Being a Resident Evil fan has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster over the last couple decades. The series has hit unbelievable highs (RE4) and heartbreaking lows (RE6). My relationship with developer Capcom has been complicated at best with every new mistake they make in my favorite series. Four years after the tragically explosive and unscary sixth game and Capcom has asked me back.
“Come back to me, Pierce,” Capcom said with a new haircut and tighter-fitting clothes, “I’ve changed, I promise.”
“I don’t know, Capcom,” I replied, “I’ve been hurt before and I don’t think I can go through that again.”
“No, look at this,” Capcom said holding up the newly released Resident Evil 7, “I made a new game focused on horror and survival! It’s now in a first person perspective, which changes the way the game is played, but doesn’t fundamentally change what makes the early Resident Evil’s great! There’s a big spooky house to explore and several scary enemies stalking you as you find keys and solve puzzles, all while desperately scavenging for ammo and health items.”
To any Resident Evil fan this all sounds too good to be true, and it was hard to trust Capcom again at first, but I played RE7, and it’s not only the best RE game in years, it’s one of the best survival horror games ever made.
You play as Ethan, a man searching for his missing wife after receiving a hint about her location. You never actually see his face, so I like to imagine he looks like Hugh Jackman. What’s great about Ethan is that he’s just…a guy. Unlike the protagonists of the other RE games who are basically superheroes that react to a zombie outbreak with a drowsy shrug, Ethan freaks out when there’s a big bug on him. But bugs are by far the least of his worries.
RE7 takes place in a worn down Louisiana plantation house and it’s surrounding property. The floors are stained, the paint is peeling, the wood is rotten. It’s a clear homage to the mansion in the original Resident Evil but it’s also a departure, feeling more like an actual lived-in home. Like the original mansion and the village from RE4, the plantation is gushing atmosphere. Video games just don’t have environments that draw you in as much as this anymore and this is one of the many things that makes RE7 stand out.
Still probably better than a vegan diet
The owners are the Bakers, a family of psychopathic cannibals and Trump supporters that hold some of the most memorable personalities from any horror antagonists. There’s Jack, a brute who breaks down walls and chases Ethan through the house with a shovel. Seeing Jack means time to run because no amount of trauma will keep him down for good. There’s Marguerite who wanders around talking shit and can only be avoided by hiding. Then there’s Lucas who sets traps and taunts you with puzzles. All three of these characters are terrifying and hilarious at the same time. My heart was racing when Jack came at me with a chainsaw, but I couldn’t help but laugh when he said “Groovy,” followed by Ethan’s “That is NOT groovy!” They carry all of the personality of RE7 with extremely energetic performances and it’s hard to imagine the game without them. I’m just disappointed that Jack never said “THIS IS MY SWAMP!”
The Bakers aren’t the only enemies that go boogity woogity woo, however. The zombie-like Molded roam the darker areas of the plantation and they don’t mess around. They take what sometimes seems an exorbitant amount of ammo to kill and they don’t hesitate to charge at you with their big teeth. Their mouths open really wide and they look a little bit like a scary Sesame Street character. Unfortunately, they only come in three forms which left me desiring more creature variety. Fighting the same monster over and over eventually made them less scary and more just something to shoot.
The average Uber driver
You will come across plenty of guns to help take all these enemies down, but none of them feel overpowered. As quickly as you find a powerful new weapon you’ll meet a new threat that makes it feel like a tickle gun. It’s this perfect balance of power and helplessness that makes a good horror game. Bosses eat these weapons for lunch and are hit and miss, some destined to become classic RE fights, and others, especially the final boss, being disappointing bullet sponges.
RE7 stumbles a bit in its third act when it starts pulling you away from the amazing Baker plantation. It’s a problem that almost every game in the series has, where the setting in the beginning of the game far outshines that of the end. There’s one part in particular that dragged on for way too long and lacked almost everything that made the first half of the game scary. Though the final stretch does pick the fear back up, it never quite reaches the heights of the first half.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
“So, what do you think?” Capcom asked nervously.
Resident Evil 7 isn’t perfect, but it is a tremendous leap in the right direction for the franchise. It takes the best of the old, adds something completely new, and creates a modern horror game that will always be remembered as the game that saved Resident Evil.
“Pierce Turner is in a relationship with Capcom.”