I am either way ahead of the trend game, or way late. In the case of Die Antwoord, I was light years ahead, but I admit it took me this long to warm up to, play, and now talk about the latest Resident Evil game. I get long-winded which is why I always hesitate to write reviews, and I turn into a total snobby plot-elitist with video games, so you’ve been warned. Either way, I played it recently and have been left with such FEELINGS I have to share!
So, I just played the newest game, but I’m not new to the franchise. I guess I really am a die hard hipster, because I am a fan of the old games and have never warmed up to anything past Resident Evil 4. Why? Oh yeah, because they suck. I couldn’t even look at 5 seriously, between Chris’s roided-out Xbox muscles and the absolute lack of a cohesive script. But lemme back up.
Resident Evil began as the frontline of the horror genre. It had the chill factor. The epitome of Biohazard “doing horror” was Resident Evil 4. That game had everything. Leon was franchise-expected cheese but not too cheese, the enemies were frightening but seemed legitimate, the story was how a small area played a huge role with the corrupt Umbrella– it put a spotlight on a creepy backwoods cult and had a whole host of beautiful imagery to play alongside. There were puzzles, bosses, a garden maze full of wolves, rainy nights with hidden terrors, a landscape of dilapidation and disrepair….it was a tragic and terrifying game.
So that was Resident Evil‘s road–a horror franchise that got stronger and stronger with each title release, and blew everything away with Resident Evil 4. It legitimately is one of the best games of all time, and holds up to modern games as witnessed by the various remasters and ports across basically every platform. Naturally I’m going to say next that Resident Evil took a horribly wrong turn. I don’t know what was going on in Capcom’s world other than writers and project leaders moving on, but they spent so long refining 4 and then made the abysmal tragedies of 5 and 6 so bad I couldn’t even play them, despite all the fanservice pleas they thought they were fulfilling. No thanks. I don’t want inauthenticity, and the games plots were on par with some Livejournal fanfiction written by teenagers.
They moved away from the precision-timing horror and tension and decided to go all Michael Bay. BIG MUSCLES! BIG EXPLOSIONS! BIG MEAN BOSS! SEXY BOOBIES! SKIN TIGHT SUITS! It degenerated into a joke that was almost as bad as the joke movies–truth: Resident Evil movies are trash. 5 and 6 moved forward with that action-oriented, non-motivating “plot” so I figured Resident Evil 7 would be a literal roll of toilet paper. I wasn’t the only one; many fans expressed their dissatisfaction for 6, and the sad gamer score of 5.0 on Metacritic echoes this widely-held opinion.
I gave up 100% on the series and moved on. Eventually Derik and I got bored enough with all the lame 2017 titles that we downloaded the game this month. I was so disinterested that I hadn’t bothered to read spoilers which is something I usually do (but in this case I’m SO glad I didn’t!!!) Well, all those thoughts we had? We were wrong. So wrong!
CONSIDER THIS YOUR SPOILER WARNING
Here’s everything Resident Evil 7 got right:
Visuals: I don’t care how snobby it makes me sound. A game has to look good to be good. I don’t have any experience with the VR, but on Xboxone, this game looks flat-out gorgeous. It wasn’t five minutes in that I noticed how set apart the graphics were. Nothing looked repeated or overused, the textures were seamless. From the house to the swamp to the boat and back, well done on scenery, objects, lighting–just amazing.
Atmosphere: My big personal #1. Atmosphere can make or break a game and it goes without saying, a horror game needs a legitimately believably creepy. One of the things I loved about RE4 was how the neglected, overgrown village looked so much like home: forlorn, abandoned, lost, almost sad. I think it was a callback to both that village and the mansion from RE1 that made this whole sorrowful atmosphere really feel like a Resident Evil game. The ruin was all around you with glimpses of “what was” in the ornate furniture, lavish mansion, and old photos. Every time you step into a save room, you feel a bit of loss for the place. It’s fantastic. It’s even better that you get to find out why the family turned out the way they did.
Fear Factor: Finally, a S C A R Y game! So much to look forward to (if you like being afraid)…for example you 1) don’t have a gun for parts of it, or even a knife! 2) have limited ammo that does limited damage 3) have to plan out strategies–do I kill him? run past? go into the other room? will the door stay locked? 4) have to use memory, skill, reflexes, and finesse all at the right times….let me tell you, my adrenaline was so high that within the first fight, my kid was kicking me so hard in the gut I think even he was scared! There is a feeling of helplessness that I didn’t even feel in my beloved RE4. Ethan is not a special agent, he has no training, he’s just a dude stuck in a house full of maniacs. The series has improved its camera angles (plugging RE4 for its revolutionary over the shoulder angle, ahem) but despite a good visual range and amazing lighting, I’m still scared to see or hear Mauraurite shuffling around, or stumble upon god forbid, Grandma Baker. The epitome of this is in the “Eveline’s Room” area of the old house.
