After Resident evil 6 hurt me in 2012, I didn’t think that Capcom would be able to bring this series back to glory, let alone make it actually scary to play. There were talks of a fresh reboot of the series and 7 looked as though it was going to be just that. I was wrong about two things, this game is not a reboot but a fresh new direction for the series to head into and the game showed me that my entire first sentence in this intro was wrong, dead wrong. Capcom can still make a genuinely good Resident Evil without sacrificing all the things we have come to expect from the games leading up to 4. Let it be known that Resident Evil 4 is the top of the list of Resident Evil games, but 7 falls in to second place with ease.
As far as settings go, this game has completely nailed a terrifying locale with unsettling detail and a terrifying borderline claustrophobic atmosphere. The game focuses around the most plain character featured in the series whilst he tries to locate his wife who had disappeared three years prior. Saying that Ethan is plain is not a bad thing either, he isn’t formally trained, he as not a member of STARS , he has never worked for the President on a kidnapping in rural Europe and his arms do not look like living tree trunks aged with steroid abuse. Ethan is a simple man wearing a white dress shirt and looking for the love of his life that suddenly went missing, and if any one thing is evident it’s that Ethan has a go-getter attitude and an absence of common sense about abandoned plantations on the bayou.
The game mainly take place on an abandoned plantation/farm on Louisiana in a small town called Dulvey. The Baker estate is a dimly lit horror movie dream location; it has a dilapidated main house with secret passages, a swamp with all manner of grotesque decorations and an abandoned salt mine with more than meets the eye. The games consist of you exploring these locations thoroughly which is why the detail put into the environment and atmosphere is more vivid here than in any game I have played to date. Lighting is scarce and shadows play into what makes the sense of dread and unease apparent, the audio is finely crafted to always make you want to turn around to see if that creaking came from a monstrosity behind you and the narrow winding corridors push you to move forward while making you want to turn around and run. The setting is very reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion in the fact that it is a relatively small area with secrets that have you always back tracking and taking routes avoided before .
The story begins with Ethan receiving an email from his long thought dead wife who vanished three years before, pushing him to go to Louisiana to find her and bring her home. Ethan dashes headfirst at the chance to save his wife Mia, because who wouldn’t go to great lengths to save the love of their life? The lengths that Ethan was about to find himself going could not have been predicted though because upon arriving at the Baker estate things start taking a strange and horrifying turn. After a small intro sequence to get you to learn the basics of the game and sets up some back story into the house you find yourself in; abandoned and rumoured to be haunted by the family that used to reside there, the Bakers. You swiftly learn that the house is not abandoned and the Bakers in fact still live there, but they seem to like guests.
If you’ve seen the trailer showcasing the dinner with the Bakers, you probably know what’s coming? Regardless of how many times you watched the trailer, nothing prepares you for what it is like seeing it play out in the game. You are swiftly introduced to our happy hosts: Jack Baker (father of the year, fashionista, one hell of a right hook), Marguerite Baker (Mother dearest, able to cook on a tight budget, hygiene isn’t a priority), Unnamed Grandma Baker (sits in her wheelchair, dreams of a time long-lost and such), and Lucas Baker (Son, kid you always hated in middle school, pretends to know what Pogs were and that his were the best, stole your Pokemon cards out of your book bag during recess, possibly tortured animals as a child).
After what I can best describe as “Dinner with the Satans”, things escalate and you’re thrown into a survival horror experience that will bring you around the Baker’s property filled with mutated monsters, deadly traps, bugs, and plenty of things that want you dead.
Resident Evil 7’st story mainly is a masterly crafted tale of horror and suspense best experienced for yourself. At the start it feels like a fresh reboot of the universe, but as you plug along you will soon find that this is truly a Resident Evil game with ties to the rest of the series.
Resident Evil 7 switches to first person as opposed to the long-standing tradition of third person presentation which is a first for the series. This change is for the best, long gone are the abilities to turn the camera slightly to peer around a corner and see what awaits. This first person view causes you to be unaware of what is around the corner and more importantly, what terrible thing may be creeping up behind you. For the entirety of the game you will have this itching feeling to look behind you, sometimes you turn and think “nothing is here, well that’s good” and other times you will find yourself saying “OH WHAT THE FU-“.
Combat is played down a bit for the first half of the game, which is a smart choice. Ammo is scarce and the weapons rarely do much to the main enemies of the game such as Jack. Littered through out are different variations of weapons to unlock and the usual series staples come into play.
Gameplay differs from area to area in small ways, from games of Cat and Mouse with members of the Baker family where combat can only slow them down, to encounters with The Molded, nightmarish creatures who appear like jacked-up versions of the Regenerators from Resident Evil 4, and the series well known use of puzzles and traps to solve.
The weapons never feel overpowered, you’ll learn how to reserve ammo and how to use them effectively. Returning in this entry are staples such as crest puzzles, branded keys for certain doors and other obscure puzzles. An example of a puzzle is holding a wooden statue in front of a projector so that it shadows a missing piece of a painting on a wall, although the game allows you to use anything to cast a shadow and I tried using my gun for 10 minutes before I clued in… because I got a trophy for trying for so long like an idiot.
There is a little bit of a crafting factor in the game. If you find packages of chemicals you can use them to make pistol ammo by combining them with gun powder or first aid meds if you combine them with a green herb (of course). Different variations of the mixtures you can make show up later in the game ie: strong first aid, enhanced pistol rounds, grenade launcher rounds and so on.
Collectibles are ever-present as always, showing up as coins or bobbleheads to shoot. The coins lead you to purchase health boosts, reload time boosts, and a .44 Automag Handgun that leaves a hole in anything made of any grade below Adamantium. These collectibles add variety and take the focus of you being scared for 8 hours. You also are able to find VHS tapes (Vintage right?) that tapes allow you to play additional chapters from the past and they often give you insight towards secrets you may have missed, and in certain cases performing an action in a past sequence will change the present day in small ways. One early tape found is easily the best one, you play as the camera man on a ghost hunter style show that is investigating the house and what follows is chilling and disturbing (also seen in the Beginning Hour Demo).
The presentation of the game can be described as grotesque yet beautiful. The graphics and rendering of the human characters is nothing short of amazing. The detail that was put into the characters is intricate and helps to even show you each characters personality. The detailed environments are a pleasure to run through while you scream loudly, things from the food in the Bakers’ fridge to the grime on the wall in the basement has been crafted with precision and dare I say: love.
As stated before the audio is crafted so perfectly that even though there is rarely music in the game, you are invested. The silence gives way only to the subtle sounds of scraping along walls, the creaking floor board, branches on the window and general bumps in the night. The voice acting is superb, each character never sounds out-of-place or poorly edited.
RE 7 is a triumphant return to the roots of what made this series a pioneer in the world of survival horror. With top-notch graphics, amazing audio engineering, an engaging story that brings you from twist to twist, a terrifying first person perspective and of course a loving family welcoming you into their humble abode. Capcom has outdone themselves and proved that they still have it in them to make a Resident Evil worth playing many times over.