If you’re a Resident Evil fan there are two things that are likely true about you. The first is that you think Resident Evil 5 and 6 were at best disappointing and at worst flaming shit piles.
The second is that you’ve played through Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’s demo way too many times. Let’s ignore the former — it’s for the best — and focus on the latter. If you’re anything like me, you loved the demo. You thought it was scary, tense and incredibly creepy. But you probably also thought it wasn’t very ‘Resident Evil.’
I’m happy to put those fears to rest, but those fears and those fears only. RE7 is more ‘Resident Evil‘ than anything in the series from the past 10-years. It’s also very fucking scary. The four hours I spent in the Baker’s house of horrors were some of the most fearful and anxiety inducing of my life.
On the surface, Capcom has reinvented the Resident Evil formula once again. In reality, it’s gone all the way back to 1996 and taken a look at what made the original work so well. Forget that RE7 is played from the first-person perspective; no other game in the series has felt more like Resident Evil 1 than this. The move to first-person is at once a stroke a genius and absolute madness. Resident Evil has always been played from third-person and until Resident Evil 4 played with restrictive camera angles. Tank controls lasted until Resident Evil 6, but the move to a traditional control scheme wasn’t a positive one.
The tank controls served multiple purposes. They were designed to work with the fixed camera and pre-rendered backgrounds of the originals, but also to limit the player’s mobility. The controls made the character sluggish and feel like they were constantly in danger. The shift away from this meant players were almost superhuman. Just take a look at Chris ‘Steroids’ Redfield.
While RE7 makes use of established first-person controls, the use of the first –person perspective hinders the player in the same way the combination of tank controls and fixed camera did in the past. You can’t see everything or everywhere at the same time and so you feel permanently vulnerable. The protagonist isn’t a soldier or a cop, he’s just a man. He moves slowly and deliberately and generally feels outmatched by every enemy. One enemy is a challenge, but two or more is overwhelming. Death comes swiftly in Resident Evil 7; exactly as it should.
I died more times than I care to admit (especially for a Resident Evil veteran) but that only made me feel even more at home. No pun intended. Enemies make big, deliberate and sign-posted attacks, but getting out of the way isn’t easy. When you do get hit, and you will, your measly health vanishes so quickly you’ll nearly be dead before you realise. Thankfully, there are some trusty Green Herbs to be found. Not a lot mind you, but a few.
The same goes for ammo. It’s scarce. I mean, it’s really scarce. Just when it seems like you have a reasonable stockpile, a horde of enemies comes at you and you’re back to zero. Hunting for more ammo or Green Herbs has always been nerve wrecking, but thanks to the ever-present Jack Baker, it’s terrifying. One part Nemesis, one part Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation and one part Terminator, Jack is a constant, relentless tormentor. And his pacing is perfect.
Each and every time the tension resides and safety starts to creep back into the back of your mind, just as you begin to relax; BAM! Jack shows up and ruins everything. In the section I played he was easy enough to avoid, but his gently cooing and creepy singing is as unsettling as anything that’s come before.
Creepiness is something that’s at the forefront of Resident Evil 7’s tone. Rather than obvious, over-the-top jump scares (don’t worry they still exist too), the fear comes from a sense of foreboding. Nothing in the Baker house seems quite right and it’s that wrongness that drives much of the horror. Just as the demo made your insides squirm, so too does the full title. Small details are more effective at putting the player on edge and even stir up long repressed personal dread.
Resident Evil 7 frequently and cleverly pays homage to Resident Evil 1. Players will find safe rooms – complete with their own theme music – which include Item Boxes and an archaic save system. Not a typewriter mind you, it’s 2017 after all. Now we use a cassette recorder. The Baker House (I’m loathe to call it a mansion because it’s anything but) has loads of locked rooms which require special keys to open; special keys with different types of animals. There’s even a broken shotgun that can be used to acquire a fully functional one.
This is Resident Evil people. The Resident Evil we’ve all been hoping for, but never expected to happen. I could go on and on about the few hours I’ve played, but with the full release and our review coming next week, for now I’ll simply say that as far as I can tell, Resident Evil 7 has the potential to finally surpass Resident Evil 2 as the best survival horror title ever released.
Resident Evil is back!
PowerUp! attended a preview event at the publisher’s office as a guest. All travel expenses were paid for by PowerUp!