It’s fair to say that Resident Evil has been going through a bit of an identity crisis with the last few titles in the series. Sure, Capcom have poured near perfection into the remaking of Resident Evil HD and Resident Evil 0 HD, as well as putting in a damn good effort with the Revelations spin off series too, but when you look back to Resident Evil 4 and how they changed the series to an over the shoulder action shooter, you knew there was always going to be the question of will they ever return the suspense and horror back to the series, or will it forever be an action shooter.
Don’t get me wrong, Resident Evil 4 was a classic, in fact it’s still one of the best-selling games of all time and one of my favourites in the series, but Resident Evil is a series born from the horror it created back in 1996, and the last few titles have failed to recognise that. Capcom have been listening though and a new game has arrived, but has Resident Evil 7: biohazard brought the franchise back to where it belongs?
Unlike other titles in the series, Resident Evil 7 does away with the muscular and specially trained protagonists, instead opting to put you in the shoes of a much more relatable and ordinary character, Ethan Winters. The story follows Ethan as he searches for his wife Mia, who left without a trace three years previous. Following a message from Mia, Ethan is drawn to a derelict plantation in Dulvey, Lousiana, to an old and seemingly abandoned house. After spending some time exploring and wading through the rotting contents of the house, Ethan finds Mia locked in the basement…although it doesn’t take long to realise she’s carrying some type of infection.
Fast forward about ten minutes and you’ll quickly find yourself in new company with the psychotic Baker family, consisting of the parents of the family – Jack and Marguerite – their deranged son Lucas, and an unnamed elderly woman in a wheelchair. I swear the latter almost gave me an aneurysm on several occasions due to her freakish appearance in the most unexpected of places.
The Baker family may quite possibly be the scariest family and enemy found in the entire Resident Evil series. These cannibalistic entities are the owners of the seemingly abandoned house and have been using their home to test out a new type of virus on anyone they could kidnap, with unsuccessful victims – if you can call them that – providing the much needed contents to the family’s meal times.
Throughout the rest of the story players must work their way through the vile and horrific entities that reside in the house, as well as avoiding the Bakers long enough to find the contents of a serum which the family’s daughter claims to be the cure for the horrible infection possessing his long-lost wife.
Whilst the Resident Evil series has always been a strong one for its story elements, it’s fair to say that the story in Resident Evil 7 may well be one of the best there is. The change from the powerful and specially trained agents seen in near on every title so far, to an everyday ordinary guy really helps bring back the fear to a series that has long felt way too heroic for a horror franchise.
The story isn’t entirely a linear affair. Throughout the game there will be drastic choices for the player to make, choices which can result in entirely different endings to the game. But whilst these are certainly a great way of extending gameplay it will be the finale that sees players coming back for another run through this amazing spectacle on the unlocked Madhouse difficulty.
The story is fantastic, but it’s obvious that no game can be judged on a great tale alone. The gameplay in recent Resident Evil titles has almost been enough to turn away even long term fans of the franchise, so what have they done differently to bring back the much-needed horror to the series whilst avoiding the same old mistakes? Well they’ve given the whole thing a massive shakeup once more – this time for the better.
Resident Evil 7: biohazard changes the camera perspective once more to a first-person setting, and there’s no hiding away from just how engaging the game feels because of it. With the new camera angle putting players head first into the action, it doesn’t take long before every enemy movement is met with a fright. Long gone are the quick turns and QTE’s popping up every step of the way, and instead the action in Resident Evil 7 comes from the constant need to hide away from the ferocious Baker family, whilst searching for the different components to solve the various puzzles set throughout the house.
Whilst Resident Evil 7 may be a far cry from the previous action fuelled adventures, Capcom have done well to retain the classic and beloved features of old. Along with the obvious virus climbing the walls at every given opportunity in classic ‘Resi’ fashion, and the naturally present antidote stuck behind a wall of horrific obstacles, other returning features include a limited inventory meaning item management is a must. Safe rooms provide an area for the player to save the game away from the horrors surrounding them, item puzzles hark back to the classic Resident Evil titles of old, and of course the iconic herbs and combination feature that has been the series mainstay since it started all those years ago back in Raccoon City is in place.
Other than that, pretty much everything else you’re likely to come across in Resident Evil 7 is a first for the series. Of course, weapons are still a big part of the game, but upgrades and power have been taken away to offer a much more realistic approach. Despite the Shotgun, Pistol, Chainsaw and Flamethrower all making an appearance, almost all are useless due to the lack of effect against the regenerating Baker family. The only real use for them is for the feeling of false security they give you for a short period – at least until Jack gets back to his feet for the tenth time after yet another shotgun blast. Of course, the less demanding ‘molded’ enemies that can be found emanating from blackened sacks are present – with the best weapon often being the use of the tightly woven corridors from which to hide away from the infected Bakers pursuit, offering players an entirely new experience.
Finally we have the setting, and from the first moment to the last, this is something that Capcom have nailed in Resident Evil 7, From the creaking floorboards, squeaky doors and rotting environment, to the dysfunctional family and disfigured enemies harboured within, everything in Resident Evil 7 is good enough to bring nightmares to the most hardened of horror fanatics. For Resident Evil as a series, this provides enough haunting moments to bring back the horror that the series has been lacking for some time.
Overall and whilst many will complain at yet another radical shake up for the series, those that value Resident Evil for its horror value will be more than happy with the route Capcom have taken this time round. The changes have been a long time coming, but the final result may well have given us one of the best horror titles we are likely to see this year…finally bringing the horror back to Resident Evil.