I’ve been eagerly awaiting this game since it was announced, only 7 months ago. After the lackluster Resi 6 I wasn’t expecting much from the series. Revelations was good, but revelations 2 felt like a step back. Clearly Capcom looked at PT, the demo for the now cancelled Silent Hills, and thought they might as well take a stab at actual horror again, and not over the top action shooting everything that moves that they tried so desperately to perfect over the last few games. While at first glance this may seem like a PT copy-cat, it really isn’t. If it wasn’t for the change to first person, there probably wouldn’t be much comparison at all. But that change is a breath of fresh air. It makes the house seem smaller, you have to move yourself to see around corners, rather than a camera. When you are being stabbed or jumped at, you really are being stabbed or jumped at. It feels intense. (I can only imagine what it would feel like in VR)
The visuals in the game are simply jaw dropping. The opening scene of a car driving through the middle of nowhere, pure stunning. I genuinely thought it was real footage, until the camera changed into the car. This is one of the best looking games I’ve played, and especially a horror game. Every little detail, from the moths flying around lights, to the creepy walls and ceilings. To the way the light reflects from the candles. It’s stunning. There are some truly creepy moments in this game, with gore around near enough every corner. It looks real, there isn’t any cringe worthy animation here.
The story is a departure from the wide spread zombie, or other virus, infestation that I’ve come to expect from the series. Instead it’s a much more isolated and individual story. In the middle of nowhere, you are searching for your missing wife, after receiving a really vague, and seriously not that convincing, email that she is in this house and wants you to come get her. You become trapped in this house, this nightmare. The Baker family want to hunt you down and kill you, and you don’t have much to defend yourself against these near immortal beings. Unlike the recent, bullet crazy, games in the series, this time I constantly found myself low on ammo, having to rely on my knife, or more likely fidgeting in my seat as I awkwardly try to run around the enemies in the tight corridors. Every bullet counts, and I winced every time I missed a shot.
The Baker residence feels like a throwback to the mansion from the original game, in the middle of nowhere, with no one coming to help. It’s isolating, creepy, and makes you feel helpless as you try to find a way to escape. It’s the perfect setting for a Resident Evil game. I felt completely alone as I walked around the house, desperately avoiding any enemies I came across. It’s only intensified by Ethan, the character you play as, not coming from STARS, or some over government agency, like most other resi evil characters. You’re just a normal guy, who comes completely unprepared to find your missing wife.
This feels like an old-school Resident Evil game, with the constant backtracking to unlock doors with a new key. Locked doors that you need to insert an emblem to open, part of which is hidden somewhere you would never look but find accidentally and have no idea what it is you’ve found. At the same time it feels fresh. The high levels of gore and violence for one thing. I wasn’t sure if I failed somehow when I had my hand cut off in the opening area, only to carry on playing with one stump. My mind jumped to Evil Dead, I wanted a chainsaw for a hand, but instead in similar style it’s stapled back on. The stupidity of it fades off fast as the intense dinner scene takes place. The antagonists are introduced and I feel like I’m not going to survive, hand or no hand. They are terrifying, relentless near enough unstoppable. The earlier parts of the game are spent avoiding them at all costs, or they will hurt you.
That leads me to a minor problem I have. At one point, I was caught and had my foot cut off. It was gross, I was sure that “you are dead” was about to pop up on screen, but instead I just lay there, and then I realised I could move, as I pulled myself around I found I could pick up my foot, but I’d already wasted enough time and died. In the loading screen it told me to act quickly to put back severed limbs. I wish this happened to me again, so I could react. But even though I died again and again in many various ways, I never had my foot cut off. I wanted to see what was going to happen, how I reattached it. But it wasn’t meant to be.
The other problem I have was the AI. For the most part, I was terrified of the monsters. They were powerful, I was helpless. I couldn’t kill them all, and struggled against most single enemy encounters, let alone a hoard of them. I ran passed most of the enemies and they are too stupid to open doors, which was a constant relief. That was well designed, it was tense. I would run into a room, dart about in a circle, grab an item and escape, shutting the door behind me. I don’t have a problem with that, it works. But the main antagonists. They are walking around too, and you cannot kill them. You can stun them, but they will carry on and they will kill you in a fight. But for the most part you can run around them. They are slow, and not very bright. Alien Isolation, this is not. They will stand still and shout they’ve spotted you and then make chase, by which point you are around two corners, through a door, and they are no where to be seen. Once I realised that they were no issue at all. It kind of feels like a let down, because they are no real bother at all, only a mild irritation. It takes away the horror of fighting them, at least until you are trapped in one of the boss fights. Then it’s panic and die time.
There is a section late into the game, that really drags the game down a peg or two. After you escape the Baker residence you find yourself on a wrecked ship. Interesting change of pace, but then it goes on and on and on and on, kind of like this post. I hated this bit. At first I liked the change of scenery, but in the end it just feels like pointless padding to make the game have some kind of length. At this point in the game the horror has dissipated. I have bombs that take away the threat of everything, and they are a plenty. It’s boring, and serves little to the game. It’s during this scene that it explains one of the biggest plot points, but it would have been better if it was just that and then back to the fun part.
Like the tapes. They are a brilliant mechanic. Ethan watches, as you take control of whoever is holding the camera in these videos. They show you new areas in the game, that you will soon find as Ethan. It gives some brief relief from the tension of the main game, and helps you solve puzzles. Some of these are optional, so you feel like you are uncovering secrets as you play through them. It’s a brilliant idea, although I was wondering how one character got a camera to film one of these scenes. It’s an odd, almost b-movie technique, completely fitting in with stapling your hand back on, or however you can reattach the foot.
There is one other thing I want to write about, and that’s the name. Resident Evil 7. It’s not an important point, and the only reason it bothers me is because I’ve been a fan of the series for such a long time. This is not a Resident Evil game, at least not in the sense of how it fits into the wider universe. There is little mention of the other games, and while finding an article that references the outbreak of Raccoon City was a nice touch, the other links (the ending) feels forced and out of place. It sticks to the formula of a resident evil game. But I don’t think it justifies the number 7. It should have just been a side game. I imagine that was down to marketing, to give the series a much needed reboot and the number would help sell games. This isn’t a throw away side story, this is the next instalment of one of the longest running game series ever.
Overall this game is incredibly well made. The visuals, the sounds, the enemies. It’s all near perfect. There are a few things that let it down, but not much. It’s a brilliant game, and even though it’s only about 7 (funny that) hours long, it’s worth playing. And I do think that Evil Within and Alien Isolation prove that horror games shouldn’t outstay their welcome. The length feels natural, even though the ship section pads it out a little too much. It’s the most tense I’ve felt with a horror game in a long time. It’s genuinely scary at points, and not just because of pointless and overused jump scares. What more can you ask for from a Resident Evil game?