In today’s entertainment industry, rather than trying to remake movies and video games, the focus has shifted to soft reboots. A soft reboot is more-or-less the original story or setup but mimicked in an updated fashion. Releases like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the all female Ghostbusters, and even Metallica’s new album are considered to be soft reboots. Video games are getting the same treatment, and while Resident Evil 7 is considered a continuation in the series, the game itself is a soft reboot. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. However, it seems that the creative team just refuses to go back to the traditional fixed camera angles and tank controls. Most likely, they saw the success of games like Amnesia, Outlast, and the cancelled P.T. and figured they could incorporate that and truly bring horror back to the franchise. Though a lingering question remains: has Capcom succeeded in doing this?
Resident Evil 7 does not star or feature the likes of any Redfield’s, Burton’s, or Kennedy’s. It stars a character named Ethan Winters, who is drawn to a plantation in the Louisiana wilderness due to receiving a letter from his missing girlfriend of three years who was believed to be dead. The game is played in the first person view, which is actually perfect for virtual reality headsets. In a roundabout way, Capcom has reintroduced tank controls which were prominent in the first three games. RE7 does offer the quick 180 turnaround, but it is in an inconvenient position (Normally Down and X, now Down and O). The game does instill Resident Evil lore in terms of gameplay, with Resident Evil classics such as finding maps and their layouts with locked doors, solving puzzles to figure out mysteries, combining herbs, gunpowder, and items, and much more. This is much more refreshing than the past two games in the series as they gave more gentle “nods” to its predecessors.
The setting seems a little cliché for modern times. Franchises like True Blood and True Detective (first season) used Louisiana as a creepy and unknown backdrop to fuel a story. Even in the WWE, the Wyatt Family is based out of Louisiana and come off as crazy, backwoods people. However, the premise of having a mansion buried in the woods with lots of secrets is what fueled the original Resident Evil. When you first enter the main hall, you get that sense of nostalgia. Then there are the safe rooms, which really aren’t safe if you leave the door open behind you, but the calming music is still there along with inventory management and saving. The game features checkpoints, but the tougher difficulty will only let you save with the tapes, much like the originals did with ink ribbons. As for the doors, it is important to decide whether these doors are left open or closed. You are stalked by the Baker family, mainly the one they call Jack “Daddy” Baker. The family has clearly lost their minds. Field of sight and hiding in darkness is key to survival. You can also block attacks, but you will still take a blow. Guns are in the game, but ammo is limited, with better ammo being craftable with gunpowder.
What would a Resident Evil game be without some sort of monsters (besides the Bakers)? These mutations, known as The Molded, are the staple enemies in RE7. The enemies feel like a combination of all the general B.O.W.’s over the series. They feel mostly like the enemies seen in the Revelations series. There is even a clawed molded that looks to have the hand of the original Tyrant. There are a few different versions of these Molded and can be very difficult to handle if their numbers are accumulated.
In terms of creating a horrific atmosphere, which the series is accustomed to doing, RE7 does it a bit differently. Everything is ambient as there is some music in the game, but not much. It’s all noises and eerie silence. Hearing window shutters bash, noises in the walls, and the family talking helps to entice a new type of horror. I remember playing the original Resident Evil in 1996 and thinking I was there through the first hour (granted I was a young teenager). Resident Evil 7 really does put you in the shoes of what you would do in this situation. Do you always yell at the television during movies about what you would do in that specific situation in a horror movie? Well, RE7 wants you to experience that situation that you seem so confident about. You will quickly realize that with the first person view (and probably VR), you will struggle.
These updated tank controls add to the difficulty of this game, and that does not include the enemies. Combining ambient lighting and complete darkness will have you second guessing every action as well as questioning the background noises. There are a few gripes I have about elements being overlooked. If you are crouching and walking slow, sound should certainly have more of an input. However, the same sound of walking normally does exists. Also, in a game like this, it would be nice to peer around corners, especially if you have VR. This does add to the tank control aspect, as I feel more could have been done to improve the controls rather than keeping it simple to add to the difficulty.
Resident Evil 7 is one of the best looking games this generation. Due to the lack of action and on-screen content, the game can maximize its performance while looking spectacular and creepy. The player models are ultra-realistic, though there are some textures of pictures that will look like garbage up close, but that is just nitpicking. As a whole, the game is gorgeous, and it runs fluidly.
The length of the game may be 10-15 hours, but it will certainly feel longer due to how you play and the anxiety that is induced. There are speed runners beating the game in less than two hours after playing through it once. RE7 certainly has a good bit of trial-and-error sections, which will extend the time of the initial playthrough. Resident Evil 7 does have separate endings, so it also gives a reason to go back through the game for replay value. DLC is also on the way which should add even more playtime for the game. I do not foresee a “Mercenaries” mode in this game.
Resident Evil 7 sought out to reinvent the survival horror genre of gaming. It might not have completed that task, but it did reinvent, and more importantly, reinvigorate the franchise with something new that feels familiar. There is a good bit to explore, but not too much to be overbearing. The enemy encounters feel right and are presented in a correct manner. Capcom certainly brought a new hope to a franchise that drastically needed a change. While you might not be a fan of the Louisiana, Texas Chainsaw-type setting, the game will quickly make you forget about that. Resident Evil 7 is the modern horror game that fans deserve.