Resident Evil 7 is an enjoyable enough experience that could’ve been called “The Bayou”, considering it has very little do with with the series timeline. It’s VR friendly gameplay makes an enjoyable and fast-paced experience, but lacks the charm and memorability of previous entries in the series. This outing feels a little too premature to really feel like a full entry, and in many ways feels like a carbon copy of Konami’s neighboring series. While it wasn’t my favorite entry, it’s definitely an indication of a brighter future for Capcom, and hopefully that Resident Evil 2 remake will use this exciting new engine.
WHY THIS FEELS DERIVATIVE:
+The game is far too linear and simplistic to be truly memorable
+A pointless and juvenile story
+Relies heavily on jump scares
WHY THE GAME WORKS:
–The run and gun gameplay is tense and provides excitement
-Great Resi-esque environments
-Fantastic audio and soundtrack
Capcom had a lot to prove after the disaster that was Resident Evil 6, and like the fourth entry, they needed something to revitalize their flagship series in an innovative way. Capcom decided the way to go was to move away from a third-person action-shooter, back to a moody environmental experience with a new first-person perspective. This move isn’t innovative like previous entries were, but rather follows the growing trends of today’s horror genre.
Resident Evil 7 retains many of its series’ classic hallmarks, including creepy environments, outlandish characters, and a small dash of cheese to round it all out. Even though it’s a first-person shooter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it does feel like a Resi game. You have an outrageous plot, mutated monsters in a creepy mansion, enemies crashing through walls ‘Nemesis’ style, an unmotivated plethora of notes, and herbs- sweet, sweet medical herbs (420-blaze-it memes overload). While they’ve captured the tone pretty well, my biggest problem would have to be that this game feels a bit too focused to cash in on emerging VR. It starts out very linear in design, and jump scares and spooky noises make the experience feel a little like the local fair’s haunted house. You can see the scares coming from a mile away, as they usually happen after obtaining key items, and right outside of the destination. (play clip of the bubbles) AH! Fucking bubbles!
The game starts with you, Ethan Winters, going out to a random location in the Louisiana Bayou after receiving a message from your wife who went missing three years ago. Not much is known, except for the fact that she was working on a ‘Babysitting mission’ when her ship went missing, and her new video tells you to stay away. Somehow, you end up at the exact house she’s been staying at, an old derelict mansion where an insane family lives, and there’s really no reason for you to know she was there. Mia, seemingly possessed, stabs and then cuts your hand off. After you’re dragged back to the Baker family’s dinner party, and somehow your hand is magically reattached- I’m not kidding, they just staple your hand back on or whatever- your mission begins to save your wife and get the hell out of there.
The story is propelled forward through a series of phone calls by Zoe, daughter to the insane Baker family, trying to save you from her turned family. You’ll feel somewhat sympathetic for the group of antagonists, considering they were once a normal family. You’re quickly introduced to all of them, including the controlling father Jack, the bipolar mother Marguerite, the aggressive son Lucas, and a creepy elderly lady who just follows you- all around the mansion- like a comatose version of Mr. X. Besides Lucas who does make for an intimidating and fun character, the rest are kinda bland and ultimately forgettable in an equally unimpressive storyline.
In fact, the plot borrows heavily from the Silent Hill series in not just tone but also it’s psychological approach. If stealing PT’s gameplay wasn’t enough, the game pretty much rips off Silent Hill 2’s premise and style. Unlike those two entries, Resident Evil VII does nothing to set itself apart and feels like a spin-off game that was granted an entry into the main series. The hackneyed and nonsensical story, conceived by the writer of Spec Ops: The Line and the first westerner to touch the franchise, adds nothing to the overall lore of a series flush with opportunity. Possibly the best and most underutilized aspect of the narrative is a segment where Lucas sends you through a series of torturous entertainment that should’ve hung around longer than it did. The third act may be one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a narrative; when you’re switched over to a character with very little back story, lasts for far too long, introduces the ‘real’ antagonist far too late, and concludes with a very disappointing boss battle, similar in meaning and useless cameos as ‘Operation: Raccoon City’.
Gameplay is definitely the saving grace for this impressive entry- and I was honestly surprised at how well the game translates to a first-person shooter. Your character moves with a nice flow, and creeping around feels almost second nature. The series has returned to conserving ammo, dodging incoming attacks and knowing when to fight or flee. Anyone who’s ever played an FPS will easily pick up the aim and shoot gameplay with the added bonus of a block button. Blocking makes sense, considering most enemies are melee-based, but it does make combat a little too easy. You also don’t aim down sights, the developers opting for the never preferred slight zoom and focused reticle that already feels very dated.
The inventory system is very convenient, with weapons being assigned to the D-Pad, and a hud menu allowing for quick access to your inventory and easy combining of various elements in order to make bullets and first aid on the fly. Like in The Last Of Us, gathering resources in order to make supplies is essential to surviving, and choosing what supplies to take or leave is a crucial aspect. Upgrades can also be purchased by finding little tokens from around the mansion. You can also discover supplies in wooden crates, but unlike Resident Evil 4’s snakes, there’s no way to tell if it’ll explode when you knife them. This is bullshit- especially in a game geared at conserving ammo. Healing also feels hit or miss, with first aid packs giving out seemingly random degrees of health, and the bloody overlay explaining how much damage you’re taking, as opposed to how much more you can take.
Locations consist of hallways and rooms, with a few open spaces sprinkled in. This keeps the combat terrifying but can sometimes feel like a Benny Hill sketch when you run around a room’s centerpiece in order to keep away from an enemy. The only thing that breaks up the monotony of running and shooting is one puzzle that the game utilizes three times, where you rotate a statue until it’s shadow reveals a figure. While the shooting is fun enough to keep you engaged, having some additional puzzles would’ve added some diversity to an otherwise one-note symphony.
The game also features VHS tapes you can collect and play- flashing back to previous characters before the current narrative. There are four unique cassettes, but these segments aren’t necessary and come across as very rigid and linear. The segments walk you by the hand to your destination, with no deviations and only the possibility of zigging when you should’ve zagged. With these included interludes, the game should last you about eight hours, but once you play it you should be able to storm through it in a few hours.
On a technical level, the game is very impressive in some aspects and abysmal in others. The game starts with a close-up, highlighting how ‘off’ these facial animations are. There’s no lip-synching, and character movements look overwhelmingly stiff compared to previous entries in the series. Models also don’t look directly at you when speaking, rather looking in the general direction the developers assumed you would by standing. The environments are spectacular, utilizing some exceptional lighting and shading effects and featuring enough detail to sell every location. One cringe-worthy decision was to include live-action in with their CGI, resulting in what I can only describe as a blend of pristine graphics and footage from a T-Mobile Sidekick.