Resident Evil 6 was a game that was wildly out of touch with it’s own fanbase, and ever since that entry’s release the franchise has struggled to stay relevant. It’s had a few HD remasters in the last couple of years, and the Revelations spin-off has stayed strong even coming to the Xbox One with the sequel, but the disaster of Resident Evil 6 has lingered ever since 2012.
Now, over 5 years since Resident Evil 6, Capcom’s latest entry is more than just a return to form. Resident Evil 7 demonstrates that, given enough time and enough time in the oven, Capcom still has the goods and a narrative space left to explore in their bread and butter franchise.
In Resident Evil 7, you play as Ethan Winters whose in search for his missing wife and tracks her down to the bayou of Lousiana. Once there, Ethan finds himself captured by the Baker family whom just happens to be cannibals. Both in the direction and the tone of the game of it’s stand-alone story, majority of it is a departure from the roots of the franchise. The greatest thing about it is that you don’t need to be invested in the backstory, you can just hop in without knowing a thing.
Resident Evil doesn’t require a degree in lore like in other games like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, but there are echos of the lore scattered around. Dulvey, Lousiana, isn’t Racoon City or any of the franchise’s locations, but as with the original PS1 classic, Resident Evil 7 takes place in a large mansion. A huge portion of the 10 to 12 hours is actually devoted to exploring the mansion, it’s not just that but getting to know the mansion itself. I had to memorize secret hiding spots, secret passageways, safe rooms, and which hallways would lead me the fastest way to safety.
That last point is a complete requirement, because this game makes you feel hopeless and scared. Ethan is not a police officer or a Special Forces soldier like Chris Redfield or Leon Kennedy; he’s just an everyday Joe with no combat skills. You’ll have to run like hell half the time you see both the Bakers and some spooky looking monsters, the more you memorize the houses, the more likely you can dodge and run past enemies to safety without using ammo or health packs.
The approach to combat is fairly standard, very FPS like although it is limited and difficult fights, like the early games rather than the constant combat of Resident Evil 5 or 6 and the biggest change is the FP view. The shift to this viewpoint has done more good for the franchise and has brought it back to the roots of the franchise.
With a brand new perspective, the game is kind of refreshing. It’s quite different to that of the TP view of the earlier Resident Evil titles but also it shares a key element with the static TP view of the older games: a limited perspective. This change in perspective adds tension as you explore the mansion.
In Resident Evil 7, you have to be cautious because you never know if a member of the Baker family or a spooky looking monster will be around the corner or if they slid into a room behind you or right next to you, waiting in anticipation. The new perspective limits the speed of the camera so if you turn to check, you will be completely blindsided.
This tension continues to build via the creepy audio. The Baker mansion is constantly creaking with strange noises. These strange noises blend in with the environment and blend in with tiny movements from the corner of your eye, the audio is incredibly effective which is aided by the new change in perspective.
Not everything is different, though. Resident Evil 7’s boss fights much like the rest of the franchise has unmemorable boss fights which is one of the franchise’s long-running weaknesses. The boss fights are tedious and they’re the worst parts of the entire game, they kill all the tension and pacing from the game. You are given a ton of ammo and health prior to the boss fights, because each boss is a complete bullet sponge, sucking your ammo dry until they fall. What’s even worse, is that the game doesn’t tell you if you’re doing damage to them or how much damage. It just sponges the perfect tension and pacing that the game has.
These frustrating moments are saved by the entirety of the game. The game is one of the best horror games I’ve ever played, it’s full of tension and the pacing is perfect outside of the tedious and stupid boss fights, the game is solid on it’s own.
Resident Evil 7 is not a bad game at all, it’s pleasantly surprising and of course, very good. What’s surprising is that Resident Evil has thrived for 20 years and now in order to change the franchise is a big deal, to evolve with the times. Resident Evil 7 is an evolution that fits hand in hand with the rest of the franchise. If you separate Resident Evil 7 from the rest of the franchise, it’s an excellent game that pushes the franchise in a brand new direction and I think that the franchise is once again relevant.