Reinvention is a scary thing. Capcom’s 50+ million selling flagship “Survival Horror” series Resident Evil knows this too well, to great effect. The 4th iteration in the series was considered one of the greatest games of all time, trading the fixed camera, stiff movement, and limited ammo that had become tropes in the originals for a more epic action-packed scale. It sold millions, but it was also followed by more divisive and ridiculous entries in the series (Resident Evil 5 and 6, respectively). The Resident Evil series had traded in isolation for blockbuster status, leaving the spooky houses for globetrotting adventures, and empowering the player in ways that would be ridiculous to original fans of the series. You would no longer run from your assailants, you could suplex them, or do John Woo-esque flips to take them down. CAPCOM had become creatively bankrupt to what made Resident Evil a household name in the first place.
Last year, in a completely bewildering move, CAPCOM surprised the world by debuting the newest iteration of the series… by basically not announcing it at all. During a demo at the E3 Expo, the audience were presented with a completely first person, horror-based game that took place… in a house. No one picked up on what it could be, but the atmosphere was thick, subdued, and most importantly, isolated. It ended with a huge jump scare, and the title of the game: Resident Evil 7: biohazard (the titling is still funny to me as it uses both of the names that the series is known by in Japan). Fans were outraged, comparing the new game to cliche-riddled jump scare-heavy games like Outlast, which is also known for its first-person scares. The most amazing part of the reveal was the realization that CAPCOM had secretly been working on the game in secret—for over three years—without a screenshot or a reveal until it was ready. While they released three demos before its release a week ago, no one knew what the game would be about… or that it would be as awesome as it is.
I’ve prided myself on being a huge fan of this series, in fact, Resident Evil: Remake on the Gamecube is one of the greatest games of all time in my opinion. I was excited for the seventh game, but I was cautiously optimistic about the first person nature of the game. I’m happy to say that my fears were largely proven wrong—Resident Evil is back, and it’s time that we embrace its new look. After completing the game, I sat back, in awe of the past nine hours I spent to do it. The game is what we’ve always wanted from an Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre video game—the lore of Resident Evil’s biochemical horror stories mixed with the creepiness and scale of Sami Raimi and Tobe Hopper’s seminal series. The game is dripping with references to both films, much like Night of The Living Dead and Dawn of The Dead served as muses for the older games. Players take control of Ethan Winters (whose face we don’t actually see in the game, adding to the immersion of player/character), who is on the search for his wife, Mia, in fictional Dulvey, New Orleans. His search leads him to a plantation house where, of course, not all is what it seems.
The first 30 minutes of the game is probably one of the most memorable introductions to a video game within the past ten years, jerking the player violently into the game, and subjecting them to all sorts of horrors before they even get a handgun. You’re the guest of the psychotic Baker Family, whose patriarch Jack Baker is a seemingly unkillable force of nature. You spend the first half of the game on the run from him, as he busts through walls and makes hilarious one-liners about you. Resident Evil may have traded zombies for more tangible human enemies, but it’s safe to say that the trade-off was worth it—The Baker family and their house of horrors have quickly become the most iconic antagonists in the series, second to superhuman big bad Albert Wesker (who met his demise in Resident Evil 5).
Perhaps the biggest surprise of them all is how CAPCOM gained more by stripping RE7 down to the basics. Series staples like item boxes make a return, but for the first half of the game you’re constantly at odds with making fight-or-flight decisions as ammo is scarce. The game constantly takes control from you, at points when you think you’ve won, and reminds you that you’re an everyman, not a bad-ass—which makes the victories you have mean more in the long run. And without spoiling anything, the moments where the player is given the power to kick ass will have you pumping your fist at the screen. It’s moments of terror mixed with the euphoria of hope. A feeling that this series hasn’t had in over a decade. Yes, RE7 will scare the shit of you, it will make you go into dark rooms and into small holes that are sure to give you claustrophobia—but there’s always a light at the end of it.
It’s not all perfect, however. The crafting system in the game, a new addition that the game leans on for upgrading ammo, is imperfect and the second half of the game is considerably more linear than the first. It’s a shame too, because the game has a near-flawless first five hours, filled with dread—but replaces it for a shooting gallery of mutants. It’s a minor complaint however, as it does so much right—and provides plenty of more reasons to replay the game, including a harder mode and full VR support. I have no clue who would want to play this game in VR, but more power to you, and your soiled underwear.
CAPCOM is not a stranger to reinventing their many classic series, but with Resident Evil 7: biohazard, they took a chance and it paid off in spades. Buy this game, now.