Tactics: Again, you don’t have unlimited ammo and hand grenades and five rocket launchers. This aspect of the game is so rewarding, because not only are you solving puzzles and freaking out about whatamigonnado, but you have to conserve ammo. You have to time your shots. You have to aim for certain body parts. Even when you get to be a badass and wield a CHAINSAW for hell’s sake…you don’t feel like “I got this.” You feel like “OH SHIIIIIIIIT!” but in the good, fun scary way, like a roller coaster. There was no place they could have gotten more correct in this. Having to pick and choose what items fit in your inventory is anxiety itself, haha.
Throwbacks to the Original Games: It was everywhere. The herbs. The large, clunky “door keys” that fit into place. The save room with its own haunting soundtrack. Ethan’s withering dialogue to himself at various plot points. Umbrella’s involvement (even if it’s only barely touched upon.) The derelict areas and the fact that even though it feels like months, it’s still night outside. The developers definitely knew this was a Resident Evil game and they acted accordingly, sprinkling enough nods to the series that us old crabby hard to please fans all drooled over.
The Twist: You’re just about to bash this creepy little girl’s brains in, and then surprise! Old lady Gibson over there with the face transfixed in horror, IS the horror. I am so glad I didn’t spoil this for myself, although Capcom tried to warn us all with a photo of Granny and a codename on the back, shortly after you begin the game. Sorry, I was too busy freaking out that my hand got chopped off and that Mia came at me with a damn chainsaw, to remember that in later hours of the game. Well done Capcom. Never have I wanted to retroactively push an old woman out of her wheelchair and down the stairs so much before.
Things Resident Evil 7 Got Wrong
It was almost perfect, but there were a few head-scratchers I had after the final battle. These are by no means disses, just personal preference, and they didn’t “ruin” the game for me whatsoever. If only all games could boast such potential.
Boss Fights: Not a personal gripe, because I actually hate boss fights. But it’s an undeniable suspension-builder in every type of game, and the accomplishment sense really helps in overall gamer satisfaction. 7 had some pretty great fights (Marguerite) but it had some pretty bad ones as well, particularly the last one. If boss fight showdowns are your thing, you will be disappointed.
The “Ship” Portion of the Game: Again, not a huge deal, but it was the weakest area of the game by far. I couldn’t get enough of the houses, I was all about that Baker property, but I just mostly wanted to send Mia jumping off the ship and into the swamp where she should have stayed and not ruined Ethan’s life. The atmosphere and visuals were great, but the actual gameplay–a glorified fetch quest–didn’t quite do the job of telling the story in a fun way as I assume Capcom hoped it would.
Certain Plot Points: Zoe? You find out as you go along why the Bakers act like they do, but so much goes unsaid. Why is Zoe “immune” to Eveline’s grasp? Why does Eveline wait until you’re at the ship to kill Zoe (assuming you choose her to take the serum) Why is that bra hanging up in the trailer and why does Ethan comment on it? I feel like a lot of her story was cut, and that bums me out. I also don’t get why Mia was so busy telling Ethan to not come get her, when anyone who knows anything about significant others know that a video message like that would send your spouse running for you. I generally don’t like Mia–if you’re going to work for a weird sleazy biochem company and run experiments that include creating age-advancing children and putting them in a lab for their entire life, maybe don’t marry a civilian whom you can’t talk to any of this about? I just am annoyed that she was out doing whatever and Ethan was sitting at home twiddling his thumbs and had no idea of her involvement. I won’t complain much though, because these are all minor irritations.
There’s also the possibility that we will get to see more of Zoe, Mia, and Ethan and their motivations in future DLC or other installments, so I am happy at that prospect! I’ve seen/watched some of the Daughters DLC but it didn’t satisfy me. I NEED MORE!
Upgrades and Items: I’m definitely sounding hypocritical on this one because I just praised the limited weapons/ammo/storage/etc, and while they do their part, there are more “restrictions” on weapon types and more (what I consider) extras that take up space. The coins, the pills, the Magnum (no further explanation needed) it just felt very disorienting with “needs” versus “oh man I’d LOVE that thing!” Even the grenade launcher you eventually get is pretty useless. Again, minor gripe, I am just so used to the wealth of buyable items from the Stranja’ in 4 that I expected a similar rewards system.
Well, there you have it. Long-winded and snobby just like I promised. Sorry I’m late to the game, disbelievers! I am one of you now.