RE7: Beginning Hour
Resident Evil 6 marked what some consider a low point in the franchise’s 20 year run. Since then, fans have had their ears to the ground, eager to see where the series goes from there.
Resident Evil 7 is (not) a Resident Evil game.
I’ve talked a little bit about my history with Resident Evil before. And while I will share my opinion on the teaser, I want to focus on a nagging question: Is Resident Evil 7, from what we’ve seen in Beginning Hour, shaping up to be a “Resident Evil Game”?
Some players have claimed that the new game doesn’t “feel like Resident Evil”.While carrying the moniker is enough to make it a bonafide Resident Evil title, I’d argue that this is because spiritually it isn’t one.
My reference points for this are RE1 and RE4. Those seem to be two key points in the series as the first entry coined “Survival Horror” as a genre and the fourth tweaked the formula to line up with changing trends in post millennia horror games.
Resident Evil started out as a 3rd person adventure game steeped in horror cinema tropes. Exploration and puzzle solving were in the forefront as combat was under-emphasized. The fourth main title marked a departure from the original formula, putting more emphasis on combat and rewarding, but not heavily requiring, exploration.
That being the case, a few aspects of the teaser do line up with previous Resident Evil lore and mechanics.
Exploration – Beginning Hour is all about exploration. There’s more than enough dank, creepy abandoned house to explore and it’ll take multiple playthroughs to see it all. The small bit of story present is told through video recordings that are either found or fed to the player automatically to set the mood.
Callbacks – Or are they lingering plot threads? Either way, there’s a passing mention to Umbrella, a mysterious phone call that may hint at the return of a fan favorite and a character that mentions the “family” may not be referencing a set of blood relatives.
However, that’s where the similarities end. The most glaring departures from form are…
First Person Perspective – This isn’t anything new for the franchise, but this is a major departure as far as the main series goes. That’s a pretty big change for some fans to stomach.
Combat – Or rather the lack thereof. There isn’t any indication that the final product will lack it as well, but combat was a crucial part of the formula. So its absence in the teaser really hinders our ability to pin down where it falls in comparison to the rest of the main series – it old school like the 1-code veronica, new school like 4-6 or something all its own?
Character archetypes – This is closely related to combat, but it’s worth noting that we’re dealing with different character archetypes. Whereas the previous entries starred trained combatants armed to some degree, the characters we’ve seen this time aren’t. The power dynamics are different. We expect Chris and Co. to go toe to toe with monstrosities. We expect your average citizen to give their all just to survive. The former makes for great action games , but the latter is being employed here and gives the game a more traditional horror feel.
Some Like Being Teased…
So, to be frank, Beginning Hour doesn’t “feel” like Resident Evil because it very much isn’t. There’s just too much there that isn’t in line with the rest of series and what is is too vague. That isn’t meant as a negative critique. This is a great time for Capcom to reinvent the series and if anyone gets to say what is and isn’t Resident Evil, it’s them.
Sadly the teaser is just that – a tease. Plot is scant and some important mechanics weren’t even present. This didn’t get me very excited for the new game because I don’t feel like I saw enough of a game to be excited for. I will gladly praise it for what it does right (the atmosphere is great and that video tape mechanic was inspired) but as a whole, once the mysteriousness slowly decomposed into cryptic vagueness, my intrigue died and I was left underwhelmed and scratching my head.