Resident Evil hasn’t felt like Resident Evil in a long time. While games in the series, such as the recent Revelations 2, have proven the franchise isn’t entirely a cavalcade of misery in the modern day, we haven’t seen a true survival-horror game since perhaps the early 2000s. Capcom hopes to reclaim some of that lost prestige with the latest instalment, Resident Evil 7.
You take the role of Ethan Winters, an everyman who receives a message from his missing wife telling him to find her at a seemingly abandoned mansion hidden in the swamps of Louisiana. The house turns out to be the home of the insane Baker family, who trap you, forcing you to find a way to escape with your wife.
“The game tries to stand on its own, and is so much the better, and scarier, for it.”
What’s striking about Resident Evil 7 is how little it relies on previous material. Though there are small mentions of Racoon City and the always looming Umbrella Corporation, the game tries to stand on its own, and is so much better, and scarier, for it. The Bakers are perhaps some of the most interesting villains in the franchise, each with their own distinctly terrifying personalities, aided by some of the best voice acting the series has ever had.
Conversely however, Ethan as a protagonist experiences very little in terms of development. It’s clear this is the case to allow the player to project themselves onto him, but it would have been nice to have a hero along the lines of series familiars Leon Kennedy or Chris Redfield to match the haunting nature of the Bakers.
“Atmosphere oozes out of every pore of this game”
The differences continue into gameplay. New to the series is the first-person perspective, and much like Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder camera, it injects a freshness into the series that is much needed: Resident Evil 7 is very scary. Atmosphere oozes out of every pore of this game, as you try to conserve ammo fighting small numbers of strong monsters and solve some of the puzzles that are a signature of the series, always wary of looming danger.
Inventory management can be a pain though, as you are forced to make room with already-limited space for plot-central items. Although combat feels terrifying and hectic, the boss fights are disappointing, essentially existing as a slugfest for firing on the enemy with hopes the game actually lets you come out on top.
While there are some niggling gripes that stop the game just short of being a masterpiece, they fail to stop it from being one of the best Resident Evil games, perhaps even horror games, in years. It’s clear that the series has found its footing once again, and is ready to return to its throne as king of horror.