Resident Evil 7 is a Survival Horror game developed by Capcom for Playstation 4, Xbox One and Windows released January 24, 2017. RE7 opens to Ethan receiving a message from his missing wife, Mia. He takes it as a cry for help and makes tracks for Dulvey, Louisiana. Mia’s message leads him to the Baker residence where an unexpected horror awaits him.
RE7, despite it’s name, is the 11th entry in the main series. It was first announced at E3 in June 2016. The same day the game was announced, the first iteration of the gameplay teaser, Beginning Hour, was released on the Playstation store. For those who may have missed it, I opined about it here. Since then, Capcom released teaser videos about various mechanics to those in its Ambassador program. Speculation hit a fever pitch as the aesthetics of RE7 were a large change from much of what the series has offered before. Comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and P.T. were plentiful – if not somewhat justified.
There’s a healthy amount of variation among the different entries in the series, but the core gameplay beats are rather consistent. Being a Survival Horror game, the player is tasked with scouring the environment for supplies and MacGuffins, contending with the occasional combat encounter and progressively gaining access to previously inaccessible areas of the greater world – all wrapped in horror cinema tropes. RE7 is no different. This iteration, however, skews closer to the original entry then the more action oriented RE5 and RE6.
The largest, and arguably most satisfying, portion of the game takes place on the four-part Baker estate. Remember the comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre? They weren’t kidding. The Bakers can be a sadistic lot and their estate reflects it. What should be a cozy residence, is instead a dark, decrepit place full of hidden paths (some intentional and some created from sheer decay and neglect). It all feels like RE4’s aesthetics if applied to RE1’s gameplay and all in first person. For a change of pace, the player will be taken off of the estate into a surrounding area, exploring caves and even an abandoned freight ship. However, the greater narrative starts and ultimately resolves itself within the main Baker estate.
RE7 features roughly 7 enemies you’ll have to contend with (or upwards of 10 if you consider one enemy’s underlings separate entities). This includes members of the Baker family and a new threat called the “Molded”. The Bakers are the predominate enemies of the first half of the game as you make your way through the residence. They function more as obstacles to be stalled and escaped from, though, as they periodically appear to attack and taunt the player. Whereas the Bakers have a mostly human visage, the molded bear resemblance to the regeneradors and other BOWs showcased in RE4, RE5 and RE6. Molded spawn out of, and are comprised of, a pulsing tar-like substance. They lumber or crawl towards the player, bobbing, weaving and stumbling along the way. They physically strike the player, but will also wrestle the player to the ground and attempt to (quite literally) disarm them. The regenerador looking variants spit acid at the player when provoked.
RE7 doesn’t send Ethan up against these threats empty handed. To directly combat these threats, RE7 offers a reasonably tempered form of the arsenal one’s come to expect from the series. Pistols and knives are still the bread and butter combat tools. Pistol ammunition is the most plentiful variety in the game. The shotgun and rocket launcher make a return as well. However, more situational weapons such as SMG’s and sniper rifles don’t appear this time around. In their place we get a few more interesting options: flamethrowers and even chainsaws.
Moving on from the weapons Ethan can carry and onto Ethan himself, the health, inventory and crafting systems have been revamped. Ethan even gained a new ability. RE4 offered context-sensitive dodging, while RE5 offered context-sensitive dodging and chain-attacks and RE6 offered manual dodging and chain-attacks. RE7 inverts and combines the two. Ethan doesn’t dodge (it’d be disorienting in first person anyway), but can now block incoming attacks and physically struggle with more aggressive enemies. It’s a more defensive option offered in the new combat dynamic. But it isn’t perfect as Ethan still is harmed by blocked attacks – just significantly less so. Early on the player receives a watch that displays Ethan’s health. This is coupled with a bloodied screen effect representative of how much damage he has sustained. The readout should look familiar to long time players since it is essentially old school Resident Evil’s player condition screen. You aren’t provided with a percentage or health bar but rather one of three states: green being good, yellow being okay and red being poor. Even if you manage to increase your health, you’re never sure by how much and deciding when to use your healing items is always a gamble if you have to play it close to the vest.
On that note, the crafting service has been expanded some. RE7’s system is now reminiscent of the Last of Us where a variety of items can be crafted using different combinations of the same handful of ingredients. The backbone of said system is chem fluid. It can be combined with herbs to make herbal tonic, gunpowder to make pistol rounds, solid fuel to make flamethrower fuel or even pills to make stimulants that help you find items better. A stronger chem fluid variant allows even more items such as stronger tonics and specialty ammunition.
Of course Ethan has to lug all of these goodies around. The limited inventory has been a mainstay of the series and returns for this iteration. Ethan starts at 12 slots and can acquire more later. The top four of these are mapped to the directional pad as a shortcut for switching weapons. Returning is the hyperspace storage bins in save rooms.
Aesthetics – I’ll start by saying RE7 is a beautiful game. You know…in a messy, gory kind of way. The RE engine and the photogrammetry work that went into it definitely paid off. But I’m referring moreso to design direction. Cannibal family and rundown torture house may be a bit cliche, but it IS solid horror fodder. Hell, even the weapons are in on the gig. Anything the ATF wouldn’t approve for civilian possession is going to look like a DIY horror contraption. RE7 commits to it for a majority of the game and is better for it.
First Person Perspective – The first person perspective could’ve killed this game. Fortunately, Capcom’s tuned the mechanics around it so it doesn’t feel like an action FPS. It isn’t perfect as melee distances can be hard to judge at times (a common FPS problem) and the slow executing quick turn is less useful than blocking once engaged in combat.
Boss Fights – While not horrible, RE7’s boss fights are hit or miss. Some, like the fights with the Bakers, are multi-staged fights requiring you to find and exploit the enemy’s weakness. Others are more straightforward – TOO straightforward. They are essentially “shoot it until it dies” affairs where you’re going to feel like you found some gimmick to stay alive more than some mastery over their patterns.
Second Half – The second half of the game is arguably the weaker portion of the game. “Half” is a misnomer here. I’m really referring to the portion of adventure that takes place after you leave the Baker estate. The adventure aspects that worked so well in the first half are either missing or implemented on a smaller scale. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but does feel a bit underwhelming in comparison to the first half.
RE7 is a merger of worlds – old school mechanics with new school sensibilities. You’ve got limited inventory space, save rooms and lots of exploration for key items and treasure alike. But you also have inventory upgrades and hotkeys, intermediate autosaves on long treks as well as a reward system and psychostimulants to help ease item hunting. I’d like to think that it takes some of the best parts of old school and new school RE and has blended them into what could mark a bold new direction for the series. That alone is reason enough to pick this title up.
I give Resident Evil