almost always apprehensive. That was most certainly the case with Resident Evil 7. Especially when what they showed of the game before release looked as if it had no connection with the previous entries in the franchise. Nor did it feature any of the characters players have grown to love over the years. So, does this new direction for Resident Evil prove to be worth it? Does the inclusion of VR have a significant effect on how the game is played over the traditional method of playing games? How does this game tie into the other games as the developers have promised it would? And overall, is the game fun?
Resident Evil was known for its tension inducing horror aspect. Throwing characters into an environment with all sorts of imposing enemies with little in the way of defense. Minus a few guns and an herb spray or two, you didn’t have much. Over the years the game has slowly drifted away from the suspense side and taken on a more action approach. Removing the fixed camera to run and gun at the same time and with less and less zombie-like enemies. After 2 successive games which brought controversy to the franchise, or just bad press in general. The series seemed confused about what made them so great in the first place. Thus, Capcom decided to reinvent the series and try something completely different, yet something that they had wanted to do all along with the franchise. First person.
The first thing that can be said about Resident Evil 7 is that the horror element is back, and in force. Our main protagonist is named Ethan, and he receives a mysterious video from his dead wife. She tells him he was right, she lied, and to stay away. Of course, this game wouldn’t be a game if he had listened, so Ethan goes off to investigate. This leads him to a run down backwater house in southern Louisiana that are the tales of Haunted Houses for kids of all ages. Not having a way in, Ethan finds a ‘back door’, and it’s clear from the onset things aren’t right. Not only are there dead animals, weird displays which look like ancient magic wards, strange black water, and piles of what looks like clothing and luggage. Yet Ethan finds the courage to push forward and keep looking for his wife.
The atmosphere is stuff you’d read straight out of a Steven King novel. With withering plants, dilapidated walls and broken windows, torn wallpaper, trash everywhere, toilets backed up, and strange noises coming from all areas of the house. In a surprisingly short time, Ethan runs into Mia, his wife, and it strangely feels like she almost belongs there. She quickly tells him they need to get out of there and leads him through the house to a supposed way out. Things quickly go down hill, as is expected only 30 minutes into a game where the main goal seems to already be at hand. Mia suddenly goes ballistic and seem to have a sadistic side where she goes literally insane or possessed, who knows. After a brief altercation in the hallway of the house, players are introduced to the rest of the games cast.
A family of seeming outcasts, all clearly out of their minds and quite angry are having you over for a “feast.” Luckily, an argument breaks out and the mother storms off, the brother has his hand cut off…again? And the father’s attention is drawn to some police lights that are flashing through the windows. But what about the old woman? No matter, it’s time to escape, and escape Ethan does. Trying to find your way around the house without getting caught brings on some serious feelings of dread and helplessness. Luckily, the game doesn’t do everything new, and brings back series staples like Herbs, puzzles, and those beloved safe rooms. The whole time, having played the game from start to finish in VR was something like I’ve never experienced before.
That sense of presence, actually feeling like I was in that house, wanting to reach out and touch the objects in front of me made it all the more frightening when the monsters started showing up. You feel pretty helpless at first, and your first instinct is usually to turn tail and run, and in many cases that’s one of the best strategies. As the game progresses, youbegin to meet each family member one by one in a more personal way. First is the dad, who clearly has some bone to pick with you, either that or he’s just stark raving mad. Followed by the mother, then son.
These encounters provide for different ways for the developer to test your abilities in the game. From stealth, to combat, to strategic ways of getting that item you need and escaping before getting caught. You eventually find new items, better weapons, ways of healing, and the game introduces a new mechanic of mixing certain items to create ammo and the like. It’s not a very deep mechanic, but it does the job in such a way where you’ll never have too much ammo, or too much of a certain resource. So you have to make the tough call of adding a healing item, more ammo, or one of a number of other helpful items.
As you play, you will stumble across different news articles, letters, pictures with writing on them which help flesh out some of the back-story of the family and their home. You quickly learn they were just a normal family in the south without any real issues out of the ordinary. But, something happened, and it seems to have been a more gradual affair. Without any more spoilers, the game quickly spirals downward, and things just get downright nutty.
All is not perfect with the game, however. Ethan “runs” at a pace which seems slower than many people walk. I guess it’s a good thing enemies are equally slow. The game has an odd mechanic where cut-scenes aren’t shown in VR, but in a 2D screen in Theater mode which obviously isn’t a problem for non-VR users. However, most scenes are shown in game which is a good thing as it tends to draw you out of the experience. Sometimes the headset can get a little wonky too, and the center will need to be reset, but luckily, that’s a rarity. The game, like every other VR game, suffers from a downgrade in anti-aliasing, which to be fair is quickly forgotten in a game that sucks you into the experience as thoroughly as Resident Evil 7 does.
All in all, Resident Evil 7 does so much right, and only has minor issues here and there. It’s a resurgence of the franchise that brings it back to its roots and gives us back that horror aspect we have been longing for since before Resident Evil 4 released. It gives us a compelling story, plenty of mystery, scares aplenty, a unique VR experience unlike anything else which really sells the PSVR platform, and another great entry in the franchise. Other than some minor setbacks with AA, bad implementation of cutscenes in VR, the game really does shine. If you haven’t yet purchased this game, it’s strongly recommended.