I remember the disappointment that was Resident Evil 5. I didn’t exactly love Resident Evil 4, but I definitely enjoyed it. I was ready to see it on what was then the next generation of consoles. So myself and my roommate and frequent co-op partner took the game on, and… Listen, we found a way to enjoy Army of Two, but I had to convince him to finish Resident Evil 5. I wanted to put a nail in it, and he was tired of punching boulders. Eventually, he acquiesced, and we finished the game, then I don’t think we ever spoke of it fondly again.
I completely passed on Resident Evil 6. Critics weren’t kind to it at the time, and I just wasn’t interested in where the series was going. I liked Resident Evil when it was slow and scary. I didn’t much care for being a tourist getting shouted at by angry locals.
Resident Evil 7 was considered by many to be a return to form for the series. With that in mind, I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up Resident Evil 7 at launch. I had also passed on the Revelations games. I guess my interest just wasn’t there. I suppose the series was just dead to me at that point. Then the Resident Evil 2 remake came around, which was enough to convince me that maybe it was time to try getting into the series again. That leads me back to Resident Evil 7.
HECKUVA THING, AIN’T IT?
The first time I played Resident Evil 7, when I eventually did pick it up again, I bounced off of it about an hour in. Despite that, it made an impression; have you played the introduction to the game? It’s fantastic.
You play as Ethan Winters, who receives a message from his missing wife. Silent Hill 2 has shown that following such letters is a bad idea, but Ethan does it anyway and arrives at the derelict Baker Estate out in the swamps of Louisiana. Unexpectedly, he finds his wife, but then she gets a bit emotional, lops off his hand, and then leaves him at the mercy of the Bakers.
The Bakers are their own bit of crazy. First, they re-attach your hand, then give you a nice dinner, and then they invite you to stay a bit and relax. Ethan, too polite to refuse directly, attempts to escape the mansion and maybe find his wife in the process.
I kind of hate Ethan, and I’m not sure why. He’s presented as even more of an everyman than the usual Resident Evil everyman. However, it’s hard to watch him constantly getting the crap kicked out of him, and that happens just so often. And that wouldn’t be his fault as a character, but he’s just so screamy. Not just in the “augh, I’m in pain!” kind of way, but also just the way he marches around making demands like a toddler. He makes every cutscene worse, and while he’s just sort of an avatar for the player, I wish he’d shut up.
SURE AS SHIT BEATS THE HELL OUT OF DYING
Not only does Resident Evil 7 move away from the over-the-shoulder angle of Resident Evil 4 onward, but it doesn’t revert back to the fixed-camera tank controls either. Instead, it’s a first-person shooter, which is funny because, for years, it was argued that this perspective wouldn’t work in the series. I remember back when everything had to be an FPS thinking that I’d really like an FPS, and everyone said that horror doesn’t work in the first-person for some reason. I guess Amnesia: The Dark Descent did a lot to change people’s outlook there.
Despite this, Resident Evil 7 is the truest to the original Resident Evil formula that the series has been since dumping it at the side of the road with Resident Evil 4. Unless you count the Revelations games. I don’t know; like I said, I didn’t play them. It’s slow, there’s actually very little combat, and the focus is more on unlocking doors using objet d’art.
However, where it really gets creative is in how you’re often under duress by the Bakers. They roam large portions of their house (as one does) and will attack you if they spot you. Whatever strange voodoo is going on in their house has rendered them nigh-invulnerable, so fighting them is a waste of ammo. It adds a slasher element to the game that would be repeated in the Resident Evil 2 remake.
NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE
It’s actually a great time. I’ve become inoculated against actually being afraid of horror games, but I can appreciate the heavy atmosphere of Resident Evil 7. Despite moving back in a more puzzle-y direction, there’s always a lot of forward momentum as you explore more and more of the house, and there’s an appreciable emphasis on establishing the story. The story isn’t exactly good, and neither is it unique, but it does the job.
It’s not perfect, however. It has that frustrating issue that essentially every Resident Evil game has, in that it’s like a deflating balloon. It’s absolutely brilliant at the start, but the longer it goes, the more it settles into just farting on the floor. The first two-thirds of the game, when you’re actually in the Baker Estate, is great. On the other hand, after the game moves you away from there, it turns into floor farts. That is to say, it’s still satisfying to an extent, but it’s just no longer on the same level.
There’s a lot to say about variety, but the difficulty in that is you have to ensure each way you shake things up is equal to the last. Resident Evil 7, like many of the games before it, just doesn’t quite pull that off. It doesn’t even tie up all its loose ends, leaving that to comparatively weaker DLC chapters.
Overall, it doesn’t even do a great job of communicating the stakes. I really don’t care about Ethan and his wife, and whatever is going on with the Bakers, they don’t seem as big of a threat as a city full of zombie disease.
ARE YOU REMEMBERING?
Resident Evil 7 might not be my favourite title in the property, but I appreciate that it simultaneously returns the series to its bizarre mix of puzzles, exploration, and horror while also taking it to new places. The massive impact of Resident Evil 4 really derailed the whole series and turned it into something I couldn’t get onboard with. Not that it’s ever smart to get on a derailed train.
I do find it incredibly amusing that the beginning sets everything up to have a compelling plot with interesting antagonists, then it just kind of slides from there. It feels like it’s a hallmark of the series. Resident Evils 1-4 all had that problem where the last act just feels sterile in comparison to everything that happened before it.
The issue tends to be that Resident Evil plots use the last act for revelation rather than climax. It’s where everything comes together, but the only thing Capcom ever does to increase the action is set a countdown.
However, at least they managed to get things back on track with Resident Evil 7. It eventually led to the fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake and the less well-executed Resident Evil 3 remake, so everything gets a happy ending. And as for Resident Evil 7, it’s still a good time. It just never manages to reach the mark that it set itself with its incredible introduction chapter.
This review was conducted on a digital PC version of the game. It was purchased by the author.