Both anticipation and skepticism have been high in the build up to the release of Resident Evil 7. Taking a completely different direction to previous entries, the latest in the numbered series offers the most terrifying experience to date.
The Dulvey plantation brings about the most atmospheric location in a Resident Evil game arguably since the Spencer mansion all those years ago. Taking control of Ethan, who receives a mysterious email from his missing wife, players will head to the ominous setting of swamps, dilapidated shacks and of course, the eerie home inhabited by the notorious Baker family.
Whilst Resident Evil games of old have leaned on the whole zombie scene, Resident Evil 7 often screams Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a run-down house out in the middle of nowhere, rife with gruesome imagery and cannibalistic tendencies. As for the dysfunctional Baker clan, who will for the most part be your hosts on this tortured evening, they present a threat similar in form to the likes of Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 or T-90 from Resident Evil 2, as Jack Baker and co lurk the halls, prompting you to shoot until they drop or as I did, which was to take up the tactic of cowering behind a pool table for several minutes on end. The Bakers are accompanied by another enemy known as the molded, which are common monster enemies that you’ll encounter in different forms throughout the game.
Resident Evil 7 may have taken a different route with the first-person aspect and a re-focus on horror and tension, yet there are many traits and nods to older Resi games that will settle fans of the series in quite well. There are plentiful puzzles to be solved throughout (including a very familiar one involving a shotgun) and save rooms featuring crates for storage, only this time you’ll be saving on a tape recorder instead of a typewriter.
The game doesn’t just rely on jump scares and tension in the air, however. A compelling narrative drives Resi 7 from start to finish, as all is not as it seems on the surface, so if the story isn’t for you to begin with, I strongly encourage you to stick with it. It may boast an entirely new cast and storyline, but without spoiling anything, suffice to say there will be some familiarities for fans to go off as the game rolls on. Its a great jumping on point for newcomers also, who as stated will be experiencing an entirely new cast, same as everybody else.
Speaking of narratives, this unfolds in a series of different avenues, from playing the main game, to optional video tape recordings that you will become a part of to delve deeper into finding out exactly what is going on with this whole mess of a situation. As always, there are documents and files for you to read, if you want to dig further into the lore, which I strongly recommend.
There have been many comparisons in the build up to Resi 7 to PT, and to an extent they would be right. Its a first-person game trudging round a house with jump scares and unexpected twists around every corner. For those familiar, there is also an ever so slight hint of Alien Isolation and Evil Within thrown in at certain parts, and even a rather disturbing twist that sees one family member taking on a similar role of the Joker from the Batman Arkham series.
But make no mistake, this is a Resident Evil game through and through. There are so many aspects included, that if you’ve played through previous games, then you’ll soon be more than familiar with. Resident Evil 7 offers these traits, yet takes inspiration from modern horror games and focuses solely on bringing a nightmarish tension back to the series, and this is something that it achieves by the bucketload.
The atmosphere laid out in the start is present right through until the end of the game, though it peters out somewhat around two-thirds of the way in. That isn’t a criticism by any means, its mainly down to the fact that you eventually get used to the feel of the game, and that it isn’t just reliant on jump scares that will eventually make you feel jaded after hours of gameplay. It balances out nicely at the right time, but will still have you on edge when you least expect.
The majority of the tension comes from the struggle to adapt to certain surroundings and situations. Scavenging ammunition and health will be a common theme throughout your time in the game. This offers little in terms of changing up your survival tactics, as you could simply store items in the box for you to pick up later, which could arguably impact on how scary the game is from that particular aspect. There are also parts of the game that I found quite laughable and downright silly, but thankfully not to the extent that put me off the overwhelming positive experience.
Overall, Resident Evil 7 took a gamble, and it has massively paid off. It brings an entirely new level of fear that we haven’t seen from a Resident Evil game in many years, if ever. It recaptures the games of old in terms of its paced adventure theme, but brings a whole new dimension of horror to the franchise, one that I can only hope that Capcom decide to stick with in the future.